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To Wait or Not to Wait--'Tis the Question!
The majority of Tsiorba guitars are made to order. In addition, I intentionally set aside some of my time to build guitars without a specific client in mind. Those instruments are added to my inventory and are available for immediate purchase.
Commissioning your own guitar is more than just a product order. It is an opportunity to collaborate in the creation of something very special. Blending your aesthetic preferences with tonal and structural parameters of your guitar. From wood selection, scale length and neck geometry to rosette and tuner choice--the possibilities are many!
On the other hand, a guitar in the available inventory may be that "love at first sight" instrument. Not to mention that for some, the approximate 11-month waiting period for a custom guitar may not be an option.
Currently, the estimated delivery time is approximately 11-months.
Reserving time on My Building Schedule
Shall we reserve your spot on my waiting list? Then, we can design the various elements of the guitar you have in mind? Click "Continue" to explore the available options.
If you feel you are not ready to order because you are still thinking about the details of your future Tsiorba guitar, you can still make a down payment. That will guarantee your spot on my building schedule and the base price of your guitar.
Let's design your guitar!
The current base price for my classical and flamenco guitars is $7000.
"Base price" does not mean a stripped-down version. Each guitar is made individually, and I have the flexibility to customize the instrument to meet your taste and needs. You can select from a variety of options and customizations and have a superb guitar built for you without any increase over the base price.
Rare tonewoods, special tuners, installation of electronics, or other labor-intensive design elements will be priced accordingly.
Guitar for Left-Handed Player
The standard guitar set-up for right-handed players can be converted for use by left-handed players by modifying or replacing the nut and saddle and reversing the order of the strings. However, the soundboard and the bracing in fine handmade guitars are specifically designed and graduated to exacting dimensions in order to obtain the desired tonal qualities and response. For that reason, it may not be ideal to simply make a new nut and saddle while ignoring other design elements of a fine instrument.
There are additional considerations in the case of a flamenco guitar. The golpeador (tap plate) is typically larger on the treble side and is not easily removed for re-attachment without the risk of damage to the guitar's finish or even the soundboard. In addition, most flamenco guitars have much lower action (shorter distance between frets and strings) than classical guitars, which makes fret and string alignment and spacing especially critical. Services of an experienced luthier may be needed to successfully convert a guitar for the left-handed player and re-establish original playability.
For these reasons, if possible, it is best to plan a left-handed guitar from the design stages.
Slightly Larger or Smaller Guitar Body
One size does not fit all. In some cases, it is practical to vary the size of the instrument to make it more useful and comfortable for the musician. The outline, or plantilla, of a guitar can be slightly reduced on guitars with shorter-scale lengths or made a little larger for someone who finds a normal-sized guitar a bit small. Additionally, the depth of the guitar can be varied as well. A shallower body can lessen shoulder and back strain for musicians who may be suffering from back pain or injury. Whether for ergonomic reasons or a quest for a particular sound, body dimensions can be modified.
Engelmann Spruce Picea engelmannii
A prized tonewood originating in Western North America. Most trees converted to tonewood are several hundred years old: very dense growth-ring spacing is not uncommon. Engelmann shares many characteristics with European spruces. It is creamy pale in color, lightweight, and harmonically complex. It also happens to grow in my part of the world. I have the luxury of personally hand-picking the best Engelmann spruce directly from suppliers. There is something to be said for using locally available materials!
European Spruce Picea abies
Frequently referred to as "German" spruce, despite the fact that much of European spruce tonewood sold today originates in Italy, Austria, Switzerland, France, and the region of Carpathian mountains. Best examples of European spruce are low-weight, posses excellent cross-grain stiffness, and complex tonal palette.
Western Red Cedar Thuja plicata
I am literally surrounded by red cedar trees in the Pacific Northwest. While spruce-topped guitars often require a longer break-in period, a cedar soundboard guitar provides more instant gratification, offering a more open sound right from the start. A very lightweight wood. Cedar trees tend to grow without "twist" -- a huge benefit to the tree cutter, yielding tops that have very little short-grain or run-out.
Redwood Sequoia sempervirens
One visit to Sequoia National Park will convince you of the majestic nature of these trees. They are living giants, the largest known trees reaching over 25ft in diameter and pushing 400ft in height! On top of that, some living trees are already over 2,000 years old! Most of this tonewood comes from fallen trees or "sinkers" -- logs dredged up from California riverbeds. Acoustically, redwood shares many characteristics with Western Red Cedar, although it tends to be brighter. It also seems to capture many spruce-like overtone characteristics. Its color is a bolder hue of chocolate-red compared to Western Red Cedar.
Sitka Picea Sitchensis
Sitka is most widely used in steel-string guitars, although successful nylon-string guitars have been made with this tonewood as well. Sitka wood is very resilient and offers excellent longitudinal and diagonal stiffness. In the early days of aviation, Sitka was valued for its strength and low mass, and was used in airplane construction. Acoustically, Sitka tends to produce a strong fundamental tone, followed by somewhat diffused overtone structure.
East Indian Rosewood Dalbergia latifolia
The majority of rosewood (RW) guitars built today are made with this tonewood. Initially seen as a less expensive alternative to Brazilian rosewood, East Indian Rosewood (EIR) has earned its respected place among luthiers and musicians alike. While high-quality Brazilian rosewood is either unavailable or very expensive, EIR can still be obtained at reasonable prices and of excellent quality. It has superb tonal characteristics as well as physical strength and dimensional stability.
Brazilian Rosewood Dalbergia nigra
Traditionally, the holy grail of guitar tonewoods. In 1992, Brazilian rosewood was listed as endangered with CITES (the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora), and can no longer be imported or exported unless it was harvested prior to that date, and has the accompanying CITES certificate. The wood is therefore very expensive, and the quality of the remaining pre-CITES stock tends to be of inferior grade.
Madagascar Rosewood Dalbergia maritima
Similar to Brazilian rosewood, Madagascar RW delivers both tonally and visually. Boasting an ample dynamic range with crystalline trebles and articulate basses.
African Blackwood Guibourtia demeusei
A true rosewood. Extremely dense, it literally sinks in water! Some consider this wood superior to Brazilian. Rare and expensive for a couple of reasons. Firstly, high-quality logs are rare. Very few trees are large enough to yield guitar backs. Secondly, significantly higher labor investment in working this material. The wood is very difficult to plane, scrape, and finish-but the results are more than worth it! Incredible dynamic range, tonal palette and volume.
Ziricote Cordia dodecandra
Its eye-catching figure is reminiscent of old Brazilian RW with spider webbing and dark ink-colored drifting lines throughout. The wood is dense and resonant, contributing to excellent sustain and projection.
Cocobolo Dalbergia retusa
Another one of the superb yet relatively inexpensive rosewoods available today. Cocobolo has been compared favorably with Brazilian RW in terms of tone. At a fraction of the cost, Cocobolo could be considered "poor-man's Brazilian." The wood is orange-red in color when freshly-sawn, slowly oxidizing to a rich chocolate-brown with streaks of purple.
Several hundred maple species exist, although there are four primarily used in guitarmaking. They are Western Big Leaf maple, Eastern maple (North American), European Red Maple, and American Red maple.
Maple figures prominently in the violin family of instruments, as well as in archtop guitars. Historically, many nylon-stringed guitars have been made with maple as well. Two examples are flamenco and classical guitars built by Torres, and Panormo guitars made in England. Maple can have the effect of "warming" the sound, and making the instrument sound more "intimate." Maple's higher dampening properties tend to emphasize the fundamental tones. With overtones and harmonics subdued and in the background, the guitar acquires a more immediate, focused sound.
Mediterranean, or Spanish, Cypress Cupressus sempervirens
Traditional choice for flamenco guitars, although excellent classical guitars can be built with this wood as well. In the yesteryear of Spanish guitarmaking, Spanish cypress was considered to be an inexpensive option, and did not necessarily imply "flamenco." Instead, it was the guitar for a person on a tight budget. Today, no longer a "budget" wood, well-cut cypress costs more than Indian rosewood. Most commercially available cypress is cut in Italy and Turkey. I have an excellent selection of well-aged, dry cypress. A superb tonewood with an intoxicating fragrance that will linger inside your cypress guitar for years!
Monterey Cypress Cupressus macrocarpa or Cupressus macnabiana
A relative of Mediterranean cypress, originally introduced to California as an ornamental tree. It is a true cypress, and yields an excellent tonewood for flamenco guitars. When freshly finished, it tends to have a slight pink hue, and mellows into a beautiful patina as it ages.
Alaskan Yellow Cedar Callitropsis nootkatensis
Lightweight but strong. It is one of the lightest woods I use in flamenco guitars. In fact, this wood is light enough to be used as soundboard material. Extremely fine-grained, it is nearly impossible to count the annual growth rings without some type of magnification.
Spanish Cedar Cedrela odorata
Not Spanish, nor a cedar! Lighter in weight than Honduran mahogany and a preferred material for flamenco guitar necks. Many Spanish classical guitar makers also used Spanish cedar exclusively. Exceptionally stable wood with a distinct fragrance reminiscent of cigar humidors (which are typically made of the same wood).
Honduran Mahogany Swietenia mahogani
Generally heavier and denser than Spanish cedar. Excellent choice for classical guitars. Well-quartered wood is very stable and strong.
Traditional choice for guitar fingerboards. Ranging from nearly jet black in color to dark with slight gray and brown streaking. Ebony's abrasion-resistant properties make it a long-lasting material ideal for fingerboards.
A number of different rosewoods can be used for fingerboards: Indian RW, Madagascar, Brazilian, Cocobolo, African blackwood, etc. One advantage is that RW fingerboards tend to be less heavy than ebony. Secondly, RWs are more resonant (lower dampening or sound-absorbing attributes) and can contribute to better sustain in guitars. If RW is specified, I generally use an Indian RW fingerboard with a matching bridge. If you have a specific rosewood in mind, please let me know and I will check my supply.
Number of Frets
If you are not sure why extra frets are even needed, I recommend sticking with the standard 19-fret fingerboard. Extra frets are no problem, and do not cost extra.
650mm has been the most common scale length in modern guitars. If you find the fingerboard too crowded, then wider fingerboard, string spacing, and longer scale length may be in order. On the other hand, smaller hands, or injuries, can prevent comfortable playing on a 650mm scale guitar. Why fight it, when an adjustment at the design level can make a difference between suffering and enjoyment?
Fingerboard Width at Nut
Each person's hands, prior guitar experience, and habits are unique. I believe that a comfortable neck is key to enjoyment and playability of your guitar. While 52mm is standard, width can be varied by a few millimeters.
Ebony Peg Tuners
Elegant and traditional choice for flamenco guitars. Wooden pegs may seem low-tech and unreliable. Not so! Top-quality materials and precision fit result in excellent functionality and great looks.
Rosewood Peg Tuners
If you are not a fan of black, and want slightly lighter-weight pegs, rosewood is a great choice.
Geared Planetary Peg Tuners
Nearly indistinguishable from ebony pegs, these tuners are no simple wooden affair. While maintaining traditional aesthetic and low mass, the tuners' internal geared mechanism affords more controlled tuning. Made of anodized aluminum and fiber-reinforced resin.
Irving Sloane Tuners
Irving Sloane tuners are manufactured in Montana, USA. Very nice fit and finish. Plates are machined out of bronze, and with age acquire a nice patina.
Premium Gotoh Tuners
Perhaps the best quality tuners from a large-scale manufacturer. Not to be confused with basic Gotoh tuners, premium Gotohs are a huge leap forward in terms of design and quality. Very smooth and reliable tuners.
Rodgers, Alessi, and Graf are three well-known makers of beautiful tuners, works of art in their own right. Each maker produces numerous historic and contemporary designs. Let me know if you'd like these special tuners to complement your new Tsiorba guitar.
Side Wood Bindings
Bindings are made from matching wood species, or cut from the actual guitar sides.
Contrasting rosewood bindings for cypress, maple, or other light-colored guitar body woods.
Contrasting ebony bindings for cypress, maple, or other light-colored guitar body woods.
Figured Maple Bindings
Adds a dramatic outline to dark-colored guitar bodies.
Spanish Style Mosaic Rosette
One of many variations of Spanish-style rosettes.
Interesting Patterns Rosette
One example of natural wood grain and pattern rosette.
French Polish Guitar Finish
Traditional guitar finish, applied with a cloth by hand. This is also my preferred and recommended finish for all guitars. The actual material in the finish is a natural shellac resin. I mix my own French polish from various pale and deeper-colored grades of shellac. Solvent is food-grade alcohol (ethanol). In addition to its excellent acoustic properties, shellac also happens to be non-toxic, easy to repair, and imbues finished guitars with a warm glow and "close-to-the-wood" feel.
Lacquer Guitar Finish
I apply varnishes with a brush. Oil-based varnishes are more commonly used in violin-family instruments, but can also work well on guitars. Lacquer is not as thin as French polish, but offers a bit more protection against wear and moisture (sweat).
French Polish & Lacquer Guitar Finishes
It's hard to beat the thinness, lightness, and acoustic transparency of French polish. If a lacquer finish is desired, French polish can still be reserved for the soundboard only.
Custom Feature Requested
Pricing on custom features cannot be calculated automatically. Each guitars is constructed individually, and I can accommodate a wide range of customizations. Pricing details on the feature(s) you requested will be provided as soon as possible.
Total Guitar Price
The total price of your guitar could not be determined automatically, because you requested one or more custom features. I will review your order and contact you with pricing details, as well as availability of the custom features you requested.