This guitar is named after Thierry's 2 year old girl Clara. It turned-out to be a very special, one-off build for 2020 ; A year full of surprises indeed.
The longer, intricate story leading to its creation is expressed throughout this page in text and pictures.
The Clara archtop was completed on December 14th 2020 with serial number -Andre Instruments no.111, Quebec city, Canada.
-For the short - summary version of the context in which it came about, here is a wonderful little clip produced by the insightful and wonderful Michael Watts:
Spring time 2020 : Getting creative
Clara André, February-2020
The Clara archtop has a special story of its own. It was to be presented as planned, at the 2020 Holy Grail guitar Show.
The oldest cedar was chosen-out: -Just the touch and sight of this wood had something haunting.
While carving it ; Each wood chip made would advocate descent acoustic output.
This -softwood- was screaming something different than usual.
This was mid-February 2020.
When the Holy Grail guitar show team hinted that there where still -demo- concert spots available for to showcase our instruments. an -electric- demo spot was secured.
At first, a Lace Sensor single-coil pickup was chosen to compliment the guitar's -soft- F-hole design:
Beginning of March, and the birth of a collaboration:
When Michael Watts was asked if he would play a -demo- concert for Andre Instruments at the HGGS 2020, he replied a genuine -Yes-, in a letter translated into French!
A discussion was engaged about the Clara archtop, its pickups, scale length, woods, etc. etc.
-Listening to his album Vetiver while working was even more motivating. It tickled the idea of a more fingerstyle oriented instrument.
Michael was so informative, kind, and with the flow of everything design-wise.
The design was thus considerably modified from his input. Not wanting to create a flat-top sound out of it, but focusing on it having immediate response and a -sparkly- immediate response, to go with his use of flesh and no plectrum in playing.
Theses changes all came fast. Michael was asked if he would mind a -big- humbucker in neck position, in the name of the MojoTron humbucker(UK), he replied:
-That is my favourite pickup!
Such a great feeling, when things -flow- like this.
Of course, it was never expected that the world would turn-around like this in the following days (read: pandemic), and that this collaborative venture towards a planned meeting at the Holy Grail guitar show would now be obviously compromised.
From a holy grail planned meeting, to finding new ways.
Accents of ebony, aluminium, nickel, rosewood, are planned, as well as the addition of beautiful plum/teal coloured purfling lines.
The top plate was -x- braced, with added harmonic/ladder elements, aiming to bring to the guitar
a baroque/historic sonic feel.
Michael's insights have helped to plan for a simple - useable, pickup wiring layout, which was enclosed in a shielded box atop the steel and aluminium tailpiece.
Current innovation is the way the pickup is suspended inside the box.
Suspending the pickup internally from a laminated -shelf- support that is attached to the neck block: - The cedar top being relieved all around the twin blade humbucker.
The neck pickup is free to protrude through the top it as needed. Shown in small picture 3 is a temporary shim to test height.
This hole approach to affixing the magnetic pickup to the guitar felt right, and enabled using a beefier pickup without worrying for its impact on acoustics.
The guitar scale-length is 25.00. The neck core was chosen to be Black Limba, with carbon fibre inserts. Its fingerboard is taken from a very old double-bass fingerboard once belonging to Lloyd Goldstein.
Short note on soundbox:
While the rim of the guitar is laminated from Indian rosewood (inner) and Ziricote, the overall neck-pull is supported by laminated -neck wings-, a buttressing system initiated by (to my knowledge) luthiers Steve Klein and Mike Doolin.
Exploring the archtop metal tailpiece, made from recycled materials :
A phone call was then received an from a local media, for a TV interview on -Fine Crafts-.
-They asked if any guitars where -in stock- to feature. A simple: -yes, no problem! was the answer, althougs none was available.
This shooting was going to be held in 30 days:
-Everything that followed that phone call went rather intuitively:
Aluminium, and thin shop-made strips of jade coloured recon stone were used to highlight the fingerboard. Stone was used again on headstock's mid-part, which serves a the truss-rod cover.
The guitar needed a visual -kick- near as strong as its nickel covered humbucker:
Some of Clara's artistic expression was included within the build: -Right into the tailpiece's mid- part, a section of one of her very own gouache work is set into composition.
Completed tailpiece serves as control box (volume/tone) and is made of recycled steel, aluminium, recon stone, ebony, willow and Canson paper:
With its tailpiece, the guitar was now (nearly) complete and on-time for the TV presentation.
Tout un Bagage- Version audio- Une production CMAQ / QUB radio
Coming back to Quebec city came the making of the pickguard or finger-rest for the Clara :
-The pickguard was set as an affirmative feature early-on, as the guitar's treble side was equipped before boxing-up of two aluminium threaded inserts that serve to receive the screwable, on/off floating finger-rest.
A block of maple burl was used for the finger-rest : The interlocking grain of this wood makes it strong on every axis. A faint green colour was applied to the wood, to neutralize its red oriented tint.
23 karats Gold leaf was applied to both pickguard and headstock to seal in the project.
The beautifully done video below shares all the energy and excitement that surrounded the creation of the Clara Archtop :
Scale length: inches 25.00
Neck width std. @ nut 1.6875 inches (1 11/16th)
String spacing at bridge std. @ 2.125 inches
Body width lower bout: inches 16.625
Body length total: inches 21.50
Body depth upper bout: inches 2.75
Body depth lower bout: inches 2.875
Pickup: Mojo Pickups UK, handmade Filtertron bladed model brushed Nickel finish, Switchcraft output jack, w/ vol/tone controls 50’s wiring at tailpiece.
Tuners are Schertlers brushed aluminium with brass gear. Truss rod cover is the removable center part of headstock.
internal laminated Spanish cedar neck -wings- supports.
Altitude Red spruce soundboard bracings, soundboard voiced as per André.
Black Limba neck reinforced with carbon fibre, w/ ebony fingerboard, adjustable 2-way truss rod, aluminium rectangular inlays & greenish -glow in the dark- side dot markers.
Twin colour headstock design in Dyed Sycomore, ebony and rosewood. Brushed aluminum Schertler tuners w/ ebony buttons, and Andre Instruments 3-line logo in stone (headstock) and gold (pick guard).
Copal & oil satin varnish.
Woods: All master grade, quarter-cut material is used. The carved soundboard is said to have been cut by loggers in the 1850 era… and was left behind in the mud, hence its -Sinker- appellation and colouring. It is quite cristalline in nature, showing strength, lightness and luminosity.
Materials: Haida Guai Island Sinker red Cedar top, altitude red spruce bracings, Zizicote back/sides with internal rosewood lamination, Black limba neck with carbon fibre reinforcements and truss rod, Gabon ebony fingerboard (from Lloyd Goldstein’s double bass replacement, via Mario Lamarre, luthier Qc), Spanish cedar beveled blocks & kerfings, dyed Sycomore (plum/blue), Rosewood, Jade recon stone (green), steel (tailpiece), aluminium, unbleached cow bone, Luminlay side-dots, carbon fibre, nickel silver (pickup), aliphatic glue, epoxy, tung oil & copal varnish, 23 karat gold leaf (head, pick guard), steel wire, nickel wire.
Unpacked Clara yesterday.
As always, a beautiful work of art! I’m very pleased to add it to my Andre collection. My first impression is that it sounds wonderful as an acoustic.