I’ve had a few requests for some X braced, 14 fret guitars over the past few years. I’ve built a few X braced, 12 fret Larson copies, but for the most part what I do is ladder bracing. I’ve also made a few 14 fret ladder braced guitars. I’ve been wanting to build more X braced guitars, figuring that there are enough things that I do differently (hide glue, varnish finishes, domestic woods, relatively light bracing etc), and I’ve been curious as to how those things would apply to X braced guitars.
I’ve also been gradually moving away from making copies of things and letting my different influences melt together (the same approach that I take to playing music), figuring that I’m ready to start making instruments that are my own. There are some folks out there making great reproductions of vintage Martins and Gibsons, and it would take me a while to get to where they’re at, and I don’t want to be stepping on anyone’s toes. As a result, I’ve started taking some of my existing models, comparing them with great vintage guitars, and coming up with something new.
The first guitar like this that I built was a 14 fret Anunziata. I had a request from Hubby Jenkins of the Carolina Chocolate Drops for something that was comparable to an old Kay that he had been playing. The Kay was similar in size to the Annunziata, and it was ladder braced. Hubbie wanted 14 frets to the body so I started drawing up some plans until I came up with something that I was happy with. I gave it an inlaid pickguard and a whale tail bridge to make it look distinctive. I used some nice flamed birch for the back and sides hoping that it would give it a dry sound with lots of bite. It came together wonderfully.
I built a second one at the same time with all the same features, but with a black top instead of natural. The black top made the red and green purfling pop, as well as the pickguard. Taking a trick from Orville Gibson, I left the flamed birch back and sides unpainted and decided to stain them a deep cherry red. In my mind, the look of that guitar takes the cake. They both look great, but the black one really does something for me.
For this first one I used red spruce for the top and Madagascar rosewood for the back and sides. It has an inlaid pickguard, whale tail bridge and red and green mosaic purfling. It also has a solid peghead, which is a first for me. I’m looking forward to hearing it open up, but so far it sounds great. I can’t wait to make more of them, experimenting with the bracing and different tonewoods.