Philosophy & Construction

Dave Yelverton

In the course of my career I have built a wide range of stringed instruments. Over the last few years I have concentrated on acoustic steel string and classical guitars. Whilst acknowledging that the development of many of the standard guitar sizes has produced some near legendary results, I like to make use of some of the more recent developments which I have found by experience to produce significant improvements, both structurally and tonally.

My overall aim is to build guitars which are truly acoustic, with presence and power. They can be amplified, but don’t need amplification to fulfil their purpose.

Currently I am developing a range of guitars which meet my requirements. To date I am able to offer an 00 size in 12- 13- and 14-fret versions, an OM size, a classical guitar loosely based on a Hauser pattern, and an acoustic bass guitar.

Visit the Custom Guitars Gallery to see some of Dave’s handiwork.

Orders taken now will be commenced in 9-12 months. On completion instruments are kept for a while to make further adjustments. This means a waiting period of about 18 months from order to completion.

Construction of a Yelverton Guitar

Body

The tonal qualities of an instrument are predominantly the result of the interaction of the top, back and air cavity, with some role being played by the position and size of the soundhole.

The ribs in my guitars are taken out of that equation by making them as rigid as possible. Ribs are laminated with another wood giving a 4mm thick side. The analogy is of a drum which has rigid sides holding flexible skins; little energy is lost to the sides, so the top is free to transfer a greater amount of its energy to the air cavity which activates the back. The result is a louder and more tightly focussed projection of sound. For larger guitars, sides will be additionally braced.

Further rigidity of the body is given by using carbon fibre rods to brace the neck block against the rotation caused by string pull, hopefully diminishing the need for later neck resets.

I tend to work with a larger body cavity for standard sizes, coupled with a smaller soundhole. The tight focussed projection of sound makes it difficult for the player to hear what he is playing accurately; to get round this an upper bout soundport is used. This can cause a loss of bass response, which the larger cavity and reduced soundhole correct. It is reported that soundports can prevent wolf-notes occurring; this may be so- no guitar I have made so far with a soundport has had this fault.

Neck

For the neck-body joint, I use bolts and threaded inserts with a mortise joint. Much of the earlier prejudice against this type of joint has disappeared in the face of overwhelming evidence that the stability and strength of the bolt-on joint is certainly equal to that of the dovetail or the Spanish heel, with the added advantage that a neck reset is considerably cheaper. There is a definite advantage to using this in classical guitars as the traditional Spanish heel has no scope for adjustment of neck angle.

Necks are reinforced with carbon fibre continuing into the headstock, and for steel string, a two-way adjustable truss rod is used.

Bracing

Top bracing on my steel strings tends to run along traditional lines and relies on careful shaping and scalloping to achieve the required voicing. Backs can be ladder braced or X-braced. They achieve slightly different result although I find the latter method more useful in achieving specific voicings and flexibility. Classical guitar tops are braced in a method developed by Joshia de Jonge, combining lattice and X-bracing. This produces volume but not the stridency which can be a fault of the carbon fibre lattice system.

Materials

My preference is to use natural materials including wooden bandings and purflings. A wide range of timbers is still available for back and sides although some are currently restrictive in price. For those conscious of dwindling stocks of exotic hardwoods, it might be appropriate to select timber from more renewable sources. East India rosewood is sustainably managed as are stocks of Cuban mahogany from India. Maple and yew are also good alternative timbers.

For steel-string guitars, I have tended to favour a soundboard from a Tasmanian source, King Billy pine which produces a rich and tonally complex sound with quite a punch. For classical guitars I have had some success with Caucasian spruce (Picea orientalis). Both timbers can be more varied in appearance and colouring than European or American tonewoods. If appearance is of importance then select an AAA or Master grade board from more traditional sources.

Cutaways

Here I have a confession to make: I heartily dislike cutaways; they interfere with the cavity space in the upper bout and to my ear, restrict the response of the guitar. Having said this, if a customer truly has to have one, I will make this a feature and try to minimise the negative effects! By preference I would be happier adding a cutaway of the type pioneered by Nick Benjamin as this shows a happy marriage between unwillingness to compromise tonal characteristics and meeting the customer’s needs.

Armrests: some players have found armrest to be an important aid to their comfort; these can be built into the guitar rather than added on.