AN INTERVIEW WITH THE BUILDER, Matt Danser of Austin, Texas, by Stan Jay:
What do you call this guitar? This is the P-20 Parlor – the P-10 version would be without binding and scaled down in its appointments.
Tell us about some of its elegant appointments? “This guitar has curly maple bindings on the headstock, fingerboard and body; all the purfling is mitered and the butt wedge is figured maple as well; the rosette is abalone at its center; tuners are nickel-plated Waverly brand with ebony buttons and who could forget that astonishing Bubinga. This is figured, three-dimensional wood that some people call “Waterfall Bubinga” while others call it “African rosewood” but that’s a misnomer since it isn’t a Dalbergia like Brazilian or Madagascar. It’s tone is actually most similar to mahogany – it is a woody, warm, even tone. Paired with the Carpathian spruce top which we understand comes from the Ukraine, although some say Transylvania, which is almost identical to the finest Adirondack “Red” Spruce (from the USA) in that it’s quite stiff, enabling me to make the top quite a bit thinner and more responsive, with great note-to-note separation all the way up the fingerboard. Additionally, it produces a warm and nuanced feel that enables a wide variety of desired euphony and a good fundamental with some nice harmonic overtones.
What has been your background in guitar building? “I’ve been playing guitar since I was 11 years old. I’ve always had an appreciation for stringed instruments. I built my first guitar when I was 20 – an electric from scratch, without woodworking experience. I bought a book by Melvin Hitchcock titled How to Build Your Own Electric Guitar, and that got me interested in construction. I went back to school in 2005 for fine woodworking, completing the program at Santa Fe (New Mexico) Community College and earning a Certificate of Fine Woodworking. During that time period I built a nylon string guitar. I moved to Austin, TX in 2007 and was hired by Bill Collings to help make his new electric line. For the first two years of my employment there I did electrics exclusively and in my last year I also made ukuleles. In May 2010 I parted ways with Collings and started building on my own – all hand-built with no CNC technology, and I love it – it’s great – it’s turned into a personal passion. As I’ve heard you say, Stan, it doesn’t feel like work, it feels like play. On the side I do repair work and as a hobby I still occasionally make furniture. I do the Texas Furniture Makers Show where I’ve twice won Best of Show.
Tell me about your construction techniques. “All of the inlays are hand cut with a jeweler’s saw; the finish is 100% nitro-celluloise lacquer -- I don’t like to use polyurethane because I believe it dampens the sound. I try to achieve a thin finish, usually 7 mils or thinner. The nut width on this guitar is 1 ¾” and I use only bone for the nuts and saddles -- no plastic, thank you. The body measures 11 7/8” at the widest part, 6 15/16” at the waist and 8 ¼” at the upper bout. Its scale is 24” and the string spacing at the compensated bridge saddle is 2 5/16th”. The internal structure is built around an X-brace. These braces are deliberately not scalloped but, instead, feathered. This is a traditional way to build, but my braces taper more dramatically than regular struts do During the process of building I do a lot of tap tuning – finding a nodal point on the top, listening to different resonances on different parts of the top and on the X-brace. I tap along the X-brace to get the clearest response that I can – I take a little bit of wood away at a time and continuously tap and listen in order to get a clear tone out of as many places on the top that I can. By doing this I can achieve a better range in the finished instrument -- even in a piece as small as this guitar.
This is a gorgeous top – why did you choose it? “The face on this guitar has a little bit of bearclaw which is unusual in Carpathian, and very tight grain. The wood is dead quarter-sawn meaning that there are no rifts – the grain is slanted on a bit of an angle to the plane of the face of the guitar. I try to use wood that has minimal-to-no run-out. I used East Indian rosewood for the bridge plate because it gives the guitar more “oomph” in the attack, plus a bit more crispness. My instruments have a double action adjustable truss rod inside the neck area, accessible through the soundhole. It is as well,a bolt-on neck, which makes for easier neck resets.
What is your goal as a builder? What sets you apart? “Fit, finish and craftsmanship are so very important to me, as well, of course, as sound. I’m trying to make the finest instrument I can and I attempt to build each instrument I make as if I was going to own it always and play it every day. I’m a perfectionist who most of the time is borderline anal retentive – and this happens to be an excellent combination in a guitar builder. It’s a personality type one must have to make great guitars. In other areas of life it can be detrimental but in luthiery it makes for a first class reputation.”
Matt Danser guitars come with a Limited Lifetime to the Original Purchaser. We are excited about this new brand and expect to have larger body guitars to show you in the future. If you are seeking a small personal instrument for the parlor, the picnic or the plane ride, this one would make you the envy of all the other (captive audience) passengers.