• 2022 Issue 3 /
  • Ask Bob – Bob versus Andy, how frets and pickguards impact sound, and how acoustic guitar woods ripen with age
photo of Bob Taylor with arms crossed

Ask Bob

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Bob versus Andy, how frets and pickguards impact sound, and how acoustic guitar woods ripen with age

Editor’s Note: With Andy Powers leading new product development as Taylor’s chief guitar designer for more than a decade now, you’ll see Andy responding to more of your questions, especially when they relate to his guitar designs. We encourage you to ask whatever questions you have for either Bob or Andy. Both are happy to share their thoughts.

In our video Q&A with Bob Taylor, Bob talks about our new urban wood initiative and the surprising costs and other challenges associated with developing the sourcing infrastructure.

Bob, what would you say is the biggest difference between the way you’ve approached guitar making and the way Andy has? Read Answer

I always wondered what role fret wire plays in contributing to an acoustic guitar’s sound and overall feel and performance. What material and fret size does Taylor use for its frets and why? I imagine resilience is an important consideration. I’ve heard people mention stainless steel frets from time to time — have you ever used those? Read Answer

I just got a new 324ce Builder’s Edition a few days before my 62nd birthday, and it is a joy to play. I’ve had a 912ce BE for a couple of years now, and it is also an amazing instrument. I have neck and shoulder issues. I am faithful to my stretching and strengthening routines to keep these issues at bay. Both guitars are so comfortable and easy to play. When these guitars were designed, did you have people like me in mind, or was that just a wonderful break for players like me? Also, can you give me any insight on how the ash wood will age sonically over the years? Many thanks for making such stellar guitars! Read Answer

I’ve read that the top/soundboard of the guitar provides the majority of the sound and quality of sound from an acoustic guitar due to the vibration it makes. What has always puzzled me is if that is true, wouldn’t a pickguard and even the bridge subdue the vibration and distort the sound? Yet some of the historically great guitars have huge pickguards and even oversized “mustache” [bridges]. I have even seen some guitars with double pickguards. Was this a consideration to produce the Builder’s Editions without pickguards? Read Answer

Bob, at this point in your career and life, what other things are you interested in learning? Read Answer

Bob, how involved were you in laying out the factory flow at Taylor’s plant in Tecate? Do you have any plans for new developments there, and if so, will you be directly involved? Read Answer

Got a question for Bob Taylor or Andy Powers? Shoot them an email: askbob@taylorguitars.com

  • 2022 Issue 2 /
  • Ask Bob – Maple fretboards, wood grading criteria, short-scale nylon-strings, and Taylor case construction
photo of Bob Taylor with arms crossed

Ask Bob

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Maple fretboards, wood grading criteria, short-scale nylon-strings, and Taylor case construction

Bob, what would you say is the biggest difference between the way you’ve approached guitar making and the way Andy has? Read Answer

I always wondered what role fret wire plays in contributing to an acoustic guitar’s sound and overall feel and performance. What material and fret size does Taylor use for its frets and why? I imagine resilience is an important consideration. I’ve heard people mention stainless steel frets from time to time — have you ever used those? Read Answer

I just got a new 324ce Builder’s Edition a few days before my 62nd birthday, and it is a joy to play. I’ve had a 912ce BE for a couple of years now, and it is also an amazing instrument. I have neck and shoulder issues. I am faithful to my stretching and strengthening routines to keep these issues at bay. Both guitars are so comfortable and easy to play. When these guitars were designed, did you have people like me in mind, or was that just a wonderful break for players like me? Also, can you give me any insight on how the ash wood will age sonically over the years? Many thanks for making such stellar guitars! Read Answer

I’ve read that the top/soundboard of the guitar provides the majority of the sound and quality of sound from an acoustic guitar due to the vibration it makes. What has always puzzled me is if that is true, wouldn’t a pickguard and even the bridge subdue the vibration and distort the sound? Yet some of the historically great guitars have huge pickguards and even oversized “mustache” [bridges]. I have even seen some guitars with double pickguards. Was this a consideration to produce the Builder’s Editions without pickguards? Read Answer

Bob, at this point in your career and life, what other things are you interested in learning? Read Answer

Bob, how involved were you in laying out the factory flow at Taylor’s plant in Tecate? Do you have any plans for new developments there, and if so, will you be directly involved? Read Answer

All guitar owners recognize how valuable a well-made and well-sealed guitar case is to the life of the guitar. Can you elaborate on the process for building your cases and, more importantly, the process to ensure the guitars are sealed and protected from the elements?

Aside — I own a vintage Martin 12-string (1967 D35-12) bought new and, after too many years relying on the OEM Martin case, purchased a new hardshell case from Martin Custom shop. What I received was a perfectly sealed and durable case unlike any I’ve ever seen. Does Taylor also carry a comparable tight-seal case? Read Answer

Bob, I love reading about the latest innovations from the Taylor team. We always read about the great things going on at the factory and the wonderful new guitars produced. They are always given rave reviews by various magazines. Of course, with any product development, there is always trial and error. On a lighter note, can you speak about any guitar design or component you were sure would work but turned out to be a total disaster? Or perhaps the innovation that you were sure wouldn’t work but did?

I would be remiss in not mentioning that I very much admire how you encourage the exploration of other luthiers’ guitars and have always spoken positively about their instruments without judgement. Read Answer

With the current (now normal) state of delayed shipping from the factory around the globe and prolonged box storage of guitars sitting in uncontrolled or variable controlled environments (humid, dry, hot/cold temperatures), how confident are you about the long-term stability of the wood?

You mentioned in your previous issue (Issue 1, 2022) that the most important time for protecting the wood is when it’s new to avoid “ratcheting,” which presumably reflects more prolonged exposure to the elements, but can the shipping delays impact the wood? Read Answer

Looking for more Ask Bob? Watch all of Bob’s video answers from digital Wood&Steel and learn more about ebony, bearclaw spruce, eucalyptus fretboards and much more.

  • 2022 Issue 1 /
  • Ask Bob – All about acacia, supply chain issues, open-grain tops and string anchoring
photo of Bob Taylor with arms crossed

Ask Bob

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All about acacia, supply chain issues, open-grain tops and string anchoring

Bob, what would you say is the biggest difference between the way you’ve approached guitar making and the way Andy has? Read Answer

I always wondered what role fret wire plays in contributing to an acoustic guitar’s sound and overall feel and performance. What material and fret size does Taylor use for its frets and why? I imagine resilience is an important consideration. I’ve heard people mention stainless steel frets from time to time — have you ever used those? Read Answer

I just got a new 324ce Builder’s Edition a few days before my 62nd birthday, and it is a joy to play. I’ve had a 912ce BE for a couple of years now, and it is also an amazing instrument. I have neck and shoulder issues. I am faithful to my stretching and strengthening routines to keep these issues at bay. Both guitars are so comfortable and easy to play. When these guitars were designed, did you have people like me in mind, or was that just a wonderful break for players like me? Also, can you give me any insight on how the ash wood will age sonically over the years? Many thanks for making such stellar guitars! Read Answer

I’ve read that the top/soundboard of the guitar provides the majority of the sound and quality of sound from an acoustic guitar due to the vibration it makes. What has always puzzled me is if that is true, wouldn’t a pickguard and even the bridge subdue the vibration and distort the sound? Yet some of the historically great guitars have huge pickguards and even oversized “mustache” [bridges]. I have even seen some guitars with double pickguards. Was this a consideration to produce the Builder’s Editions without pickguards? Read Answer

Bob, at this point in your career and life, what other things are you interested in learning? Read Answer

Bob, how involved were you in laying out the factory flow at Taylor’s plant in Tecate? Do you have any plans for new developments there, and if so, will you be directly involved? Read Answer

All guitar owners recognize how valuable a well-made and well-sealed guitar case is to the life of the guitar. Can you elaborate on the process for building your cases and, more importantly, the process to ensure the guitars are sealed and protected from the elements?

Aside — I own a vintage Martin 12-string (1967 D35-12) bought new and, after too many years relying on the OEM Martin case, purchased a new hardshell case from Martin Custom shop. What I received was a perfectly sealed and durable case unlike any I’ve ever seen. Does Taylor also carry a comparable tight-seal case? Read Answer

Bob, I love reading about the latest innovations from the Taylor team. We always read about the great things going on at the factory and the wonderful new guitars produced. They are always given rave reviews by various magazines. Of course, with any product development, there is always trial and error. On a lighter note, can you speak about any guitar design or component you were sure would work but turned out to be a total disaster? Or perhaps the innovation that you were sure wouldn’t work but did?

I would be remiss in not mentioning that I very much admire how you encourage the exploration of other luthiers’ guitars and have always spoken positively about their instruments without judgement. Read Answer

Looking for more Ask Bob? Watch all of Bob’s video answers from digital Wood&Steel and learn more about ebony, bearclaw spruce, eucalyptus fretboards and much more.

  • 2021 Issue 3 /
  • Ask Bob – Employee ownership, advice for young Bob, learning from failure, and curved braces
photo of Bob Taylor with arms crossed

Ask Bob

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Employee ownership, advice for young Bob, learning from failure, and curved braces

Bob, what would you say is the biggest difference between the way you’ve approached guitar making and the way Andy has? Read Answer

I always wondered what role fret wire plays in contributing to an acoustic guitar’s sound and overall feel and performance. What material and fret size does Taylor use for its frets and why? I imagine resilience is an important consideration. I’ve heard people mention stainless steel frets from time to time — have you ever used those? Read Answer

I just got a new 324ce Builder’s Edition a few days before my 62nd birthday, and it is a joy to play. I’ve had a 912ce BE for a couple of years now, and it is also an amazing instrument. I have neck and shoulder issues. I am faithful to my stretching and strengthening routines to keep these issues at bay. Both guitars are so comfortable and easy to play. When these guitars were designed, did you have people like me in mind, or was that just a wonderful break for players like me? Also, can you give me any insight on how the ash wood will age sonically over the years? Many thanks for making such stellar guitars! Read Answer

I’ve read that the top/soundboard of the guitar provides the majority of the sound and quality of sound from an acoustic guitar due to the vibration it makes. What has always puzzled me is if that is true, wouldn’t a pickguard and even the bridge subdue the vibration and distort the sound? Yet some of the historically great guitars have huge pickguards and even oversized “mustache” [bridges]. I have even seen some guitars with double pickguards. Was this a consideration to produce the Builder’s Editions without pickguards? Read Answer

Bob, at this point in your career and life, what other things are you interested in learning? Read Answer

Bob, how involved were you in laying out the factory flow at Taylor’s plant in Tecate? Do you have any plans for new developments there, and if so, will you be directly involved? Read Answer

photo of Bob Taylor with arms crossed

Ask Bob

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Nut lubrication, V-Class magic, wood figuring explained, and scarf joint strength.

Bob, what would you say is the biggest difference between the way you’ve approached guitar making and the way Andy has? Read Answer

I always wondered what role fret wire plays in contributing to an acoustic guitar’s sound and overall feel and performance. What material and fret size does Taylor use for its frets and why? I imagine resilience is an important consideration. I’ve heard people mention stainless steel frets from time to time — have you ever used those? Read Answer

I just got a new 324ce Builder’s Edition a few days before my 62nd birthday, and it is a joy to play. I’ve had a 912ce BE for a couple of years now, and it is also an amazing instrument. I have neck and shoulder issues. I am faithful to my stretching and strengthening routines to keep these issues at bay. Both guitars are so comfortable and easy to play. When these guitars were designed, did you have people like me in mind, or was that just a wonderful break for players like me? Also, can you give me any insight on how the ash wood will age sonically over the years? Many thanks for making such stellar guitars! Read Answer

I’ve read that the top/soundboard of the guitar provides the majority of the sound and quality of sound from an acoustic guitar due to the vibration it makes. What has always puzzled me is if that is true, wouldn’t a pickguard and even the bridge subdue the vibration and distort the sound? Yet some of the historically great guitars have huge pickguards and even oversized “mustache” [bridges]. I have even seen some guitars with double pickguards. Was this a consideration to produce the Builder’s Editions without pickguards? Read Answer

Bob, at this point in your career and life, what other things are you interested in learning? Read Answer

Bob, how involved were you in laying out the factory flow at Taylor’s plant in Tecate? Do you have any plans for new developments there, and if so, will you be directly involved? Read Answer

I was delighted to read about Taylor’s ongoing efforts to utilize urban trees from around the world. I purchased my Taylor 610 in the late ’80s when the guitar was still being made with German maple, which I believe is hard to find now in high quality. On a trip to Scotland about 15 years ago, we met a family from Germany that had just built and installed a new church organ in Glasgow. They told us [the project] had been in the works for over 10 years and used wood purchased by the family more than 30 years earlier. They have been building organs for over 400 years and were headed to Asia to purchase wood for orders they expected to deliver in 30 years. They were not optimistic that they could find woods of the quality for which their family was known and felt the wood quality challenge might soon become the end of the business.

I now live in Florida and have a few small pieces of land that I would like to plant trees on that might someday be used to create great musical instruments. Do you have any suggestions on what to plant or how best to start and space trees so small landowners like us might improve the future musical instrument-grade wood stock? Read Answer

Your company’s programs and efforts in the area of sustainability are truly impressive. The introduction of the Urban Ash model is a great part of that story, and it makes me wonder if you have thought about making a “hundred-mile guitar,” where absolutely all of the parts and materials are sourced from within 100 miles of the factory. I’m sure it would force some limitations. But it would be a grand experiment in efficient and sustainable manufacturing, and I think it might be interesting to some of your customers. Read Answer

Bob, a friend of mine who is a retired guitar tech happened to mention that Taylor’s use of what he called “glued-on headstocks” results in a loss of low-frequency (bass) response. In addition, he said the joint (I believe it’s a scarf joint) creates a point at which the neck could break in the event of an accident.

He also believes that the string load on smaller-bodied 12-strings can cause the need for repairs down the road. This concerns me since I’m considering getting a 352ce or 362ce. Could you shed some light on these contentions? Read Answer

photo of Bob Taylor with arms crossed

Ask Bob

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Telegraphing explained, angled back bracing, wood-drying techniques, and relative vs. absolute humidity.

I have a 2019 814ce with a cedar top that I purchased from Wildwood Guitars in August of 2019. It’s been lovingly played nearly every day since, and otherwise stored in its hardshell case with an Oasis humidifier. I also have a small digital hygrometer in the case and check it each time I get my guitar out to play. It’s always between 40 and 45 percent RH. Lately I have begun to notice “witness lines” of the [V-Class] bracing pattern in the top. I can clearly see the “V” radiating down from the bridge to the tail of the guitar, and I can also see witness lines of those same braces between the bridge and the soundhole. Is this normal? I love my guitar, and I just want to be sure I am doing everything I can so it has a long and wonderful life. Read Answer

Are there any urban tonewoods other than ash on the horizon for Taylor? Read Answer

Bob, much has been written about Taylor’s innovations in guitar design and production, but I’m curious whether your team also has pursued advances in your methods of drying and conditioning your wood. Are there particular challenges you face now that you didn’t have to contend with in the past? Read Answer

What is the drying time for different tonewoods before they can start to be machined for tops and sides? Do some woods process sooner than others, and how is tone affected? Read Answer

Can you explain the theory behind your angled back bracing? Read Answer

Is the ebony wood [processed] in Cameroon by Crelicam exclusively Gabon ebony? Are royal ebony and Macassar ebony different species than Gabon? Are there other species of ebony besides those three that are commonly used for parts of guitars?

At a Road Show before the quarantine (at Music 6000 in Olympia, Washington), I was able to play an E14ce [featuring ebony back and sides]. I love the sound of that guitar — I felt that it presented a strong and solid fundamental. There was some gradual overtone bloom (which I do appreciate), but I found the way that the full chords initially hit me very satisfying. Is it reasonable to assume that the beautiful back and sides of that guitar came from the Crelicam mill? Are the folks in Cameroon selecting which logs become fretboards and bridges and which ones might be good choices for backs and sides? Or are those decisions made in smaller chunks than the whole log? Read Answer

I am the proud owner of a 514ce made in 2018. I am still amazed at the sweet sounds I get from my guitar’s cedar top. I can hear nice ringing tones from the B & E strings when I fingerpick. I wanted to find out more about the selection process for cedar tops. I have played spruce-top guitars for a long time, and I know that wood is ubiquitous in acoustic guitar building. How do you know which cedar logs will work for the tops you put on the 514? Read Answer

I know that humidity is a concern for guitars, and the recommendations are usually given in relative humidity terms. Isn’t specific humidity most important? I live in the Pacific Northwest, and while our relative humidity is high, the temperatures are cool, so our specific humidity is low. A tropical climate might have a relative humidity in the recommended range, yet have a high specific humidity. Which is better? Read Answer

As an amateur builder, I have made about a dozen guitars. Without the money to invest in top-quality specialized tools, I’ve always resorted to trying to figure out how to make certain cuts or make bends in different ways, or use different materials and techniques…some obviously more successful than others. My questions have to do with why other stringed instruments like violins and cellos have a sound post but guitars do not. And why not also make the back out of the soundboard material? Wouldn’t more movement produce more sound? Read Answer

As an owner of two Taylors — a 2004 W12ce and a 1984 712 (Lemon Grove) — and always looking to add to the collection, I pause because of the use of ivoroid, Italian acrylic and tortoise (fancy names for plastic) for binding and inlays and basic plastic pickguards. I am curious why Taylor would “gild the lily” with plastic, especially when Taylor does everything else so flawlessly and because many other makers (at comparable price points) are binding with flame maple or ebony or a variety of woods. And fret inlays, etc., are abalone, mother-of-pearl or wood.

As for pickguards, as a fingerpicker, for me, the pickguard adds nothing to the instrument. Can they be removed, or, better yet, can Taylor send them with the instrument and let the end user install or not? I see you use some wood pickguards, and they appeal much more than plastic. But all this plastic limits my Taylor options.

With an instrument as smartly designed and produced as yours, why “pollute” all that wood and steel with plastic? Read Answer

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Eucalyptus fretboards, Micarta saddles, case humidification, and can Bob still build a guitar?

With this edition of Ask Bob, you’ll find an extra helping of questions, plus some additional content we hope you’ll enjoy. For starters, now that we’ve also launched a digital edition of Wood&Steel, Bob answers a couple of questions via video, which allows him to illustrate some of the topics he discusses. (If you missed Bob’s video on bearclaw spruce from our last edition, be sure to check it out.)

Also, in July, Bob joined our weekly Taylor Primetime livestream show (episode 10), hosted on Taylor’s YouTube channel, for a rapid-fire Ask Bob Q&A based on submissions from Taylor fans. As always, Bob shares his insights in an engaging and forthcoming way. Now onto the latest batch of questions for Bob…

I’m quite excited about the new American Dream guitars. I’ve never heard of using eucalyptus for a fretboard! How and why did you decide to go that route, and what “regular” fretboard would it be considered similar to in hardness and feel? Read Answer

I once heard that a certain guitar maker turned CEO went on the factory floor and made a guitar. When the quality checks were done, they trashed it because it didn’t meet their standards. Could you go onto the floor, make a (Bob Taylor) guitar, and have it pass the quality checks these days? Read Answer

With the retirement announcement from Chris Martin IV and with fellow luthiers Jean Larrivée, Richard Hoover, Ren Ferguson and yourself, not to forget Bill Collings (RIP), looking to pass the baton to the new crop of master luthiers, what do you think your generation’s legacy will be? Read Answer

Why do some think the fretboard wood type makes a tonal difference, when the string vibration is from metal to plastic or bone? You don’t seem to hear a difference when the fretting finger moves over the fret markers. Read Answer

Why did Taylor switch to Micarta saddles over Tusq? Read Answer

In addition to my other Taylor guitars, I proudly own a 712ce 12-Fret WSB, which I purchased nearly three years ago. I love them all. However, I have a problem with the case that came with my 712. It does not hold the humidity in the case. I use D’Addario Humidipaks, which need replacing every month. No matter the time of the year or the location of my guitars around the house, the packs in the 712 dry out quickly. The other guitars are OK. The case I got has six latches. I saw some cases in the store that have only 4. Please explain. By the way, this 712 has brought romance back to my guitar playing. These 80-year-old hands feel young again! Read Answer

You recently redesigned the Grand Symphony in the 800 and Koa Series. Are there any plans to extend that redesign to other lines? I’d really love to have a 500 Series Grand Symphony, and I’m worried I’ve missed my chance other than ordering a custom guitar. Read Answer

Have your neck profiles changed in the last couple of decades? I’ve got a 2000 312ce and find the new necks don’t feel the same…. I think the shape of the older neck is pretty splendid. Read Answer

Bonus Video

We often receive questions about the different degrees of coloration found in ebony, so Bob gathered an array of ebony fretboard blanks to show some examples of its color range.

Bob shows off the wide spectrum of coloration in the ebony used for fingerboards.

Got a question for Bob Taylor? 

Shoot him an email: askbob@taylorguitars.com
If you have a specific repair or service concern, please call our Customer Service department at (800) 943-6782, and we’ll take care of you.

Ask Bob

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Taylor co-founder Bob Taylor answers your questions. Bob’s first video response examines bearclaw spruce, with Q&As on wood choices, rosette details, side fret markers, lefty woes, and more.

Question: After more than a year of research and guitar store visits, I recently bought a 414ce LTD featuring black limba. (Thanks to Instrumental Music in Thousand Oaks for their great staff and wonderfully large collection of Taylor guitars.) My friend calls it a “gorgeous beast,” and I, too, love its unique look but would not have bought it had it not had a beautiful and rich sound as well. How do you determine that this and other less traditional woods will work well for building guitars?

Kent Brinkmeyer
Oxnard, California

Ed. Note: You can see a custom guitar we built with black limba here. 

Answer: Thank you, Kent, I’m pleased you love your guitar. Even better when your friends love it too! There’s not a huge trick to choosing woods, and it doesn’t take a genius on our end. The truth is that so many different woods can make a fine-sounding guitar. The other truth is that the word “gorgeous” your friend uses is really key when we pick woods, especially those that might be new to acoustic guitars. When those two cross it pleases the ear and eye. But to your specific question, wood must fall within a range of weight and stiffness. Too soft and light doesn’t work great. Too heavy and dense, not good. But some are exceptions. Spruce is soft and light, but incredibly strong, springy and vibrant. Some hard rosewoods are heavy and stiff but ring like a bell, while others thud. My super-scientific answer, since everyone is hollering “follow the science” these days, is we pick it up and feel the weight, we hold it by our ear and knock on it, and we dry and cut it to see if it behaves. If it’s pretty, we give it a go. And after that, we see if we can actually obtain some while following all our environmental considerations. I should mention that while humble in its appearance, mahogany has always been a pleaser, and now we’ve found the same in our Urban Ash, which comes from city rather than a forest. We like to call this wood the golden retriever of woods — it just loves to please. In every way, it’s a perfect wood. 

What is Bearclaw?
Bob explains what causes the “bearclaw” visual pattern in spruce with the help of Eric Warner from our longtime spruce and maple supplier, Pacific Rim Tonewoods.

Q: Believe me when I say I realize how important it is to make sure your guitar is properly humidified. Years ago, I bought a high-end dreadnought. It was so beautiful that I hung it on a rack in my music room so I could look at it every day. I did that for a year, and by the second year, it had developed a small crack by the soundhole, so I learned my lesson the hard way. Now I keep all my guitars humidified in their cases when I am not playing them. I especially love my Taylor 210e-SB DLX. My question: This guitar sits out for a while when I am playing it all day, and I swear it sounds different — more treble and it rings like a bell, taking on a whole new sound that I love. Is this because it slightly dries out? I also have three other Taylors and another brand, and they also sound better when I let them sit out for a day of playing. Is this my imagination, or do I really hear that much of a difference when my guitar dries out for a short period of time? I make sure I don’t let it stay out too long — I love my guitars too much to make that mistake again.

Steve Kane
Branchburg, New Jersey

A: No, you’re not hearing things, Steve. Dry guitars sound better, especially the tops. That said, you may be over-humidifying them. If you’re using a sponge-type humidifier that you dunk in water, please heed my 24-hour rule, which goes like this: Put your guitar in a case with the moistened humidifier, close it up, and check it in 24 hours. If the sponge or puck is bone dry, repeat the process. If the sponge is moist at all, even a little, stop the process, because you don’t need any more humidity. Wait a week, wait two weeks, and put a moistened sponge in. If in 24 hours it’s dry, then wet it and repeat, but the first time you find it moist at all after 24 hours, remove it. Your case is a great protector. If you’re using the Planet Waves Humidipak system, then it’s set to a humidity level and won’t over humidify. Your guitar was made with the wood equalized at 50 percent relative humidity. So even if it’s living in a climate with 40 percent humidity, it won’t crack and will sound drier. So, as Mary Poppins said, “Enough is as good as a feast,” and you don’t have to feed it more moisture than it needs. 

Q: In my pursuit of a guitar for my 50th birthday, I recently settled on a V-Class 514ce with a Lutz spruce top. It’s funny how many times I played all the guitars at your El Cajon factory and never came across this one. However, the local San Diego Guitar Center had one that sang to me. Might we see the use of Lutz spruce in more models outside the 700 Series?

Steve Harber
San Diego, California

A: Definitely, Steve. We also currently use it on a couple of our Builder’s Edition models (912ce and 816ce) and some others here and there.

We’ll use more of it as time passes, because it’s available and makes great-sounding guitars. 

Q: Bob, the 714ce has been a guitar I’ve admired for some time, not only for the full and resonant tone but also the aesthetic appeal of its wood-rich appointments. However, I thought the 714ce would be out of my reach until an opportunity arose after a recent visit to my local friendly Taylor agent, Guitar Mania in Poole. I now very much enjoy playing my 714ce with the added bonus, having waited, of V-Class bracing. I found myself looking closely at the rosette, eventually through a magnifying glass (if anyone hasn’t looked that closely, they are missing out!). The rosette detail is even more amazing than first meets the eye. This led me to wonder how the Douglas fir top trim, being bias-cut, follows the contours of the GA body top without splitting. Is it steam-treated first? (I imagine this could cause other problems by introducing moisture). Without some sort of softening, would there be a tendency for the wood to split around the tight curve of the Venetian cutaway?

Frederick
Weymouth, United Kingdom

A: Thank you, Frederick, I’m glad you noticed that detail. Here we like to call it “firring bone,” being made from fir and having a sort of herringbone look.

We make it ourselves from a batch of tight-grained timber with the end grain at 45 degrees. We chop, glue, slice, slit and eventually come up with the strips.

It’s pretty flexible, but we do have to employ some side-bending type tricks to bend the tight curves. We love the naturally grown pattern it yields. A little work, yes, but we love it. 

Q: I have a 24-year-old 615. It’s my dream guitar, except for one thing. Those very discrete little fret marker dots on the binding of the fretboard are very difficult to see during a gig with low lighting, or a venue with lights in my eyes. I realize that “real” guitar players can just feel where to go, but when I get above the fifth fret, I need some visual clues, so I asked my local luthier to make the dots larger. He drilled them out and filled the new larger holes with black epoxy. Wow, what a difference! Maybe you could consider making larger dots an option for us senior citizens.

Paul Ambrose
Brookings, Oregon

A: Paul, you and me both, man! I’m 65 now and my body parts don’t work like they did a while back, so I hear you. Your luthier probably did it more efficiently than we could as a standard option, because we don’t know who actually wants this when we make the guitar. But I’ll keep your comments in mind (until I start forgetting things in my 70s) as we balance the form and function of the guitars we make. 

Ed. Note: For other players in this situation, a less permanent solution is to purchase fret dot stickers to apply to the side of your fretboard. They’re available in different sizes (some even glow in the dark) and give you an easy way see if a modification like this will help.

Q: Among several other Taylors, I’m the proud owner of a Liberty Tree guitar (#10). I don’t just love the guitar, but the whole history behind it. Sometimes I just hold the guitar and try to feel the events that took place under that tree! It’s not just a guitar, I guess, but a piece of our country. As someone who grew up under a military dictatorship, I think I may appreciate it a little more than most! I understand that the wood was used for the 400 guitars made and later for some [Baby Taylors]. I was wondering if any of that wood (even small pieces) is stashed away somewhere, and if you plan to do something with it. Even a book marker would be a great conversation piece. I still have the little laser-carved tree that came with the guitar!

Elisabet Hiatt
Santa Cruz, California

A: Thank you, Elisabet, I appreciate your comments about the guitar as well as our country. And I agree. Yes, we used all the wood we had, and eventually got rid of the little scraps.

But I know that an organization called the Providence Forum has a respectable amount of the wood, and I believe they are making small items from it for sale. 

Q: I have amassed a modest collection of electric and acoustic guitars over the years, which has been difficult due to the fact that I am a left-handed player. Finding a left-handed axe that can be played before buying it is difficult. Most shops carry one, maybe two left-handed guitars, while having hundreds of right-handers in the same inventory. Given that 10-15 percent of the population is left-handed, I am baffled why stores don’t carry more left-handed models, let alone a couple high-end lefty models. Telling me I can order a lefty model is not reassuring, since the expectation is that I am going to buy it when it arrives, and it is always possible I won’t like it. After getting some insurance money for the loss of a Martin that was stolen on a camping trip, I picked up a Taylor 114ce.

It has such great sound and is so playable that I am literally wearing the top off where there isn’t a pickguard. I would like to get another high-end guitar, and am interested something like the 800 Series or Builder’s Edition. I have never seen any guitar of that quality in any music store.

Do you know why guitar stores are so disinclined to keep left-handed guitars in their inventory? I see high-end right-handed guitars stay in show rooms for what seems like an eternity, so I have trouble accepting that it is a function of sales. I thought about attending one of the Taylor Road Show events, but I expect it would be the same. Am I wrong? What gives in the neglect of 10-15 percent of the guitar market?

Steven C Burke

A: Steven, I feel your pain. I’m going to turn this question over to Zach Arntz, who’s worked at Taylor for more than 20 years in both customer service and sales. He’s spent a lot more time in stores than I have in recent years, and I think will give you a good perspective, both from the eyes of customers and our dealers. He also really likes helping people. And he’s good at it. Zach, over to you…

Steven, I understand how you feel. You’re right, most stores only stock a few left-handed models. Rarely are there lots of high-end models to choose from. Naturally, you might be reluctant to special-order a guitar sight unseen. 

When it comes to stocking left-handed guitars, the conundrum for most dealers is, what to stock? While most stores will stock higher-end right-handed models, when it comes to left-handed models, they’re often concerned the guitars might sit in the store for a longer time. The reality is that, generally speaking, higher-end guitars don’t sell as fast as lower-priced ones, so from a store’s perspective, there is less financial risk for them to stock left-handed models at lower price points. Some stores I’ve worked with in the past have told me, “I try to stock left-handed models, but I always feel that no matter how many I stock, the customer always wants a model I don’t have.”

Southpaw Guitars in Houston, Texas, is a specialty store that only sells left-handed guitars. The store usually stocks anywhere from 65 to 75 unique Taylor left-handed models at all times. Their qualified staff can assist you in finding your next dream guitar.

There are also a number of online retailers that showcase a greater selection of higher-end left-handed models and offer the ability to pick from a selection of a given model. For example, instead of just carrying one 814ce Deluxe model, they may stock up to three, and you can compare the guitars on the same page. Our premier online dealers, such as Sweetwater, Musician’s Friend, and American Musical Supply (among others), stock a wide selection of left-handed models. The next time a Taylor Road Show is scheduled to come to your area, reach out to the store in advance and have them ask their Taylor sales manager which left-handed models might be in stock and available to bring to the event. 

Finally, if you’re ever in the San Diego area and want to take our factory tour, keep in mind that we display a healthy selection of left-handed models across various series, including higher-end models. If you plan to pay us a visit and want to test-drive a certain model, please reach out to Mark Vargas in our Visitor Center in advance (you can email support@taylorguitars.com), and we’ll see what we can do to assist you.

I will say that, currently, our Builder’s Edition guitars with cutaways are not yet available in left-handed versions due to the amount of additional tooling required to make them. Non-cutaway versions like the Builder’s Edition 517e and 717e can be made in a left-handed version.

Q: Bob, back in September of 1974, you custom-built a 6-string maple jumbo for me with a sun inlay on the headstock and seagulls for fret markers. I was in the band Reef Cody, and you also built a sister guitar for our lead singer John. I believe you started the company that became Taylor Guitars the month after we took delivery of our custom guitars.

A song I wrote was included on Homegrown II, and I went on to work for years at KGB-FM and graduated from USD law school specializing in law related to music. A few years back, when I spoke to you at your book signing in La Jolla, you suggested bringing my guitar to your factory for you to take archival pictures. I’d still like to do that if we can set it up. Please let me know if you’re still interested. I’ve included a picture of my guitar to refresh your memory. It’s been a great guitar all these years. It could probably use a good tune-up! I’m also thinking about ordering another Taylor custom guitar. 

Bruce Tucker

A: Bruce! Bruce Tucker! I remember the day you and John Alexander came in, having driven down from Lake Tahoe, California, where you guys were playing the steakhouse/upscale bar circuit. You guys wanted matching guitars, so we did ’em up fine. I barely had made any guitars by then. What a wonderful day that was for me, being entrusted to make a pair of guitars from such rock stars as you two! You guys had just read Richard Henry Dana’s book “Two Years Before the Mast,” which is one of the coolest books ever. A true account and a look at the California coast in 1835. Your song of the same name, along with the Lemon Grove song by Allen Lintvedt, were my favorites on that album. Anyone reading can find them on YouTube. It’s a piece of early Taylor history, with Allen being a friend of ours then, too. In fact, I texted with him this week. So great to hear from you. To let readers in on it, since the time you wrote this, we have indeed gotten together, had a good chat and look at the guitar. What a life we’ve both had, and I’m so proud you kept that guitar. It was an important part of our success.

Ed. Note: See some of the photos we took of the guitar at the Taylor factory here. 

“It’s been a great guitar all these years. It could probably use a good tune-up! I’m also thinking about ordering another Taylor custom guitar.” 
– Bruce Tucker

“It’s been a great guitar all these years. It could probably use a good tune-up! I’m also thinking about ordering another Taylor custom guitar.” 
– Bruce Tucker

Got a question for Bob Taylor? 

Shoot him an email: askbob@taylorguitars.com
If you have a specific repair or service concern, please call our Customer Service department at (800) 943-6782, and we’ll take care of you.