Being a luthier seems to be one of those professions that you don’t choose, rather it chooses you. I want to introduce you to a luthier who has been chosen to make some of the most robust and lush sounding guitars I have ever heard.
First, before I make a formal introduction, have you ever heard of a cylinder topped guitar? Well, I hadn’t and I want to thank Nigel Forster for introducing me to them.
Yes, the luthier I would love for you to meet is Nigel Forster. Nigel is based out of Newcastle, England and makes some truly magnificent, lust-worthy guitars.
Nigel makes guitars, bouzoukis, tenor guitars, and mandolins. His knowledge of luthiery and its history is vast, in fact he even has a blog dedicated to luthiery… more on that in a second.
First, the guitars…
The thing that absolutely knocked my socks off about Nigel is the materials he uses, but even more so, his treatment of the guitar’s tops. Serioulsy, this luthier is one that has done his research, he offers three different top types. The three tops that Nigel offers are the flat top (SK), the standard soundboard (SS), and the cylinder top (HO). With all of these options I feel that there needs to be some explanation so here are the explanations of the tops in NIgel’s own words:
The Flat Top (SK)
“Most guitars have flat soundboards so you could say its a surprise that it’s taken me about 28 years to start making guitars with flat soundboards! That’s because I’ve only recently understood how to make them in such a way that they wouldn’t distort like most flat top guitars do. It’s easy to prevent “bellying” as it’s known by over bracing the top, but then you’ve made a guitar that can’t sing. So you have to make a soundboard that is both strong and light.”
The Standard Soundboard (SS)
“The origin of my “standard” soundboard design (SS design) can be traced back to my many years spent in the Sobell workshop, however many aspects – thicknessing and bracing have gradually evolved to suit my tonal and structural preferences and reflect years of careful, honest observation.
The “standard soundboard” is considerably more curved than a conventional steel string guitar and the ribs are fitted to meet the back and top perfectly – the plates are not “pulled” to meet the ribs as is common.”
The Cylinder Top (HO)
“Ladder braced cylinder top guitars were first created in the 1890’s by the Howe-Orme company of Boston.
My cylinder top guitars (HO models) are X braced for a more modern sound and more sustain. The design tends to make for very loud, clear sounding instruments.
The cylindrical arch combined with the X brace makes for a very strong top so the soundboard mass can be dramatically reduced, by around 40% compared to a conventional steel string guitar.
This is an fantastic “forgotten” design, that I’ve developed into something really rather special.”
As you can see, Nigel has done the experimentation and research to offer up, quite literally, the entire sonic spectrum. Between the materials he uses and the various top configurations it seems as though he can find a voice for every type of player and since Nigel builds mostly customs he is right where he needs to be.
I would strongly consider checking out one of Nigel’s guitars if you are looking for a unique voice to fit your style of play. There are many demos available to hear his instruments in action and you absolutely listen. His instruments have mounds of sustain paired with the most lush and rich tone you likely have ever heard. Seriously these guitars are no joke, you need to hear them.
Oh and I promised… there’s more.
Not only does Nigel pour his efforts into his guitars he also shares his knowledge via the luthier blog that he runs. This is a site packed full of invaluable information for any budding luthier or even for those curious about the craft. Nigel has put out numerous books on the topic of luthiery that are available through this blog as well as written tons of posts sharing his experiences and building process.
To say that Nigel is a guitar geek is an understatement, Nigel lives, eats, and breathes guitar and it shows in the quality and beauty of his work. I am happy to share Nigel’s work with you and I encourage you to share his work with your guitar geek friends as well.
NK Forster Guitar Links
- Learn More About NK Forster Guitar Models
- Learn About Nigel’s Guitar Top Configurations
- Nigel Forster’s Luthiers Blog
- Near an NK Forster C-HO
- Hear an NK Forster D-SS
- Hear an NK Forster C-HO Baritone