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19 Aug 2011

Tobias Berg's (Slightly) New Construction Method

We’re about to receive guitar #77 from Tobias Berg, and this will be the first guitar we get from him that features his new double-sided construction method. Tobias has been working on this for some time now, and he and I had a little exchange about it, since my first question was, quite simply, ‘why?’. Now that I understand the concept I’m looking forward to hearing the guitar, and of course we’ll do a video so you can all hear it. Check out the photos below (as always just click on them to see larger images) and then scroll down to see my mini interview with Tobias about it.

-Why after so many guitars have you decided to make a significant change in your construction method?

I wouldn’t call it a “significant” change. It’s another step forward in the quest to improve upon a system that I’ve been working on for the last 70 + guitars. We have to be careful about focusing too much on one detail when it comes to guitars. They are very, very complex the way all parts work together. Let me give you an example – one thing that I often encounter is a poorly fitted bridge bone. The bridge is glued on and laquered over on even some “high-end” guitars. When there is still lacquer left in the slot and a piece of bone is fitted quickly but with a poor fit the tone and quality of sound suffer before the string energy is even transferred to the top. The very first “point of contact” is the bridgebone and often it actually deserves a bit more attention then it gets. This is a very “basic” thing actually.

Now, on the other hand, one cannot turn an otherwise poor sounding instrument into a top notch concert guitar by just spending the right amount of time working on the bridgebone. The attention has to go into all the details and if one focuses too much on only one area the “big picture” will suffer. Therefore I wouldn’t want to claim “miracles” with double sides but I certainly think it’s an improvement, yes, and a step forward.

-What do you hope to achieve? More volume, greater tonal balance or range?

In theory I believe that if the side is not “stiff” or sturdy enough the energy from the soundboard will continue to travel into the sides and be “dampened”. With rigid sides the thought is that the top is better anchored and can vibrate in a more positive way and the back can reflect it but the sides play a passive role. Of course – and this is important – there can be great guitars with single traditional sides. It’s also easy to make a really bad guitar with double sides! Again, one should never focus too much on only one little detail and forget the whole picture but having said that – a potentially good guitar can become even “better” with double sides in my opinion. The last guitars have been perceived as louder, faster attack and well focused.

-Is anything sacrificed over a more traditional build?

No – nothing that I can see at the moment.

-What will the guitar weigh?

Roughly 1400 – 1500 grams, which is more or less exactly like the “old” guitars of mine. I don’t build the guitars with the intention of making them light in weight – it’s the result of the overall construction. I don’t “save” on weight at the expense of something else. In theory I could reduce weight by not adding an internal neck reinforcement for example but that would be at the cost of having a stable neck that assures a good set-up. There would be other measures to cut weight too but always at the expense of something else. Therefore the weight of the guitars is the result of building the guitars in the way that I believe in.

-Is there a guitar or luthier out there that inspired this change, or was it more a result of your take on the many construction methods out there these days?

Daniel Friedrich is a luthier that I respect very, very much. The fact that he’s built guitars for decades at the very highest level of workmanship is reason enough to admire his work. I know for years that he’s been gluing two sides together either rosewood and mahogany or rosewood and rosewood, since 1970 I believe. Since the idea made sense to me I felt now is the time to give it a try and it has paid off.

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