Sounding off about… design choices


The parlour guitar has presented some interesting design choices, particularly with regards to the soundhole decoration. I don’t have the design chops of George Walker (oh but I wish I did) but I do take the design of my guitars seriously and I thought I would write about some of these decision here.

When laying out the soundhole decoration for full sized guitars I try to follow several rules of thumb. The outside circumference of the decoration should meet the corners of the fretboard, with the end of the fretboard falling over the top section of the decoration. The length of the fretboard is calculated as being the number of frets desired for the particular guitar plus an extra fret’s worth of fretboard material (so for a 22 fret guitar the fretboard would be 23 frets long).

However these rules of thumb do not all work for the parlour guitar due to the smaller body size. The parlour guitar has a 90mm diameter soundhole (compared to 100mm diameter for a full sized guitar) and 18 frets. But setting the diameter of the soundhole decoration large enough to meet the corners of the fretboard would be in danger of visually swamping the smaller body of the guitar. After drawing various mockups of the decoration, I decided to extend the fretboard so that the end meets with the edge of the soundhole. This allows the soundhole decoration to meet the corners of the fretboard, but on a tighter 106mm outside diameter which remains proportionate to the size of the body.

The decoration itself is a 4mm wide band comprising 0.6mm ebony banding on each circumference, with 2.4mm inlay in between the ebony. The main inlay blocks are eleven alternating ebony and mother of pearl pieces (the ebony blocks are shaded black in the above drawing).

I will be cutting and installing the inlay at the European Woodworking show on 12 and 13 September, so stop by my bench at the show and watch it unfold in real time!

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