- Subject: Alan Carruth--A
talented and experienced Luthier
Posted by Ken
Totushek on 2003-07-28 at 15:06:03
I finally had the privilege last Monday to drive 3 hours north to
New Hampshire and visit Alan Carruth. I had some adjustment work I
needed done on my Carruth Brazilian Rosewood 000-12C, and felt it a
perfect excuse to take a day and make the trip. I want to say from
the start, it was a trip well worth every minute. I had never been
able to visit one of the 13th Fret luthier's shops, so it was the
excitement and anticipation was almost overflowing.
The first thing I noticed was Al's new creation for Healdsburg--a
beautifully detailed Brazilian rosewood and cedar classical
guitar--oh no, I could feel the G.A.S. rising already. The rosewood
he used on this was from the same 'old' stock as my 000-12c. It's
almost finished, and I guarantee will be a VERY fine piece--a 'MUST
SEE and PLAY' at Healdsburg in '03! Unfortunately, I will not be
able to make it. Al has a couple more guitars he was working on, one
of which he hopes to have ready for Healdsburg. If he does, you will
not want to miss that one either, believe me. I will share no more
than that as this might be one of those 'top secret' jobs. I believe
it's a new style for Al.
The next thing Al did after I cleaned up my drool after viewing his
new works was to sit me down and start talking about acoustics, how
guitar soundboards and backs work together, bracing impact for
maximum tone, etc--sort of like the recent fretboard discussions on
the folding box, or whatever it was. However, I got to see Al's
handy sketches as well, which really helped with the understanding
of tuning soundboards and backs for complementary frequencies, etc.
Without the drawings, I'm not sure I would have gotten any of it.
Thanks much for the lesson Al!
After 1/2 an hour or so we finally got around to pulling out my
000-12C baby, which he immediately started in on. Now I didn't know
in advance if I would have to leave it there or not, so this was
quite encouraging to me. Soon thereafter, it was clear to me that
Alan was intending to take care of the tuner problem I had, a raised
6th fret, some french polishing in places where my performance sweat
was getting the better of the finish, etc., right then and there. I
was thrilled because I really didn't want to have to be without this
guitar for any period of time. It has become my esteemed
'workhorse,' in practice, recording, and performing (since
I installed the K&K Pure Western pickup system).
As Al was working, I was able to find out much more relating to the
construction of my guitar and his build practices--I was in
astounded. There are things about the guitar that did not match some
of the build 'standards' or procedures we players have read and
heard so much of (and have experienced on most of my other high end
guitars). Things such as nitrocellulose finish vs French polishing,
no neck relief, a 'low' saddle, 'V' attached headstock (as opposed
to 1 piece neck and head), the appearance of a very, very shallow
nut (of course what I didn't know is the rest of the nut was buried
into the headstock--all but the ends), etc. All of these things
raised some questions in my mind regarding the guitar's build
integrity from the first time I picked the guitar up, but of course
the tone and playability won out...and so I bought it anyway...phew!
Now I was finding out the rationale for all those "different than
the norm" observations I had. Not only were they making sense to me,
but it became more clear to me that they were likely all part of the
whole in formulating the incredible tone that Alan gets from his
guitars. Yes, I was totally impressed as I realized there are no
corners cut with Al's work. In fact, it's just the opposite.
Several hours later, when the work was done, the fun began. We sat
down, shared some songs on my re-tuned guitar, again like new
000-12c and had a great time. Nobody rushing anyone here. Oh, and
here's the 3rd thing that really impressed me about Al--he can play
and sing, and is excellent at it. Multitalented?...I'd say so. Not
unlike many luthiers on the 13th Fret users group, he knows the
guitar inside and out because he's not only built numerous guitars
and other instruments, but played guitar for years as well. If this
is not one of the signs or qualifications of a master luthier, I
don't know what is. One thing I know for sure, my 00012c continues
to sing to me, inspiring new music every time I sit down with her.
That's all a player could ask for, no?
Anyone attending Healdsburg and looking at the possibility of
commissioning a new guitar, I highly recommend not leaving before
you have sat down with Al and sampled his works. I'm sure there will
be hundreds of others to see as well, but don't pass by the Carruth
booth without a good look!
And that's the news from "Lake Barrington" this week! Oh, I
have included a few pics of my Carruth 000-12C, which many of you
have heard a month or two back from my postings... She's
another beauty alright!
To hear the guitar in action, click here--
A Mighty Fortress