Things that Make Bourgeois Guitars Unique.
By Dana Bourgeois
(click on the photos for larger views)
SELECTION- I personally select each piece of wood that we use. Since wood is graded and priced strictly on the basis of appearance, it's not enough to simply buy the most
beautiful, or the most expensive woods. The trick is to
know what a piece of wood is going to sound like before
the guitar gets built. After the wood is graded
for appearance, I tap and flex each piece, carefully noting the wood's individual qualities.
Some woods make better fingerstyle guitars, some make better dreadnoughts. One top might work well with a maple back, but not so well with mahogany. It's our job to know the difference.
The most important thing about our guitars is the way they sound. No two pieces of wood are alike. Woods can differ in weight, lateral and longitudinal stiffness, and resonant characteristics. Bourgeois guitars are voiced at three stages of construction. First we thickness tops and backs on the basis of flexibility and weight. After tops and backs are braced, we tune the braces to get as many clear notes as can be found in given top.
I think of braces as little tunable marimba keys. These can be tuned by holding the plates in certain places, tapping over the braces, listening to the response, and adjusting the height,
thickness or length of each brace. If this step is properly executed, the guitar ends up with an even, balanced tone, from one end of its range to the other.
Once the top and back are glued to the rim, we fine tune the thickness of the top and back by sanding around the perimeter of the outside of the guitar. If this last step is done properly then the wood and air can vibrate sympathetically, and the guitar gains power.
SCALLOPED X BRACING- Long ago, when I started building OMs, I became enchanted with their balance, clarity, and singing treble voice. For years I tried to get the same kind of voice out of larger guitars. Dreadnoughts naturally have a well-defined bass response, but rarely have equal presence in the treble register.
I realized that I had to beef up the treble side of the X in order to bring out the treble. Players like Bryan Sutton use every note on the
fretboard. This is one of the most important ways to make sure he gets every note.
We now use a variation of this design on every model we make, with the exception of the OM.
SPRUCE BRACES- Braces are the unseen half of the top of a guitar. All species of top woods are enhanced by Adirondack spruce braces, the stiffest of all spruces. Not many makers use Adirondack braces exclusively, but we do. We also use Adirondack for our back braces, too.
NECK- Norman Blake once said "Never trust a guitar if it doesn't have a belly".
It's possible to build a top that stays flat forever, but we don't think you'd enjoy playing it for very long. So the belly's not the problem.
The problem comes whenever a top stretches under string tension, taking the bridge and strings with it, and
causes your guitar to eventually need a neck reset. And any top that's built lightly enough for
optimum performance is going to need a neck reset sometime during it's lifetime. Period.
We don't reset more necks than anyone else does (see our
single- scalloped X brace, above), but your grandchildren may thank us for
the ease of a neck-reset with our detachable neck.
By the way, there's an urban myth that bolt-on necks don't sound as good as dovetailed necks. If you can hear the difference, you have better ears than Ricky Skaggs. The trick is to get a good, solid neck fit, whether the neck is fastened with glue or with bolts. You'd be surprised how many makers use the bolt-on neck design.
ACTION TRUSS ROD- A truss rod will effect the sound of your guitar. Our truss rod is made using a high-mass steel U-channel, and is very close in weight and material composition to pre-war Martin T-bars.
Everyone loves the sound of those
old T-bars, but unfortunately you couldn't adjust them. Ok, it's true that you rarely
have to use one-half of the adjustment capacity of a double action truss rod, but if you ever have to straighten out a back bow, it's nice to know it's there!
And the guy who someday refrets your guitar is going to be a happy camper, too.
SATIN NECK FINISH
-By popular demand, we have switched to
satin finish on most of our necks. Satin finish has a
significantly lower surface tension than high-gloss finish, so
there's not as much friction between the hand and the neck.
Even when the neck is naturally buffed from playing its
surface still offers less resistance due to the chemical
composition of the satin finish. We still put a gloss finish
on the front of the headstock, however, and we buff it just
like the body. The better to show off our mother-of-pearl logo!
A GREAT TEAM-
The Pantheon workforce consists of
me and eight fellow craftsmen, most of whom have worked with
me for years. They are the finest team of luthiers I have ever
assembled. As a result, the Bourgeois guitar built
today is more handmade than most other boutique brands, and by
far and away the best we've ever built! (The picture shows
Richard Shapiro and Chuck Thornton)
DANA IN THE
SHOP- Someone recently asked me how to tell if I
personally had a hand in building a particular Bourgeois
guitar. If my name is on the headstock then the guitar was built by hand in Maine, and I was
intimately involved in building it.
I have always worked a full time job in the shop, and I can truthfully say that I have actively had my hands on (and in) every Bourgeois guitar made in the Pantheon shop.
updated: April 14, 2003