Anyone who follows my work knows that I like to use locally sourced tone-wood, and woods that have a story or history behind them. The Virginia mountains are home to some of the most prized tone woods, and the Virginia mountains also have been home to generations of old-time music makers. It’s not a stretch of the imagination to think some of these trees have grown up in the presence of the very music they will make when they are built into fine instruments. I felt it was very fitting to use these timbers for this years Handmade Music School/Cunningham guitar fundraiser raffle. The Handmade Music School continues to focus on teaching and encouraging regional music and dance, and a big part of the music in SWVA has been its strong tradition of instrument making.
For the design of the guitar I went with the traditional 1930’s jumbo slope shoulder body shape, Made of presentation grade figured Sugar Maple it has the traditional depth to the body: 4” 13/16 at the end block, and 3” 7/8 at the neck block. The bracing on the back of this guitar are the thinner/taller “Knife” braces, the guitars top is Grayson County Appalachian Red Spruce, and is built with an X brace, with two tapered tone-bars, single finger braces, a transverse brace along with a small “popsicle brace” run along the neck end of the top. All the brace work is done in a delicate fashion, emphasizing taller and thinner profiles, with the finish work done by sharp edge tools, all braces are Appalachian Red Spruce from Virginia. The sides or “Ribs”, are re-enforced with cloth strips and solid 1/8 X 1/2 Mahogany linings like those in some classic 1933 models.
This guitar features a throwback design for the neck and headstock reminiscent of the late 1930’s and early 1940’s. Made of fine Maple, the neck is carved to a nice “C” shape with a smooth round over on the binding and fretwork that is very pleasing to the touch, and has a french heel carve. The fretboard has a 10” radius at the 1” 3/4 nut, and tapers out to a 2” 3/16 string spacing at the bridge.
A full body sunburst brings the entire combination of woods together beautifully, and guitar is adorned with white/black celluloid binding, double bound on the body, double bound on the neck with tortoise side position dots, double bound headstock and celluloid tortoise pick guard. The guitar will be strung up with DAddario Nickel Bronze medium strings. We will proudly present this guitar in a Virginia-made Harptone professional guitar case graciously donated by Harptone.
Jackson Cunningham Handmade Musical Instruments is based in Grayson County, Virginia, USA.
Raised in rural Southern Oregon, Jackson grew up in a home where music and woodworking were a way of life. His father was a master craftsman and these skills were passed down at a very young age. Family ties and a love of music brought Jackson to Southwestern Virginia where he began building instruments full time with the generous help of many local luthiers. His driving inspiration has always been the instruments his musical heroes used to perform classic American roots music.
After 15 years, the shop remains a one-man operation and handwork is still the foundation of each build. From selection of tonewoods, construction, custom neck profiles, and down to the final fit, finish and setup, Jackson ensures each step is taken with meticulous care. His instruments are sought after by collectors, and have been played by musicians on stages around the globe. They have also been featured at the world’s premier instrument retailers, including Gruhn’s Guitars in Nashville, Tennessee and Folkway Music in Ontario, Canada.
SW Virginia has a rich tradition of instrument making, and within this tradition Jackson learned to build first hand under the generous guidance of Audrey Hash Ham, daughter of pioneering fiddle maker Albert Hash. Working with Audrey inspired Jackson to pursue building instruments full time and led to visits with other talented local luthiers including Floyd County banjo maker Mac Traynham, Grayson County guitar maker Wayne Henderson and Floyd County fiddle maker Arthur Conner as well as many others.
All proceeds will benefit programming and the Share The Music Scholarship Fund at the Handmade Music School at The Floyd Country Store. The Handmade Music School is a nonprofit institution dedicated to teaching old time, bluegrass, and traditional music and dance from Floyd County, Virginia and throughout the Blue Ridge Mountains.