A J Lucas Luthier, UK
I aim to build a lightweight and responsive instrument that will be sensitive to every nuance of the player's technique whilst having an evenness of notes and a full and powerful sound.
I have two designs of classical guitar: the Radial, which has a big bold sound and a striking appearance and the Santos, which is a little sweeter-sounding and has a conventional appearance.
I build in the traditional Spanish style using a solera or workboard upon which the guitar is built face-down starting with the braced soundboard and neck which are glued together in perfect alignment. The back and sides are built up around this, fixing the pitch and alignment of the neck. The guitar is then removed from the solera and binding and purfling added before the fingerboard is attached and the neck shaped. The bridge is glued on after the finish has been applied, the finish being removed from that area first.
As standard I make two small ports in the sides either side of the heel. This really opens up the sound to both player and audience. I think this has to do with relieving air pressure in the upper bout. The effect can be easily demonstrated by playing the instrument with the ports covered and then with the covering removed: the difference is striking.
My bridges are closed at the end of the saddle slot to form a stiffer structure. They have 12 string holes which allow the strings to be tied without crossing over themselves. This allows for a greater break angle over the saddle and also reduces string wear.
The head has a gently sculpted curve at the back. This photo shows a head fitted with Blake Robson tuning machines, hand made in Northumbria, which are available as an option.
I like to use wood decoratively in the binding, purfling and rosettes and am constantly experimenting with the wide palette of naturally occurring colours and grain patterns available.
Glues and Finishes
My construction and finishing techniques are largely traditional: I use hide glue for almost all of the construction. This is perhaps the strongest glue available and sets crystal hard so that the transmission of sonic vibrations is not depleted across the glue joints. Hide glue joint can also be undone in the event of a repair using gentle heat and moisture.
For finishing I use French polish. This is a very thin finish which does not inhibit the resonance of the soundboard the way some lacquers do, and it shows the beauty of the wood in a way that no other finish can. Wood grain under French polish positively glows. This finish is quite delicate at first and the instrument must be handled with care. After a few months it does become quite tough. However it is also the easiest finish to repair, should it become scratched.
I find customers are sometimes asking for pickups to be fitted to their instruments. I have found B-band pickups to be very good for recreating the acoustic sound of the instrument. They offer two types of pickup - the UST fits under the saddle and the AST which fits to the inside of the soundboard or bridge plate. Neither of these are piezo units, but use an electret film similar to that used in condenser microphones. The A2 preamp pictured right has stereo inputs and outputs so that two pickups can be EQed independently and mixed. See the B-Band website for details.
I am happy to fit any other system of the customer's choice.
A J Lucas Luthier, UK
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