The Bull Run Watershed Experiment

So….after a few years of laying off of building guitars, with the exception of a “one-off” a while back, I’m back at it.

A couple of years ago, I bought a billet of western red cedar from the Bull Run Watershed. Legend has it that this is a federally protected forest NW of Portland, Oregon that experienced a flood some years back. As a result of this flood, many trees naturally fell, and loggers were permitted to go in and recover the fallen trees. Some of those loggers were privy to  luthier’s needs, and alerted legendary luthier Robert Ruck to the harvest. Bob then harvested his own needs and then some…..with the excess going to his long time friend Jerry Roberts. I bought a billet from Jerry. My dad “adapted” his bandsaw to resaw the billet, and after a bit of a learning curve in brutal Missouri summer heat, we were able to yield 4 tops from the billet, with plenty of bracing stock left over.

So the next 3 guitars are going to come from that billet. I see it as the perfect opportunity to execute a proper experiment, where one and only one variable will be executed on each of the 3 guitars. All 3 tops, bridges, and necks will come from the same boards and will have the same mechanical properties. All 3 will have East Indian Rosewood for the back and sides, which is much more consistent in weight and stiffness than all of the other rosewood species. Prior to now, I have built guitars one at a time, but this time, every single operation, I do consecutively in 3’s.

Guitar #1 will be built to my current specs.

Guitar #2 will have an additional 3mm added to the neck elevation. Everything else will remain the same. When neck elevation is added, the neck pitch has to be accounted for in order to keep the string height at the bridge the same. I’ve been in online “debates” with other builders as to the ultimate effect of neck angle on tone; here is the perfect opportunity to see if neck angle truly affects tone.

Guitar #3 will be scaled longer at 660mm. When I was in college during the mid 80’s, 650’s were the rage and one could not give away a 660 scaled guitar.  Since then, I’ve had a few custom orders for 660 scales, and in each instance, I felt like the finished product yielded just a little bit more of everything; rounded highs, balanced mids, full basses, increased headroom, etc. But since those guitars were “one-offs”, I really had no way of knowing if the increased scale had anything to do with the perceived improvements. Now I will.

So here we go. Stay tuned.