Michael Propsom Guitars

Michael Propsom Guitars

I met Michael at the Healdsburg guitar Festival and was very impressed with his work. I am delighted to represent him in the UK.

Michael Says: My first foray into the lutherie world was in 1973--an exploratory procedure performed on the body of a late 60's EKO 12 string. Given my ignorance of guitar anatomy the procedure quickly detiorated into an autopsy. In 1978 I made my first serious attempt at guitar making. At that time my carpentry skills consisted of a vague sense of which end of the chisel to grasp. Aided by a hearing impaired friend and a questionable guitarmaking book, I completed a mahogany dreadnaught that combined the worst of aesthetics and tonal quality. Everything changed in January 1979 when I enrolled in Bozo's School of Luthiery, taught by Serbian master luthier Bozo (pronounced Bozho) Podunavac. I learned more during that eight weeks than I could have in a decade on my own.

After I completed the course, Bozo hired me to build a series of four "limited edition" guitars under his name. I was the first person, other than the man himself to build a handcrafted Bozo. During this time, under his guidance, I not only honed my skills but also began to learn the control a maker has in shaping the sound of a custom instrument. After leaving Bozo's employ, I spent several years building and repairing instruments in the San Diego area. I currently live in the Pacific Northwest, where I've set up my workshop and build both custom order and spec steel string guitars. I number among my customers the late John Fahey and Ryan Waters, lead guitarist for Sade.

MY BUILDING PHILOSOPHY After years of instrument building and repair, I understand that strength does not have to be sacrificed for responsiveness or tonal quality. I've seen too many guitars with badly deformed tops and neck reset issues. In many cases the problem was structural; the instrument had been built too lightly to withstand the stresses to which they are constantly subjected. My construction process incorporates several practices to insure that my instruments can withstand said stress. First, I build strongly where necessary. Upon handling one of my guitars, you will notice it's somewhat heavier than most others. My tops and backs start out thicker than most. I also generally leave the sides heavier. In the case of some side woods for six strings (in the case of all 12 strings, I laminate an interior veneer to increase their stiffness. In addition, my upper transverse brace and X-brace are heavier overall than many including where they notch into the interior linings. And, to counteract the torque from up to 175 pounds of string tension both the X and transverse are radiused to 24 feet creating a slight dome in the top. This feature eliminates the threat of the top collapsing in front of the bridge. To perhaps oversimplify, a domed roof is stronger than a flat one.

You might wonder how such a heavily built instrument could even make a sound. Although, I build the upper bout very heavily, my lower bout area--which produces the overwhelming majority of sound--is very flexible. My lower tone bars and 'finger braces' all taper down to nothing rather than locking into the sides or X-brace, as does my bridge patch. And, during the final tuning process, I thin the top and back around the perimeter of the lower bout, until, through flexing, tapping, and humming into the soundhole I'm satisfied with the tone and sustain. This combination of brace tuning and doming result in a very responsive instrument of great structural integrity.

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