Frequently Asked Questions

Q:

What types of guitarists do you build instruments for?

A:

My customers are usually classical musicians, but some are flamenco or jazz artists as well. I've made guitars for professional concert artists, students in university and conservatory music programs, music composers, professors of guitar programs, collectors, guitar teachers, avid enthusiasts and students of all ages. I'm interested in working with anybody who values the best playability and a truly musical instrument.



Q:

How would you classify your guitars? Traditional? Modern? You seem to do a bit of both…

A:

Perhaps needless to say, it's the quality of the result that matters more than adhering to any particular style of construction. I make only professional quality concert instruments that are perfect in solo, chamber music, or concerto settings. They are equally at home in the practice room, performance hall, living room, or recording studio. I believe that a truly great guitar will excel in every situation. That said, I'd rather be pigeonholed into the "traditional" category than anything else. I make my guitars in the way that's been proven through history to result in the most expressive, versatile musical instruments possible.

The three standard guitar models I offer - standard scale length, short scale length, and modern terz, are all incarnations of one fundamental set of design principles streamlined for different specific players and uses.



Q:

What if I want a design that's not one of your standard models?

A:

It never hurts to ask. What do you have in mind? Trust me, I want to be certain that you'll like the instrument I make for you - I'll be very honest if it's outside of my comfort zone.



Q:

What makes your guitars unique?

A:

12-hole bridge tie block

I focus on making my instruments stand out by simply making them outstanding. Not through frills, or by following fads. Scott guitars are my carefully studied effort to capture the greatest qualities of the finest instruments in history, and produce a sound that's distinctive, yet very classic.

Although I've learned that a traditional approach to lutherie can result in the best possible instruments, I don't actually specialize in historical reproductions. Each and every structural and aesthetic aspect of my guitars is carefully considered and dialed in. There is no such thing as an unimportant detail. It's imperative that my instruments are easy to play, show a refined, timeless aesthetic, and above all, have an exquisite quality of sound that responds to every nuance of the player's musical expression.



Q:

Do your guitars require a break-in period?

A:

Yes and no, "require" isn't the right word. My guitars are constructed in a way that they start out sounding fully performance-ready practically right away, but there is still a period of subtle gradual progressive improvement nonetheless (over the first several months to a year especially).

The ways my guitars develop are: broadening of the tonal palette, increased sustain, increased warmth, deeper bass, more present trebles, and general "opening up". I firmly believe that a properly made guitar will always have a playing-in period. And likewise, a properly made guitar will sound as refined and balanced as it ever will when it's brand new. You should never expect the break-in period to completely change an instrument - or to fix qualities that are inadequate when it's new.



Q:

What do you need to know in order to make me a guitar?

A:

To start, I need your contact information:

  • name
  • email address
  • phone number(s)
  • mailing address

I have a little questionnaire with a handful of simple plain-English questions that I will go through with you (it's quick over the phone or in person, but email works equally well) and it brings up all the points I will need to know. I like to begin collecting these answers as soon as you place your order, even if I won't begin working on your guitar for several months. Relax, this doesn't mean you should know what fret crown width you prefer - or even the scale length for that matter. It mostly gets you thinking about the kind of information I need, and gives you time to consult with me and consider your options.



Q:

What if I don't like the guitar that you make for me?

A:

Impossible!!!

Okay, that was a joke. Seriously though, it has never happened. On customers' guitars, I do what I know and I don't experiment. Each guitar turns out exceptional and I'm proud to glue my label into it. But just in case: trial period and return policy.



Q:

I need a new guitar by next week, can you help?

A:

If I have the right guitar for you in my studio and it's available for sale (I always try to keep at least one new instrument on hand just in case), then you are in luck. You send me the payment for the guitar, and I pack, insure and ship the guitar so you get it as quickly as you need it. (Read about my trial period.)

If you want me to build you a guitar within a week? I'm sorry, that's not going to happen. Believe me, you don't want a guitar that was made for you in a week! If you need your guitar done by a certain date, don't wait around. Get in touch with me and I'll let you know if I can meet your deadline.



Q:

How did you get into building guitars?

A:

I have been playing the classical guitar since age 7, and have a Bachelor of Music degree. I still continue to practice guitar and to learn about music - history, theory, performance practice, etc. This knowledge and skill are indispensable in my guitar making. They play a big role in the instruments I build and in the way I can relate to my customers.

My first few guitars were made in the late 1990's from lumber yard wood following Sloane's and Cumpiano's books for instruction. Some years later, In 2002, I attended a guitar building and repair school called Timeless Instruments where I built my 4th guitar and received a more formal orientation to lutherie. Soon after, I got a job at a well respected and established stringed instrument repair shop called Old Town Strings, in Victoria BC, where I was living at the time. The owner, Dave Cahill, is an outstanding repair person and in his shop I learned the gamut of specialized guitar making and repair skills.

I have also studied French polishing and a handful of specific hand tool techniques with the renowned master luthier and teacher of lutherie, Geza Burghart. Finally (and perhaps most importantly), I learned to refine my control over the guitar's tone through several years of working closely with Mikhail Robert, whose instruments are prized by professional musicians worldwide for their unsurpassed acoustic quality.



Q:

How can I try one of your guitars?

A:

Check my website to see what instruments I have available. Keep in mind that it never hurts to contact me too, since I may have something coming to the studio that hasn't yet been added to the website.

You could also ask players in your local guitar community if anyone is playing one of my instruments. Also check the dealer Grand salon de Guitare in Montreal.

If you are attending the next GFA convention, I'll see you there!



Q:

What is French Polish and why do you use it?

A:

French polish ingredients

Technically speaking, French polish is actually a technique for applying a finish and doesn't refer to a specific finishing material. However, in lutherie the widely used material is a spirit and shellac based finish. The specific recipee I use is an old variation that also includes a number of natural resins to make the finish a little tougher and longer wearing than a pure shellac finish would be.

French polishing was invented in about the 18th century and became a prominent guitar finishing technique in the mid 19th century. Today it has a notorious reputation of being labour intensive, difficult and time consuming to apply. But in actual fact, although it is an art in itself, I think the primary reason why it became so widespread in the first place is because it could be applied so much more quickly than previous alternatives could.

French polish bottles

Two centuries later French polish is still the preferred finish for the finest classical guitars. When properly applied it is extremely thin - much thinner than the thinnest lacquer or varnish finish. This helps it to add just enough refinement to a guitar's sound without interfering with the instrument's vibrations. Also, its deep, glowing, organic appearance is unmatched by any other finish. And it smells amazing, is fun to apply, and it's made from all natural non toxic ingredients (shellac is a resin secreted by the female lac bug on trees in India and Thailand).

But being much thinner than other finishes, French polish is also a lot more delicate. It's easy to scratch, and sensitive to moisture and perspiration. On the other hand, it is probably the easiest of all finishes to repair when it shows signs of wear. While lacquer and varnishes usually require that the original finish be removed before a new coat can be applied, French polish can easily be reapplied over existing coasts. There is no risk of building up too thick of a layer and the instrument can look gorgeous again in the course of just a few hours.



Q:

Do you offer a more durable finish too?

A:

Yes. Before French polishing became prevalent, guitars (like those of Torres for example) - and lutes, violins, cellos etc. were finished primarily with oil varnish, which can be extremely durable and also beneficial for the sound of an instrument. The look of my oil varnish finish is very deep (although the coating is very thin), rich and glossy - it's actually difficult to discern from my French polish. For those who need maximum protection, the entire guitar can be oil varnished. Alternately, my personal favorite combination is to use French polish on the soundboard and finish the rest of the guitar with oil varnish. The choice of finish does not affect the price of a guitar.



Q:

How do you take care of a hand-made, French polished guitar?

A:

  • French Polish

    To start, keep it clean. At the end of each practice session, gently wipe off fingerprints etc. with a soft, dry flannel or microfiber cloth. Also keep fingernails, jewelry, zippers, buttons away from your guitar, especially the soundboard. And wear long sleeves or a protector when you play to prevent long contact with skin. French polish is most susceptible to harm when it's new, so it will last a little longer if you can be extra diligent during your guitar's first 6 months.

    As careful as you are, sooner or later your French polish will show a rough or matte texture anywhere that your body touches the guitar during playing. This is the time (ideally before it looks like bare wood is exposed) to find a good luthier experienced in French polishing to retouch the finish. Ask around in your local guitar community for recommended luthiers. It's normally a quick, no fuss, inexpensive operation. This is also a good chance for the luthier to point out any other maintenance points that you may not have noticed (like worn frets, tuning gears needing lubrication or adjustment...) If you can't find a luthier you trust in your area, I'm always available to do the work for you.

  • Oil Varnish

    If your guitar is finished with my oil varnish, I recommend following the same precautions as you would for a French polished instrument. Though oil varnish is far more protective and won't wear through, the outer surface can become dull in the areas where your body touches exactly like French polish does. However, in this case the dulling is only superficial and purely cosmetic. By lightly French polishing, a luthier can renew the varnish's original lustre in just a few minutes.

  • Temperature and Relative Humidity

    hygrometer

    Avoid extreme temperatures. You should generally keep your guitar in a temperature range that you find comfortable.

    Regarding relative humidity, I recommend using a digital hygrometer to periodically test the relative humidity where you keep your guitar. I build my instruments at 45% relative humidity because I find this to be the proper average for most climates. Hence an appropriate humidity range to keep my guitars is between 40% and 60%. Lower relative humidity can cause the action to change, frets to protrude from the edges of the fingerboard, and if not addressed, wood to crack. Below 35% you should think about humidifying - either with a soundhole or case humidifier for short term or emergency use (Oasis humidifiers are excellent), or a room humidifier for long term use.

    High relative humidity, on the other hand, is not usually as dangerous. It can cause temporary action or sound quality issues until it gets excessive, or is combined with high temperatures, when it may cause joints to separate. If your humidity is regularly over 70%, I suggest taking measures to bring it down. Air conditioning usually has the right effect, so consider storing your guitar in a different room. Otherwise it may be worth investing in a small room dehumidifier and using it to regulate the room, or even a closet, where your guitar is stored.

    Some common dangerous locations to watch out for: near heat vents, fireplaces, baseboard or space heaters; in attics or basements, near drafty windows in cold climates, in direct sun (in the case or out), inside vehicles and car trunks.