2017 Andy Culpepper CD/AR
|Back & Sides:
is one of the younger up-and-coming US builders. We've known him now for many years and have watched his building style mature to the point where we feel he is now making an exceptionally well-made instrument, firmly rooted in the traditional Spanish style. Andy believes that the best guitars are still modeled on the designs and ideas of Antonio de Torres (1817-1892) and admires him for his constant experimenting with different ideas. The "open bar" system of top bracing, where the outer fan struts pass through openings in the harmonic bars, is a key design element in Andy's classical guitars and it creates an extremely responsive, clear, even and beautiful tone that can envelop the listener in a kind of "surround sound"- quite an experience to hear and perfect for any concert hall. Andy prefers also to work in a traditional manner - very few power tools, and as much by hand as possible to achieve the maximum amount of control over the quality of his work. His guitars are assembled by first joining the neck to the top to precisely establish the center line of the guitar. This assembly is placed face down on a solera, or workboard, and the sides are slotted into the heel block, and glued to the top with individual glue blocks called tentalones. Finally the back is fitted and the box is closed. The bridge is glued on before finishing, because Andy likes to play all of his guitars "in the white" and refine the voice by sanding the top if necessary. Finally, the entire guitar is finished in French polish of shellac, applied completely by hand with the traditional muñeca, or cloth pad.
Prior to building, Andy started to play classical guitar as a teenager, and later transitioned into flamenco - he even studied flamenco in Spain and has since done a good amount of performing - solo, accompanying and dance. As with many luthiers, Andy's first guitar was to build himself an instrument to play on but after showing the guitar around, he began getting orders, and so eventually decided to become a full-time luthier. His formal studies were done with Richard Cogger, a classical and flamenco guitar maker in Ithaca. Andy shared work space with him for a couple of years before establishing his own shop where he continues to work today. So his guitars are truly a "players" instrument, very easy to play and responsive to both the left and right hands.
This guitar is the result of a collaboration between Andy Culpepper and Washington luthier Chris Sobel, and there is a forthcoming article being written about this project that will be published in American Lutherie. They used sister cut African rosewood sets for the back and sides and Western red cedar for the tops. The bridges are also from the same stock. As could be expected, the guitars share many similarities, but the top bracing and overall construction approach differed enough that Andy and Chris each put their own stamp on the tone of their guitars. The Helmholtz and main top resonance ended up very similar between the two guitars which resulted in a somewhat similar bass and midrange. The consensus on the treble side was that Andy's guitar was rich in overtones, while Chris's emphasized clarity and separation. According to Andy, "It was a fun and interesting project, and I think it resulted in one of my best classical guitars."
Photos of this guitar being built.
Luthier Bio: Andy Culpepper