Sonic Sitka Project

Luthier Denis Merrill started a project upon purchasing about 100 sets of unusually interesting and master grade Sitka Spruce all from a 6 foot section of the same tree. His idea is simple….test and explore the concept that different guitarmakers would express this wood in many different guitars, but would they have similar or different tonal characteristics that could be measured and/or observed? It has long been a given that the top wood of the guitar is responsible for the big majority of its voice, and it is also widely recognized that the many different species of spruce and other conifers have their own characteristics, and that the age and conditioning also play a part. But, what if they were all from the same tree, cut and aged all the same?? And, how would you measure them and track them over time? Quite a concept, and quite ambitious, to say the least!


I became aware of the project through Denis’s article in the summer 2009 issue of American Lutherie , and was instantly hooked…he has been kind enough to include me. As of this writing, 86 guitars have been started, and our first large gathering will be the Newport Guitar Festival in Miami this April. The top Denis sent is very stiff, has a rosy hue, and has dramatic bearclaw features throughout, many in the shape of sine waves.


My goal for this endeavor is to build my latest expression of the ultimate (to me) fingerstyle guitar. This is a sit-in your-lap instrument, moderate action, not meant to be heavily strummed, and not overly decorated. All materials must be of master grade, and the guitar must have a balance of warmth and brilliance.


With that all in mind, I’ve selected a mini jumbo cutaway shape, with a lower bout of 15.5 inches, a scale length of 25.0 inches, and I’ve used my best set of Madagascar Rosewood. The bridge and fingerboard are Ebony, and the binding is Rosewood with Maple purfling. Inlays are gold mother-of-pearl. I am incorporating my latest bolt-on neck design featuring graphite reinforcement with a double-action truss rod.

Builder Lee Herron
Model MJSS
Serial 31
Year: April, 2010
Top: Sitka Spruce, From Denis Merrill
Back and Sides: Madagascar Rosewood
Neck: Light Mahagony, with dual action trussrod and Graphite
Purfling: Maple with Indian Rosewood binding
Fingerboard: Ebony, 16 inch radius
Bridge: Ebony, hand carvedd
Nut Width: 1.75 inches
String Spacing: 2.25 at the bridge
Scale: 25 inches
Body Length: 19.75
Lower Bout: 15.5 inches
Upper Bout: 11.25
General Description:
A Mini-Jumbo shape, cutaway, with bound soundport. Set up as a fingerstyle , with no pickguard. Gold MOP inlays, Schaller Tuners, medium weight strings. Hiscox customized fit case.


Santa Barbara, California
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