Mike’s Nylon String Guitar

Mike P Falk has a very personal relationship to his instruments and has often taken a long time to find just the right one that “feels right”.  Like his songwriting, his playing technique ranges from gentle fingerpicking to aggressive angular riffing, and he looks for instruments that can balance both extremes.

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This project that was initially intended to focus predominantly on the musician’s story, and I saw my role mostly as that of an interpreter. I had only tentative plans to incorporate my own story into this instrument. But when Mike and I had just met and started talking, a remarkable thing happened. His story, although quite different from mine in terms of culture and location, bore striking significances to my own. All of a sudden we realized how our two stories almost demand to be weaved into one single artistic expression, and my approach was immediately changed.


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Some may be familiar with modernized version of the traditional cutaway: the beveled edge cutaway. My very first guitar was built this way, and I continued to explore this technique with my research into ergonomic guitars. I had long planned a further modification of this design, and move also the sound hole into the beveled edge cutaway, in order to further increase the vibrating top surface area. Mike liked the idea, and as I was drafting with him the beveled-cutaway-sound-hole hybrid started looking a lot like a hand fan, or a winding staircase. Mike was very drawn to the symbolism of the staircase, and we decided to incorporate this into the instrument.

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When we discussed the choice of materials, Mike was looking for a high quality wood species that suits the desired acoustic character of his guitar, while visually matching his style of expression with broad and bold brush strokes and a noticeable but yet subtle grain structure. After reviewing several species and later many different sets, I ordered a beautiful set of Ziricote that I have started to work with after a certain acclimatization period.

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Now that the main components for the body are ready for bracing, bending, and assembly, it is time to verify that all the ambitious ideas we had drafted on paper are actually possible to realize on a three-dimensional object. The best method is to prototype a model in styrofoam, similar to making a small sculpture that a mason builds before working with a large stone.

The rim components can now be bent into shape. Due to the unconventional back outline, one of the sides will have a very unusual shape and be twisted as well. Later, the “waist injury” style side port/sound hole will also be cut into the bass side.

The stepped and bevelled cutaway required a complex designing and carving process of its own. Since the surface angles vary in all three dimensions, the carving process had to be repeated several times until the shape was just right, both in terms of ergonomics and aesthetics.

The bridge of this guitar will be a “floating bridge”, which allows to make some dramatic changes to the acoustics of the guitar. With that change comes a different hinging system for the strings, which I coined “through-top” design. Each string will be anchored on the inside of the top with a knot, therefore eliminating the need for a tie block.

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