That is always a small event for us to receive a guitar from a new luthier. We do receive on average 2 new luthier guitars each month and return most of them to the builders. Not that the guitars that we receive are bad, but mostly because they do not have the personality that we are looking for which is mostly a unique tone with a minimum of loudness to be played in concert halls.
We have been discussing a long time with Toby Rzepka from Portland and find out that his guitars had to be in our showroom.
Toby Rzepka is a guitar maker based in Portland USA. He studied guitar making with many builders and got his inspiration from Stephan Connor. Stephan Connor is one of the most famous guitar builders in the US, his guitars are played by many concert players such as Judicael Perroy, Anabel Montesinos, Eliot Fisk or the Assad brothers. The Rzepka and Connor guitars are mostly based on a traditional body with however a lattice bracing but not like their Australian colleagues: the top is not really thin and there are no carbon in the bracing.
Here are some spec of Toby’s guitars :
- The sides are not laminated. Toby uses Camatillo rosewood called as well Dalbergia Congestiflora ou Mexican Kingwood guitar which is very dense and hard, so he uses it as a traditional side.
- Cedar top
- His lattice is much more open than the Australian style (3×3 rather than, say, 9×9), so his top thickness is more like 1.55-1.7mm rather than 1.0-1.2mm like the Aussies do.
- All his guitars have an elevated fingerboard and 12-hole-tie block.
- They have as bass side sound port, and could be cover by a magnetic.
- There is no truss rod, but I a carbon fiber rod for additional stiffness and prevention of neck pull-up.
- All French polish, except the neck, which is a satin/matte oil finish.
- 52mm nut width
- 65 cm string length
I asked Toby what he was mostly aiming at when building guitars, here is his answer :
“What I aim for in a guitar is a free-speaking, natural tone with clarity, power and a wide tonal palette. Lush, sparkling trebles and powerful, clean basses. I’ve drawn inspiration from many luthiers, from Stephan Connor (who first taught me and shares many things in common with my approach), to Thomas Humphrey, to Australian builders like Greg Smallman and John Price. Any time I come across a guitar I love, even if the style is totally different from mine, I make observations that inform my own building. I value controlled experimentation, and I’m always trying new things in parallel with my usual orders. This allows me to continue to innovate and expand my acoustic palette.”
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