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Hand Made Guitars by Luthier Dan Koentopp

The “Hog” Amati

Every instrument that leaves my shop represents an evolution of ideas, taking little bits and pieces from every instrument before it. Mixing these learned ideas with the inspiration and specific needs of a client, creates an enormous amount of informative energy that I use to construct every guitar. This approach is perhaps what defines this Amati the best.

I remember distinctly the conversation about using Mahogany as a body tonewood and how the tonal aspects of it would be more in the realm of what the client was after. Once this decision was made, the guitar solidified in my mind’s eye. The warmth of the Mahogany would work really well with the warmer color tones of Macassar Ebony and this combination still reflects a classic and well balanced look.

Using Mahogany as a tonewood for the back and sides of an archtop is quite fun. It lands somewhere in the middle of a maple and a softwood. It rings with a much lower tone and with a clarity like a softwood top. It was fun going back and forth as I graduated the top and back. I had to keep a close ear as to not let the two plates converge too closely in their vibrating frequency. For this reason, I left the back a little thicker than I normally would. I’ve also been experimenting with a slightly less aggressive neck set and string angle because I believe that it creates a guitar that is much freer to vibrate and makes for a more complex and controllable sound.

I can’t wait to carve more Mahogany archtops, it’s such a wonderful tonewood for the guitar.

The “Hog” Amati Specs
-Master grade German Spruce top, x -braced
-Highly figured “Bee’s wing” Mahogany back and sides
-Highly flamed Mahogany one piece neck
-Macassar Ebony headplate veneers, fingerboard and fittings.
-Macassar Ebony bindings with inner violin purflings of flamed Maple
-Macassar bound fingerboard with a scale length of 25.25″ and a radius of 12″
-Side elliptical position markers in shell
-Knife cut Stradivari Fholes
-Knife cut and compensated cello style bridge in figured maple (Two bridges, one high and one low)
-Medium Jumbo fret wire
-Bone nut with a width of 1.8125
-Waverly tuners with Ebony buttons
-French Polished Shellac finish
(Fit with Hoffee Carbon Fiber Cases)

The “Hog” Amati


Tanned German Spruce

The warmth of Mahogany, Macassar Ebony, and a tanned Spruce

Incredible quartered Mahogany, in two types of figuring

Close up of the Stradivari fhole

Mahogany back and sides

Flamed Mahogany neck with elliptical position inlays

Close up of waist with Macassar bindings and Maple purfling

I call this the “Star Wars” shot!

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9 Responses to “The “Hog” Amati”

  1. Alan Miller Says:

    For beauty, this is my favorite. Is the tone what you expected–somewhat darker than a maple instrument?
    This is gorgeous work, congratulations.

  2. admin Says:

    Thank you so much Alan! This guitar surprised me. It does have the warmth and darker flavor that I expected from the Mahogany and it is also very light and very responsive. The sound and feel is perhaps more a mix of a flattop sound but with the roundness and depth of an archtop.

    We settled on using Phosphor Bronze strings which really are what it wanted all along.

    I’ll be posting some studio/audio and video from it in the next couple weeks so you can hear it.
    Thanks again!

  3. Bruce McBetg Says:

    You gave me some good ideas; just wish I could implement them with same craftsmanship. Bravo!

  4. Kenneth Nagy Says:

    I make violins as a hobby. I made a small scale 5 string guitar based on a Strad 10 string for the grandsons last year. I have a form made up to make a lute type baroque guitar (built with curved strips) for myself. But I may just do something like this instead. This is sweet.
    I’ve used different woods for my violins, cherry, birch, American sycamore, and even a paradox walnut/yellow cedar one that is just started. It is basically unheard of, and is pretty much blasphemy.
    Oh well.
    Could you tell me the arching heights? Or anything else? Yeah, it might be the next thing I work on. My wife says that she likes when I played on a guitar. It’s been years. The smooth guitar finish will be the biggest change for me. My finish is more like old instruments, not like shiny new ones.
    thanks for the inspiration,

  5. admin Says:

    Hi Ken!
    Thanks for the message! Sounds like you have a lot of great experience under your belt already so follow your hands and heart. Very cool that you are usind different woods. I’ve seen the use of cherry and pear wood in violins. I’ve designed my guitars around what looks right to me and what fits within my dimensioned relationships. My back arching is rounder and higher than my tops. I don’t have a set height that I work with, I’m always adjusting my arch heights around my clients voice and the functions of that particular instrument, and of course the wood. My tops generally have an arch height of about 18-20mm plus the thickness of the plate. My back arches are more like 22-25. Good luck! 🙂 – Danny

  6. Kenneth Nagy Says:

    I’m starting a segment on my violinsbyken blog to show making a guitar from start to finish. For you it would probably be like an exercise in futility. But I’m sure it will come out. I don’t have all my wood yet, but I made a cool plane to rough it. I’d be honored if you check it out once in a while.

  7. admin Says:

    Id love too and will do! Good luck to you!

  8. Ken Nagy Says:

    Building an archtop is like building a LARGE viola for only so long. Then things change!

    Necks with a head joint, and an extension, and a slot for a truss rod. Easy if you have a modern shop set up for it, but with chisels and planes it is more challenging.

    I have it all glued up now, and am planing the inlay I’m going to put around the edges, if the mockup model works! Then I can forge on to new territory of fretboards, frets, tuning machines, and the to die for finish.

    Your instrument is still showing that it can be done. I just have to keep fixing the mistakes so they just blend in.

    I’m having a lot of fun. I just retired so I have more time for it. Thanks again for the inspiration.


  9. admin Says:

    Hi Ken!

    Thanks so much for the comment! Congrats on the continued process!! You are so correct! The archtop guitar has a lot more intricacies about it than any of the violin family instruments and all those things need to be dealt with in a purposeful way. One could argue that the form of a violin, viola, cello, is placed on a much higher pedestal and scrutinized at a much higher level than any archtop guitar but that doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be! The archtop, because it is a world away from the violin has this freedom in the market place regarding form. I would much rather have form at its highest peak than all the bells and whistles like carbon fiber, and even a truss rod for that matter. Form, in all its relative parts, is everything and I believe its the most beautiful art in building an archtop that you can chase your entire life. Mistakes are all part of the magic and the more we make them happen the better we are at hiding them. Ken, keep going and please stay in touch. Congrats on the retirement and I can’t wait to hear more! 🙂 –Danny

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