4000 5000

The luthier currently offers six base models, all boasting inspiration from the classic designs of the past century while incorporating D’Agostino’s ideas and the invaluable experience he acquired while apprenticing at Hamer.

“Persevere and perfect detail work. Think out your designs and trust your gut.” These are the words of advice Todd D’Agostino would give a budding luthier today. Though he might sound like a 40-year veteran of guitar building, it wasn’t that long ago the luthier was doing something else altogether.

As an electrician in New England, D’Agostino grew tired of the cycle of getting laid off and rehired in a wildly fluctuating construction industry. He wanted something stable that would keep him busy 40 hours a week, year-round, and something inside so he’d no longer have to deal with the “wicked cold” winters in the Northeast.

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Canadian luthier Michael Dunn has spent most of his life experimenting with interior resonators.

Decades ago, while working as a classical flamenco guitar maker in Spain, Michael Dunn ran across a steel-string guitar with a D-shaped soundhole and an interior sound box and reflector. “I thought this was a whole new world,” says Dunn. He took measurements of a similar guitar he found in London, and from there, the experiments began. The Canadian luthier has spent most of his life experimenting with interior resonators. “I’ve taken that technology and modified it, reshaped it, and re-jigged it in every imaginable way,” says Dunn.

The original interior sound box idea came from Mario Maccaferri in the 1930s. Maccaferri placed a smaller sound chamber into the main body of his guitars. Based on Maccaferri’s patented design, Dunn’s interior sound boxes are typically mandolin-sized boxes attached to the underside of the soundhole. These chambers have their own ports that redirect sound waves into a reflector. This acoustic technology allows the instrument to project more at higher frequencies, according to Dunn.

As a Django Reinhardt fan, Dunn builds a lot of Selmer-style guitars. Nearly half of the guitars he makes have his interior resonator boxes. However, he additionally builds archtops, Weissenborn-inspired lap slide guitars, harp guitars, OM guitars, and other types of instruments. Dunn is still thinking outside the box and implementing innovative designs. He is currently working on a cello that a musician can wear while playing. “They give me all the crazy stuff to build,” says Dunn with a laugh.

Dunn has made well over 500 instruments in the last 45 years. “I try to make the guitar as responsive and balanced as I can,” he says. “By responsive, I mean the sound of the guitar is what the musician is going to do with it—not what I did to it. I think a good guitar should be able to sound a half dozen different ways in the hands of a half dozen good players.”

The Cubist
Inspired by Cubist artist Juan Gris, this guitar looks off-centered and as if it’s constructed from various parts of other guitars. It features fanned frets and a soundboard made of Sitka spruce and cedar. The back comprises panels of rosewood, ironwood, ebony, bloodwood, blackwood, satinwood, purpleheart, and sumac. Instead of the traditional soundhole, there is a rear “sound slot,” which is formed by one panel being more elevated than another.

Mystery Pacific
This Gypsy guitar features a D-shaped soundhole and a 25 3/16" scale length. It also sports Dunn’s internal sound chamber, which enhances the guitar’s upper frequencies. The front wall of the interior sound box is located on the straight side of the “D,” and the sound box has a hole that directs sound into the parabolic reflector.

The Bugatti
Dating back to the early 1900s, French Bugatti automobiles were exotic, handbuilt touring machines. Dunn’s Bugatti guitar is made of ebony and satinwood with a yellow cedar soundboard inspired by Bugatti cars that were painted black and yellow. This guitar’s body is 19" long with a 14" lower bout. Two panels on the back represent the sides of the car’s hood, and the horseshoe-shaped soundhole is modeled after the car’s grille.

The OM
This orchestra-model guitar is the most recent addition to Dunn’s line. It looks like a traditional OM guitar, but features an internal sound box and refl ector. Knowing that the market for Gypsy and Selmer-style guitars is more limited than that for OM guitars, Dunn hopes to increase awareness of his interior resonators with his new OM design.

Hawaiian Guitar
The square-neck Hawaiian lap-slide guitar has a 25 3/16" scale length and a thin body that’s hollow up to its neck block. This particular guitar is made of wenge wood. Dunn’s Weissenborn-inspired instruments typically range from $3000 to $3500.

Pricing and Availability
Pricing is determined on a per-instrument basis due to custom specifications of each guitar. The base price of Dunn’s non-resonator custom guitars is around $4000. The models with interior resonators, such as the Mystery Pacific, Ultrafox, and OM guitars, typically fall between $5000 and $6000. The Bugatti model runs about $15,000, and the Cubist guitar costs roughly $10,000. Dunn builds around 15 guitars a year. Some of his Gypsy-jazz models are available immediately. Otherwise, the availability ranges from six months to a year.

michaeldunnguitars.com

In an effort to go head-to-head against Fender’s Jazzmaster, Gibson turned to Ray Dietrich, a famous Detroit automobile designer, to help create an entirely new line.


Given that the Gibson Firebird line was developed with the help of car designer Ray Dietrich,
it’s no wonder it looks so good next to this 1950 Chevrolet Deluxe 5 pickup.

In the early 1960s, Fender’s increasingly popular solidbodies compelled Gibson to develop new strategies to reach young guitarists. While the SG series helped Gibson’s sales, company managers knew they needed even bolder guitars in their catalog if they wanted to reach an emerging generation of rockers. In an effort to go head-to-head against Fender’s Jazzmaster, Gibson turned to Ray Dietrich, a famous Detroit automobile designer, to help create an entirely new line.

Introduced in the spring of 1963, the new Firebird series consisted of four guitars (the Firebird I, Firebird III, Firebird IV, and Firebird VII) and two Thunderbird basses (the Thunderbird II and Thunderbird IV). The Firebirds had a unique, asymmetrical body shape consisting of two mahogany “wings” attached on either side of a long mahogany neck that ran all the way to the bottom strap button. Seth Lover designed the Firebird’s mini-humbucker pickups, and in a departure from Gibson’s traditional three-on-a-side array, six banjo-style tuners were positioned in a row along the right side of the headstock (the opposite side of Fender’s iconic arrangement). The standard finish for these guitars was a dark tobacco sunburst, but you could also order 10 custom colors that imitated Fender’s palette, only with different names.


This ’64 Firebird I sports a Seth Lover bridge-position mini-humbucker, Volume and Tone controls, a compensated bar bridge, a Vibrola tailpiece, and an engraved Firebird logo on the pickguard. Vintage Firebirds have a distinctive neck-through-body design consisting of two mahogany “wings” attached to an extended, multi-ply mahogany neck that runs from the headstock to the tail end of the lower bout.


This Firebird has nickel banjo-style tuners mounted on the right side of the headstock.

The Firebird I pictured this month—serial number 191966—has features common to the entry-level Firebirds made in 1964. These include a mini-humbucker in the bridge position, a 24 3/4" scale, an unbound rosewood fretboard with dot inlays, a compensated bar bridge, and a short Vibrola tremolo. This guitar is finished in a vibrant cardinal red.

To learn more about Firebirds and other Gibsons of the ’50s and ’60s, check out Gibson Electrics - The Classic Years by A.R. Duchossoir.

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