Interview with classical guitar luthiers: Jake Fuller (UK)

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I’m delighted to have Jake Fuller from Purnell Guitars.

 

Q1. Could you please tell us a little about your luthiery and its history?

Being the son of a toymaker I grew up making things with wood in my dad's workshop. My other interest in the guitar lead me to the London Guildhall University where I spent three years studying guitar making under the tutorlidge of David Whiteman and David Rouse. Since then I have been making classical guitars from home now in Southwold, Suffolk.

 

 

Q2. Please describe your idea of a good sounding guitar, and what you do to achieve it?

My aim as a maker is to produce guitars that have certain attributes which make all musical possibilities available to the player. These are a good volume, tone colour, dynamic range, even response to all the notes, ease of playability and above all an inspiring tone. I achieve this through using many of the traditionally tried and tested methods of making alongside my own developments to produce a modern sounding instrument.

 

 

Q3. Please tell us about your idea of improving playability, and what you do to achieve it?

The guitar should respond easily, without the player having to force it. With an accurate action, good playability is achieved.

 

 

Q4. Please tell us your opinion about the traditional finishing method (French polish) and new methods (lacquer, catalysed finishing, etc).

I use French polish. Looks best in my opinion, and doesn't inhibit the guitars sound.

 

 

Q5. Please tell us your opinion regarding shorter-scale guitars such as 640, 628 and 615mm in terms of playability, design, sound quality and volume. Is there an increasing need to cater to smaller-handed or female players?

650mm scale length seems to be the standard. I have never tried anything else but would make guitars with a shorter scale or smaller neck width if the customer wanted.  

 

 

Q6. Many readers say they end up being very confused after trying many guitars. Could you give us some advice on how to examine the guitars' sound quality and playability at a shop or luthier, from the guitar-maker's point of view?

Assessing a guitar is difficult for the inexperienced player, and I have seen many poor choices. Firstly I would advise players to look closely at the build quality.  The neck join, fingerboard join, bridge and saddle,
nut, frets, binding etc should all be precisely positioned and fitted or the guitar will not work properly. There should be no obvious buzzing, or chocking from high frets or poor action. Try all the notes. Look down the neck to see if the frets are level and it's straight. Many guitars often suffer from poor response in the higher registers, so check the notes up to the 12th fret E on the first string. A good first string is always important. If the guitar plays well you will be able to make better music on it. 
In terms of the guitars sound quality, this is obviously more difficult and a personable thing. Consider taking someone more experienced, like a tutor maybe, with you when looking at guitars. Finally, try as many out as you can before deciding. 

 

 

Q7. Do you offer any 'after-sales' service to customers - particularly customers who are nervous about making a substantial investment?

Any adjustments the player needs will of course be addressed. 

 

 

Q8. How does the increasing rarity of some woods, rosewood for example, impact on your methods, and the quality of the end product?

Some woods are getting harder to get and more expensive, but I think there are still enough quality woods around.  Some new species especially from Africa are now being used more often. The standard of guitar making is still very high, so I don't think this is a real problem yet for makers.

 

 

Q9. How do you see the future of this beautiful tradition in the 21st century?

The fascinating aspect of guitar making is the fact that the methods are always evolving, and luthiers are coming up with new ideas all the time. Attempts to make the guitar that little bit louder and more responsive is an ongoing process. But, at the same time, the traditional sound the guitar makes is still very important, and I believe that will continue for a long time. 

 

Website: Purnell Guitars | Handmade Classical Guitars by Jake Fuller

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