A couple of years ago I had the opportunity to build a guitar for Tommy Emmanuel. It was to be based on the Frank Vignola model, but other than that I had free reign to make a unique creation. I really wanted to draw upon the gypsy vibe of the Selmer even more than the FV, yet also bring in some of the Gibson oval hole archtop look. I wanted to do something with the Cedar/Walnut combination to get that dark woody tone, and I chose Ebony binding for an elegant look. I love the way the oval hole turned out, and this consequently is available as an option for the FV. Other specs are similar to the FV.
I recently received this note from Dana Osman at Oregon Wild Wood who supplied me with the gorgeous walnut that was used for the back and sides of Tommys guitar.
It’s always wonderful to hear from you. As I mentioned on the phone, the Claro Walnut sets you had purchased from us, including the wood for Tommy Emmanuel’s guitar, came from a very special tree. It was actually one of the very first Claro Walnut trees to exist. Claro Walnut is not an ancient species, but the result of a cross between English Walnut and native California Walnut. This cross pollination was not possible until the English Walnut trees were brought to the US west coast in the first half of the 1800’s (1820 to 1830?). The tree, which yielded the sets you received, was salvaged from Grants Pass, OR, (not far from the Britt where Tommy occasionally plays). At 150+ years age, it was the oldest known Claro in the area, also making it among the very first Claro Walnut trees to exist.
It had an interesting life, death and rebirth. The tree started out living in the country, then a city grew up around it. Wires soon ran through its limbs and generations of nails and hooks, bullets and chains penetrated it’s massive trunk (our saw found every one). It bore witness to covered wagons and then to the space station above. It withstood blizzards and droughts. Then one day it began to die. The city deemed it a hazard and ordered it removed. The owner faced a $4000 cost for removal, to the dump. Seemed like such a waste, so I paid the owner for the tree and paid to have it carefully lowered down in pieces, and transported to our shop for milling. The wood was beautiful and yielded a rich warm resonant tap tone. By my best calculations, nearly 500 guitars and basses will result from this tree. So, it lives on in the form of magnificent instruments producing exquisite sounds around the world.
Music is magical to me. It can elevate and transform the human spirit unlike anything else I know. Our company is founded on my passion to literally improve the sound of music, (something never to happen from my playing, nor my luthier skills). My opportunity was the tonewoods. The woods typically used by the industry were selected mostly for convenience. I found better tonewoods exist and can be supplied, without endangering the rainforests. But it’s a team effort and until these woods are crafted into fine instruments and played for the masses, my dream is unfulfilled. Your exquisite instruments and the unbelievable talent of Tommy, Frank and others, are allowing my dream to become a reality, for everyone to enjoy the sound of music just a little bit more.
Thank you Ryan.
Oregon Wild Wood