Jonas Guitars Boulder, Co.

Handmade Acoustic Guitars

Koa – Jonas Chimebell – Acoustic Guitar

by on Nov.28, 2011, under Handmade Acoustic Guitars

Koa guitar
The guitar here is made from a rare Hawaiian wood – Koa. The neck is of Mahogany and the fretboard is Ambigua. It was constructed by Jonas along with the help of his student, Dave.The guitar took about 5 months to complete while being worked on only once per week.The student inlayed the fox in the headstock and the paw tracks up the fretboard.A one of a kind, Jonas original. To make it even more rare, the cut-away piece is bent Makasar Ebony. 

Click on any image to enlarge


Custom Koa Guitar

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The Mystique Around Brazilian Rosewood, is it illegal?

by on Aug.16, 2010, under Handmade Acoustic Guitars

Shiny GuitarYes!  It cannot be sold or even transported, carried, or otherwise brought over any international boarders without violating one country or another’s CITES code.  The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora, has enacted stiff penalties on anyone involved in contributing in any way, to the extinction of endangered materials, of which there are thousands.  The CITES convention even goes so far as to regulate the movement of instruments made from any of these species.  Over the past 400 years, unregulated international trade in plants and animals has extinguished more than 700 species.  The European bison, English wolf and dwarf elephant have disappeared from the European contentment.  North America has lost its mammoth, giant beaver and American lion.  We’ve similarly decimated our flora.  Varieties of ferns, orchids, grasses and oaks will never again be seen.

In the 1960s, the international community acted and 80 countries met in Washington, D.C. to sign the completed Convention, which became effective in 1975.  Today, 172 of the world’s 194 countries have signed CITES.  Only a few countries in Western Africa and western Asia have not.  The rules enacted by the Convention have affected the way The Martin Guitar Company has been able to do construction or repairs on their guitars.  For these rules alone, Martin has had to change to Indian rosewood, a similar and non-endangered tonewood.

CITES only affects certain plant and animal material that is crossing international boarders, so as long as you don’t intend to travel oversees with a Brazilian rosewood guitar, then go ahead and make one, or own one, no problem.  Where do you get the wood if you want to build one?  That’s hard to say, it’s not illegal to buy, or use Brazilian rosewood within the U.S.  Naturally its rarity ensures its desirability and its price is very high.  Expect to pay $10-20thousand for some perfectly cut raw Brazilian rosewood.

CITES only establishes a ‘floor’ of restrictions.  The member countries can establish any other rules as long as they’re stricter than CITES.  Imagine a touring musician who plans to visit several countries with a guitar constructed of Brazilian rosewood.  It would be impossible to comply with each country’s CITES rules and play the tour, the guitar would be confiscated at a boarder by astute customs agents.

CITES establishes a hierarchy of protection for threatened species of plants and animals.  Appendix I include species “threatened with extinction.”  Of the approximately 5,000 animal species or 28,000 plant species, there are a few from the list that appear on guitars.   Among the listed are Brazilian rosewood, elephant ivory, and tortoiseshell.    Appendix II lists species that are “not necessarily now threatened with extinction” but “may become so unless trade in specimens of such species is subject to strict regulation.” Honduran mahogany is listed in Appendix II.  This only applies to raw wood, not finished guitars, so you need not worry about getting permission for international travel with your mahogany guitar, unless traces of other materials are discovered.

If your guitar checked out for tortoiseshell, ivory or Brazilian rosewood, you’ll not be able to legally get it in or out of any of the 172 member countries without a permit.

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Is Brazilian Rosewood the Best Wood to use for Building a Guitar?

by on Aug.16, 2010, under Handmade Acoustic Guitars

 Brazilian Rosewood Sides and Back

Brazilian Rosewood Full Set - Call for Pricing

Brazilian Rosewood, almost universally regarded as the best sounding wood for acoustic guitars.  Because of its scarcity and desirability, there are lots of myths and mysteries associated with it.  When talking about Brazilian rosewood and American guitar making, the conversation starts with the Martin Guitar Company.   Because Martin used Brazilian rosewood throughout most of their history, it became the wood that most builders wanted to use on their own finest models.  Martin switched to Indian rosewood, a tonewood that builders have been using for decades.  But, thanks to the sudden scarcity, guitars made of Brazilian became instant collector’s items.

According to Dick Boak, the director of Martin’s artist relations and publicity, “Brazilian rosewood was chosen for its beauty; it was an extremely stable and tonally appropriate choice for back and sides on any musical instrument.”  When Boak was asked by a reporter for the Fretboard Journal, the guitar builder’s choice in magazines, “What determined a good-quality, or Martin-quality, back-and-side set?  What were they looking for back then?”  “They were looking for quarter cutting, which was chosen for its stability.  A flat sawn or cathedral cut is prone to cracking right down the middle of the cathedral grain.  It probably does not have the stability or longevity of stiffness as quarter cut.”

In the world’s greatest Martins, Brazilian rosewood and Adirondack spruce, scalloped bracing – everything came together to produce the finest instruments, the Stradivariuses of the guitar world.  That was the golden age, and what most modern luthiers are trying to copy, either tonally or exactly.  Because of its now rarity, some guilders are getting $20,000 and above for a Brazilian rosewood back-and-side set.

Why, indeed is the Brazilian rosewood the most sought-after wood for quality instruments?  Well, “if you pick up a Brazilian rosewood fingerboard and hit it, it goes ‘Ding’,” says Paul Reed Smith in the Fall 2008 edition of The Fretboard Journal.  It becomes immediately obvious to any guitar builder, when listening for the tonal quality of wood.  Paul Reed Smith demonstrated to a reporter that when a blank guitar neck made of Brazilian rosewood was hit, “in its raw form and it sounds just like a marimba.   It ‘Rings’!”

Working with Brazilian rosewood can be a lot of work because, depending on how stiff the piece of wood is, it can be extremely difficult to bend or it can crack very easily.  Experienced luthiers know to soak it for six or seven hours before attempting to bend it for the guitar sides.  There are enough oils in the wood that the wood is also stable.  Usually the guitar builder will add finish on a piece of wood to keep it stable during different changing temperature and humidity conditions.  With rosewoods you don’t really need to do that.

Is Brazilian rosewood the best wood to use for building a guitar?  Brazilian is what has been valuable thorough the history of reselling guitars. And that’s thanks to the Martin Guitar Company because some of their most coveted guitars are of Brazilian rosewood.

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by on Mar.14, 2009, under Handmade Acoustic Guitars, The Peace Guitar

peacebuildguitarAt the time the Iraq war started getting in full swing, I was one of those guys who was going to all the peace marches that I could find. Then one morning I tuned in on “Democracy Now” on my radio. Here was Michael Franti being interviewed by Amy Goodman. I had never heard of this guy, Michael Franti.

He was talking about his adventure in Baghdad and singing with his guitar for the local people in the streets. These were the same people who were about to be bombed by the “US shock and AWE Invasion”. How brave was that!

This was such a compelling story! Then he started singing in the studio “You can bomb the world to pieces but you can’t bomb it into peace”.

Wow! Immediately , I felt some deep gut connection, but I was not sure what that all meant at the time.

Back at the shop I was building guitars. About a year went by, and I was wondering what to do with that maple double cut-away that had been hanging unfinished on the wall for a while.

Somehow it hit me! Yeah ” a peace guitar ” that’s it! My vision and creative energy started to come back about Michael Franti and his Bagdad stories.

I was sleeping outside on my deck at the time and I got seriously sick and find out that I had West Nile Virus the second case in Boulder County that year

I’m not recommending this to anyone, I was flat on my back which seemed like an eternity and this was no fun. I thought at times that I may have to go to the other side of the fence, after seven weeks of this, something told me that I had to get back to the shop and finish Micheal Franti’s peace guitar.

When I finally felt a bit more human and alive, … that’s exactly what I did. It took me still many, many hours day and night of inlay and finish work to get that guitar to where I wanted it.

Then, I finally started to realize my next challenge, somehow I had to get this beautiful instrument to Michael right away.

peacebuildguitar2I knew he was coming to Denver for a concert in December but that wasn’t going to work because the paint was still drying. Next concert would be Breckenridge Colorado Feb 3 06. That was the date that my wife, Cindy, my granddaughter and I traveled by car from Boulder to Breckenridge, over the Loveland pass, and as luck would have it, it was the coldest night of the year. We braved a whitewash snow storm, but I felt OK with the guitar in a sleeping bag on the back seat. I was on a mission.

It took hours of nerve racking driving. We finely got there. Michael Franti and Spearhead was going to play in a huge tent. I had talked to Franti’s management before this over the net with my intention. They knew I was coming nevertheless. Little did we know that we were still in for some real challenges.

I walked up the gate and no way were we going to get in the tent through the security no matter who’s guitar I had with me.

At this time it was still a blizzard and we grew more cold and discouraged and the granddaughter of course had only a light pair of shoes on her feet and was complaining her heart out.

I decided to call Franti’s management, and was surprised I was talking to someone on a sunny road in Australia that very day. She let me know that it was all lined up and that she would take care of it at that moment. 20 minutes later we were handed some back stage tickets for the after party at 11 pm, 2 hours from now at the hotel.

It was 9 pm we had two hours to kill so through the bitter cold we were trying to find a warm whiskey bar but were quickly kicked out because we had a minor with us. Anyway we got to the party , tired in the deep snow with all the clothes we could find in the car , with the guitar still wrapped up in the sleeping bag. At that point we seriously had begun doubting if this was worth all the trouble we had gone through so far and perhaps we should just turn around and go home. We got finally through the security at the party. The band spearhead loved the guitar at first site and were really amazed at the looks and quality of the instrument, itself. It was an instant hit and I was glowing from all of the complements, but wait a minute, No Michael!

Well come to find out at his time after one clock Michael was so tired and had already gone to bed. I guess we couldn’t blame him, we were plane exhausted too. However we felt really comfortable and welcomed by the band and management which was a nice tone changer after what we’d just gone through. I literally could have crashed (at ) the party

We decided to leave the guitar with Tony the guitar tech. I felt instantly like brothers and I knew that he would defend and protect this thing with his life and he made darn sure that Michael would be playing the Peace guitar first thing in the morning.

After all this we felt like we finally succeeded, although it was not exactly what we’d expected. On the same snowy road back, the only thing I could think of was that I wished I was home in my bed in Boulder.

That summer my wife and I got to meet Michael and Spearhead at Red Rocks. It was an amazing show that blew me away when Michael in the middle of the crowd was howling and surrounded with 10,000 fans under the full moon. We were at a party!

Jonas guitars

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My Process for My Cherrywood Acoustic Guitar

by on Feb.26, 2009, under Acoustic Guitar Builders, Handmade Acoustic Guitars

Sven's Cherrywood GuitarThere are so many steps in building a guitar from scratch it blows me away every time I look at my work. It is a very humbling process that has to be broken into small doable pieces. This has been such a bonding experience for the two of us. He has guided me through every twist and turn.

I wanted to build a guitar from a tree that was grown in the US. There are so many woods from all over the world that are perfect for their sound quality, but I have a huge passion for things done as locally as possible. We decided that a cherry wood guitar would suit me well, so we got big block and cut out my main pieces. Once they were the right dimension we put them on the thickness sander. My back was glued from two pieces like the pages of an open book. My sides were shaped on the bending jig after been soaked and heated. I put this all together with bracing on my back to give it strength. During this time I also cut and shaped my neck.

The last few times I have focused on my top. After book matching this also, I put in my Rosette. This was one of the finest most careful wood work I have ever done. I wanted something simple yet elegant and unique. I decided I would incorporate wood into the pattern by tying it all back together with the fret board. I choose king wood for my fret board because it looks so amazing and there isn’t many local options for wood dense enough. So my Rosette would also incorporate a small piece of king wood that would flow into the rest of it. I was quite amazed at my final product. It looks so neat and has my own characteristic style.

This week I worked on making braces. This process of “voicing” my guitar is one of the most exciting. If this is done well, all my hard work will come to a beautiful finale. My dad just kept saying, “Sven think sound”, if I had the feeling and intention of unbeatable sound that is what I would get. Once my braces were cut and shaped, I glued them all on with a large jig designed specifically for this process. I bent dowels and used that tension to hold the braces in place.

It is an amazingly intuitive process. This has been one of the most challenging aspects for me. I am a really thinker and planner. With this project I have had to let go of my constraining ideas and logical thoughts to open up for feeling the entire guitar and wood that is in front of me. By using this creative technique I can tell the difference it has made. Flowing with the process and paying attention to the slightest detail, is what will make all the difference in the end.

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