soundboard will be made of Western red cedar, Thuja Plicata.
In most situations, I favor a warm cedar timbre over the clarity typically produced by spruce.
Cedar's rich and mysterious overtones project a full and complex timbral quality that appeals to my ear.
Spruce guitars can quickly reach a level of brightness that sounds thin, even antiseptic, lacking depth.
Conversely, the challenge with cedar is to avoid an overtone overdose that results in a muddy sound.
Breslin's skill, bracing design and wood selection will combine to prevent an overdose.
A review of Larry's stock produced this quatersawn set.
It is unusually strong with excellent lateral rigidity, easily passing the flex test.
Medullary rays, also known as cross-silking, pervade the entire set, indicating it was precisely quartersawn.
Graining varies in alternating bands of normal and narrow, increasing strength.
These characterstics made this cedar set an obvious choice.
A traditionalist by nature, I normally take a reactionary position against new design concepts like extra sound ports.
Nevertheless, I quickly opted for the double-top approach after playing Breslin's example, a variation of the original by German luthiers Matthias Dammann and Gernot Wagner.
Despite the need for two soundboards, this innovative design is approximately 25% lighter than a traditional tapa, making it highly responsive.
The design helps project a wide and very sensitive tonal range, increasing color without loosing the wood's natural timbre.
The design also delivers obvious improvements in volume and sustain.
Forte passages are easier to manage, harmonics are intensified and notes take considerably longer to decay.
Most importantly, cedar's rich timbre remains intact, unlike more aggressive composite soundboard designs.
full cedar sets are required, a top and "inner" set.
Compared to the outer top, the inner soundboard has less impact on sound quality.
Both soundboards are carefully thinned to less than 1mm.
In between, an equally thin layer of Nomex honeycomb material is used to improve soundboard performance.
Breslin's design is about 70% cedar and 30% Nomex.
Everything is joined with a special epoxy mixture inside a custom vacuum chamber.
is a resin-reinforced fiber with a honeycomb cellular shape.
Essentially, Nomex amplifies and enhances the natural timbre of cedar.
The increase in volume/sustain is impressive; overtones are complex and harmonics are intensified.
Despite having two very thin tops, the completed soundboard is very durable. The Nomex cell structure acts as a hexagonal brace, providing uniform support across the soundboard.
This design withstands humidity changes better than solid cedar.
shipped, Nomex is approximately 3mm in height; it will be shaved below 1mm for use inside the soundboard.
Breslin's double-top design, including the precise Nomex shape, chamber pattern, glue mix and wood thicknesses are proprietary.
Nomex hexagon structure up close.
the rosette, I asked Larry for a traditional floral pattern.
This is a custom rosette set in a dark background; itt has been in Larry's workshop for many years.
The remaining design will utilize variations of contrasting white rope.
My intent is to present a traditional rosette that belies the modern double top it rests in, providing yet another, deeper level of contrast that compliments the visual design.
| L arry
uses this routing jig to help create custom rosettes.
top is now cut to shape and thinned to less than 1mm.
The rosette is also in place.
The soundboard will be adjusted further before joining the Nomex and second "inner" top.
For some reason, the soundboard's extremely light, delicate nature surprised me when I held it for the first time.
A closer image of the upper bout.
The complex cedar graining is easy to see here, including pervasive silking.
| T he
rosette design is simple yet elegant, a vine of red roses with contrasting white
rope and pinstripes. The flowers are positioned in a two-over-one-under
pattern with interlaced green vine. Its classic simplicity conceals a
very sophisticated double soundboard design.
| C utting
the sound hole and even more sanding completes the rosette effort.
I quickly realized the amount of sanding work far exceeds actual cutting time.
| H ere's
a tight shot of the completed rosette.
| I n
just a few minutes, this compressor creates the near-vacuum required to uniformly join a double soundboard.
| T he
braces are joined using a vacuum clamp as well. The transparent plastic chamber makes visual
inspection easy, and it is thin enough to allow for brace adjustments while the vacuum is slowly created.
Larry used a heavy rubber chamber in the past, but prefers this more flexible approach now.
Glue sets quickly in a reduced air pressure environment, thereby avoiding a long and tedious "go bar" clamping festival.
| T his
edge-on soundboard image reveals two thin cedar layers encasing an equally thin layer of Nomex.
Overall thickness is the same as a traditional soundboard.
| B reslin's
bracing design has evolved through the years.
I would characterize his overall approach as modern but not radical, lightweight and very strong.
Essentially, Breslin has snythesized Rodriguez, Ramirez and Fleta principles into his personal design.
The distinctive diagonal cross brace, popularized by Jose Ramirez III, dominates this image.
| E ngelmann
spruce (Picea Engelmanni) is used to brace the top.
Another Ramirez allusion are the double-sides which feature Spanish cypress ribs; however, Breslin's sides are thinner/lighter compared to Ramirez.
| H ere
is a better angle to view the fan and cross bracing.
| O verall
strength centers on "The Box". Two large parallel braces above/below
the sound hole join with corresponding side braces, which also meet similar parallel back braces.
This forms an extremely strong rectangular framework for the entire guitar.
| T his
is a good example of light and strong bracing.
Parallel braces run in both directions, horizontally across the sound hole and vertically along the heel.
Each brace tapers slightly at both ends; unlike side bracing, they are not scalloped in the middle.
| C edar
kerfing is used to join the top to the sides. Larry makes his kerfing
from solid strips of cedar, cutting deeply to create evenly spaced wedges,
balancing strength with flexibility.
| A rectangular
piece of spruce is sanded to five thousandths of an inch and placed below the fingerboard
join, providing additional strength in this area. This is a lighter version
of a similar technique used by Fleta.
The heel block is classic Fleta, which rejects the need for a large foot/boot.
| F ive
fan braces distribute energy across the soundboard.
Like Rodriguez, the fans are moderately sized, perhaps slightly narrower than average.
Each brace is uniformly beveled and tapered but not scalloped.
| A n
extra dollop of glue is applied to the end of every brace, insuring a firm and long-lasting
join that is less likely to loosen.
| T he
fan braces are all joined to a razor-thin spruce bridge brace, sanded down to five thousandths of an inch.
This helps distribute and increase drive from the bridge throughout the fan.
| T he
jig doesn't stay empty for long.
After my guitar's top was joined, Larry starts work on another guitar.
He works alone and usually stages construction of two or three instruments in parallel.
| T he
following four images show the fully braced soundboard after it was removed from
| A thick
piece of plexiglass is placed over the top for protection.
All the bracing work is finished, so the back can be joined and the body closed.
Thereafter, the binding effort begins.
and ebony bindings are now in place.
A seal coat of shellac has also been applied to the entire body, darkening the cedar.
This initial application provides a good bonding surface for the final finish and helps protect the binding.
A very thin coat of Nitrocellulose lacquer will be applied next.
M y guitar is finished!
What a tremendous journey, from conception to realisation in five months.
The following series of photographs focus on the top, documenting the completion of another Deerhead guitar.
Thank you, Larry!