Seánie got in touch at the beginning of last year with a few ideas about a new instrument. I’ve worked with Seánie many times over the years, most recently a couple of years ago servicing an old Tobin SBB that he managed to re-acquire. For one reason or another at the start of the Covid pandemic the instrument got moved on and is now residing very happily with Sky Kelsy in America.
We were talking about the Black Edition range of instruments I was building at the time and Seánie asked if I used Maple in the construction of my instruments. The answer was yes, I often use Maple. Mainly for the necks, not so often for the back and sides, although I do use Maple in the lamination construction for the Black Edition sides.Maple is a great wood for necks. It’s a wee bit heavier than Mahogany, but it’s very stiff and strong, so great for tone and sustain, and with a good ‘flame’ it can look stunning as well.
And so the conversation began and the idea for new ‘Blonde’ instrument was born, which soon started to develop into a full specification. I also still had a few pieces of Irish Bog Oak that Seánie sent me some years ago for a previous instrument I built for him. He also sent me some small pieces of White Thorn and was very keen that these be included in the new instrument.
Seánie likes the smaller body design, the SBB, it’s a wee bit more toppy in tone and has a great punch – ideal for session playing which is mainly where he plays.The final specification ended up like this:
8 strings – 4 courses
Scale length 650mm
Top – Master Grade European Spruce
Sides – Indian Rosewood
Back – Cylindrical Indian Rosewood with ‘active’ bracing
Binding – Cherry
Neck – Carbon reinforced Flame maple
Heel cap – Irish White Thorn
Headstock – Figured maple with Flame maple / ebony inlay
Rosette – Irish Bog Oak
Rosewood neck backstrap
End flash – Irish Yew
Fingerboard and bridge – Ebony
Nut and Saddle – Bone
Machine Heads – Gold Schaller
Tailpiece – 2mm thick Solid Brass
Adjustable two way truss rod
Mother of Pearl edge dots only
Neck width – 34mm @ nut, 40mm @12th fret
The specification and construction of this instrument is a development from the Black Edition range, and the build started in February 2022 with the idea that it would be ready for delivery in May, in time for the famous Bouzouki Gathering at the home of Ultan Walsh in Co Cork.
The build went really well, it‘s always such a joy to use beautiful Master Grade quality woods, and as long as everything is thicknessed, graduated and braced properly, and of course fitted and glued accurately, you can be pretty sure that the finished instrument will end up and perform how it was intended.
One of the most pleasurable aspects of this job is getting to work with great players, people who really engage with the design and construction process and really appreciate a good instrument. I love working closely with a client, getting to know his style of playing and what his expectations of the performance of the instrument will be, and of course thinking carefully about the specification and choice of woods. Seánie is such a customer and it’s always a pleasure working with him. And the time we both spent together on this one really paid off, the final result is a stunningly beautiful instrument that sounded great!
Here are some photos of the finished bouzouki.