Thursday, 3 January 2013

Acoustic box

     It was whilst at school studying for A level woodwork I made my first acoustic guitar. It was made in a weekend - that is, I started on Friday afternoon and worked through Friday and Saturday night to complete the instrument by tea time sunday afternoon. Normally it takes about two weeks to build a guitar. The school workshop had run out of shellac so I used boot polish. It was probably at Abbotsholme (progressive) school that my desire to innovate and break with tradition began although at that time my training was to be in a strictly traditional groove. Howard Orme was my woodwork master and I followed in his footsteps and went on to train at Shoreditch College. He landed yup teaching at Eton where I met yup with him a few years later.


Woodwork master Howard Orme later meets up with
his first A level student Jeremy Broun.

       Howard was quite eccentric and a brilliant teacher. I was his star pupil and the first to gain an A level pass in just two terms instead of two years. Put that down to an inspirational teacher, no less. Once we were in the workshop firing crossbows we had made at a poster of Edward Barnsley at the end of the workshop and the headmaster walked in showing around some prospective parents. Imagine that happening today - well it wouldn't because there are hardly any school workshops for kids to make things in wood!

     My father had died in that year and I was somewhat lost regarding the dreaded word career other than the guidance of Howard who helped open the lock to my creativity. I recall thinking then, shall I become a guitar maker and realised I would become bored quickly as guitar making was steeped in tradition. So, almost fifty years and twenty guitars later I decided to spend more time making innovative acoustic guitars with the pledge to make one a year. Of course I never commanded big bucks for my guitars as I was an unknown and guitar making in Britain is probably far more exclusive than bespoke furniture making. I did sell an acoustic 'jumbo' guitar in 1970 for £200 that was a pretty good price.


Jumbo guitar (no 12) with braided strings. 1970

      More recently I have made a Selmer style guitar as played by gypsy jazz guitarists. There is a better market there for making custom built guitars but of course Chinese imports have seriously dominated the market and some very fine guitars too.

Selmer style guitar using local walnut with innovative
 sawkerf rib construction by Jeremy Broun

     Modern electronics adds another dimension to guitar making and I even have a busking guitar case amplifier with wireless sound transmission that I went to Paris with a few years ago.
 A current project still at the design sketching stage is a very small travelling electro acoustic guitar that delivers a formidable sound combining micro electronics and the best acoustic wood materials such as Balkan spruce for the top and mahogany for the neck. An acoustic guitar embraces many woodworking techniques exploiting the character of a range of timbers. 

An experimental travelling electro acoustic guitar using a Hofner Shorty        

 One of the joys of working an incredible material like wood is exploring its versatility. Often people are confused when you say you design modern furniture and also make guitars as it is easier and maybe perceived as more professional to say you focus on just one thing and this puts everything into a neat box. But this goes against creativity and the adventure with wood can take you along fascinating diverse paths. Perhaps they all link up somewhere.

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