I was born in South Dakota in 1953 and have spent most of my life working wood. My father was a housebuilder and cabinetmaker who put me to work at a young age. I began building nylon-string guitars in 1992, although I have built and repaired other fretted instruments since the mid-1970s. When my daughter began to study flamenco dance ten years ago, I became fascinated by the flamenco guitar, and still am. My first nylon-string guitars were flamencos. Now that I build mostly classical guitars, my background with flamenco guitars has proven valuable in many ways, especially in achieving a quick attack and an easy playability.
I build concert guitars with a clear, concentrated sound and plenty of volume for use in the most demanding halls. My guitars are known for their responsiveness and playability. I have designed my instruments to have strong, rich trebles, consistent up the neck and balanced with the basses and midrange. Equally important to me are sensitivity, sustain, dynamic range, and a clear separation of voices.
I use a Romanillos body shape and size, which is relatively small, and a Miguel Rodriguez bracing pattern of five fans and bridge patch. I tune my tops and backs to a desired tone, recording the frequencies along with all weights and dimensions. Such documentation is integral to achieving a consistent sound from one instrument to the next. A structural laminated liner where the top and sides meet allows for a relatively thin top with no flexing of the sides. This design element prevents cracking and contributes greatly to volume, quickness, and sustain. I compensate intonation for each string at both nut and saddle, using the method developed by luthier Greg Byers. Players comment that this really improves intonation. I usually build with medium-gauge strings in mind.
My instruments respond very quickly to a light touch. My early experience with flamenco guitars taught me how to achieve a low action. Treatment of the frets and setup of the action are the crucial final steps in my construction process. Neck width, string spacing and scale length are tailored to the individual player.I love wood, and am always buying the best tonewoods I can find. I have traveled to Germany for spruce and maple, and to Italy, where I have bought a lot of wonderful Alpine spruce. All my spruce, cedar, rosewood and ebony is stickered and air dried for years in my climate-controlled shop, which allows me to build with aged, seasoned wood. I build soundboards with both spruce (European and American) and cedar. I appreciate the unique qualities of each wood, and the choice depends on the player's preference. Back and side woods for classical guitars are Indian or Madagascar, with Braz., maple, and other woods available upon request. I build flamencos with American or Spanish cypress, maple or rosewood backs and sides. I use both mahogany and Spanish cedar for necks, with a double graphite rod reinforcement.
Visual aesthetics are very important to me and are an integral part of the design and construction of each instrument. I am not satisfied unless my instruments are visual works of art. Each instrument is different, with bindings, purflings, peghead marquetry, and tuning machines chosen to achieve a unique look. I make my own rosettes from scratch, and am currently using two different designs. One is of inlaid bookmatched marquetry; the other is a traditional-style design inspired by Torres and Simplicio, which I'm always refining. All my guitars are finished with French polish.
I live in the country outside Healdsburg, a small town about an hour and a half north of San Francisco in California's Sonoma wine country. My climate-controlled shop is in my house, in the fashion of the German violin makers I visited in the '70s, with large power tools outside in a big old barn. My homeschooled daughter is a frequent assistant in the workshop. Healdsburg is a thriving center of lutherie, both classical and steel-string. It is the home of Todd Taggart's Allied Lutherie, Luthiers Mercantile International and the biannual Healdsburg Guitar Festival. Sonoma County is also home to several notable guitar builders and the Luthiers School International. I am a member of the Guitar Foundation of America, Guild of American Luthiers, and Northern California Association of Luthiers.
When I'm not in my shop, I devote my time to playing flamenco guitar and to flyfishing and fly tying. My 15-year-old daughter is a flamenco singer, and I often accompany her when she sings. My 22-year-old, the dancer, surpassed me as a performer long ago; she's a pro who divides her time between Sonoma County and Seville, Spain, teaching and performing in both places. (Learn more).