UK luthier, Patrick Milne, has launched a new range of archtop jazz guitars featuring African blackwood (Dalbergia melanoxylon) components sourced from FSC® certified, community managed forests in Tanzania.
The fretboard, head veneers, finger rest, pickup surround, knobs, bridge and tail piece are all made from African blackwood, with the characteristic dark colour providing an attractive contrast to the solid figured European maple back and sides, 3 piece neck and the solid European spruce top.
On his inspiration for making the guitar, Patrick Milne said: “Ever since peering through the windows of music shops as a young man and seeing the seductive curves of Gibson Les Paul electric guitars with their carved tops, I have been drawn to the beautiful form of archtop instruments.”
“From the earliest violins and violas the arch gave strength and stiffness compared with a flat plate of the same weight and thickness and so could take the force of string tension pressing down through the bridge giving the instrument responsiveness and great projection.”
“Before the days of amplification, the great projection of arch top guitars was needed to cut through the other instruments in the bands and orchestras of the early 20th century when it was seen mainly as a rhythm instrument.”
“This guitar’s top and back were hand carved from solid wedges of wood, split and then joined to form a bookmatched pair.”
“The neck was laminated with black veneers along the joins, with opposing grain direction this gives great strength, stability and resistance to twisting, with an adjustable truss rod equalising the bowing force from the string tension.”
“The African blackwood parts were made using a combination of machining, hand planes, scrapers and abrasives and had no problems with it although being very dense you need very sharp tools.”
“It has a very rich dark chocolatey colour compared with the grey black variations in some of the ebony I have used in the past.”
“It polishes well and has a slightly oily feel which is great for fingerboards although this should be taken into account with gluing but I’ve had no problems with this after using solvents and keying the surface just as a precaution.”
“The tail piece is just solid blackwood and has a great deal of strength resisting the forces of the string ends trying to split it.”
“All in all, I’m very impresses with African blackwood and being responsibly sourced I will using again for all my instruments.”
The archtop jazz guitar is the first in a range of guitars and ukuleles that Patrick Milne plans to make using wood from FSC® certified, community managed forests in Tanzania.
Currently drying in Milne’s workshop are test backs and sides sets made from:
- East African padauk (Pterocarpus angolensis)
- East African afzelia (Afzelia quanzensis)
- Panga panga (Millettia stuhlmannii)
- African lignum vitae (Acacia nigrescens)
Patrick Milne will also be testing new timbers that emerge from the forest as Sound and Fair begins harvesting operations in July 2017.
Sound and Fair hopes to market 10-15 additional species that grow in the same community managed forests as African blackwood but which currently get very little attention from wood users.
Utilising every species in the forest in a sustainable manner, rather than cherry picking a few well known ones, is central to Sound and Fair’s objective of delivering value to the community foresters.
This value in the form of strong revenue from timber sales strengthens the case for sustainable forest management over other competing land uses such as agriculture, which is the primary cause of deforestation in Tanzania.
The support of open minded luthiers such as Patrick Milne, who are willing to experiment with new species, is key to this process.
For more information on Patrick Milne guitars, please contact him direct – firstname.lastname@example.org