So you’ve been flicking through that ever growing pile of guitar magazines, wondering if you will ever save enough money to buy that vintage guitar you’ve spend half your life longing for. You keep telling yourself ‘owning an axe with such heritage will improve your life and complete your collection’. But is this really the case, will you really feel your collection is complete, or will you be flicking through those guitar magazines once again trying to find that perfect instrument? Many people will spend their entire lives and their mortgages searching for a guitar that plays like it had been custom built for them. So why not save yourself a lot of time and money, find a local experienced luthier and commission your very own custom built guitar, which shall fit you like a glove? Built to your own specification this guitar will take pride of place in your collection and will be dripping in so much sentimental value that you’d step over your own mother to save it from a burning building. We met with Tom Higgins (guitar maker) and Tom Clements (Guitar collector) to learn a little more about custom built guitars.
Tom Clements has been playing custom guitars made by Tom Higgins for his entire gigging career. The first guitar Tom Clements commissioned was a cherry red solid body electric guitar. This has been Tom Clements’s main guitar when performing with his band. He loves it so much that he has pretty much retired his iconic Fender Stratocaster. Clements explained that this custom guitar does everything he wants an electric guitar to do, “The best electric guitars are slabs of wood with pickups on them, that’s been proven by Fender and Gibson”. The guitar has a perfectly balanced tone, the solid mahogany body produces a warm sound and the single coil pickups counterbalance this with their distinctive brightness.
The second guitar we looked at was a semi acoustic guitar with rolling ‘F’ holes. This guitar has been made from a beautiful piece of Sycamore, the wood grain had been left visible through the highly glossed finish, making the guitar look like it belongs in a display cabinet. Tom Higgins explained that semi acoustic guitars such as this often have a central block of pressed laminated wood, which is glued between the top and back of the guitar. This central block adds strength, reduces feedback and provides a strong surface to mount the pickups. However Tom Higgins does not use cheap pressed laminated wood for his central block. Instead he uses a single piece of wood for the back of the guitar, acoustic chambers are meticulously carved out leaving enough wood behind for the central block. This method gives this guitar greater attack, and sustain.
The third guitar we looked at was a traditional flat top acoustic guitar. This guitar is astonishingly responsive, the vibrations that extrude from it pulsate into the players chest, it is an amazing guitar and I have never before played anything like it. Tom Higgins explained its responsiveness is almost entirely down to the bracing inside. “All of the bracing and tone bars diminish to an airy thinness, the guitars top is also shaved thinner on the outer edge compared to the middle”. Tom Higgins theory is that as vibrations move outwards from the centre of the guitar they reduce. Making the outer edge thinner, gives less resistance to the fading vibrations.
As with making music, passion is an essential ingredient when making instruments. The more we spoke with Tom Higgins it became obvious that he was a man who possessed passion for his craft. He spoke with great enthusiasm about the joy he gets from slowly turning a toneless lump of timber into a vibrant piece of wood that sings. With this in mind it would seem safe to say that when commissioning a guitar from Tom Higgins you’ll not only have a guitar you will love but a guitar that has been loved during it’s creation.
Tom Higgins welcomes your phone call if you wish to discuss commissioning a guitar.