The Art of Work
Decorative and stylistic innovations set luthiers apart from their peers. Particular species of European maple and spruce are standards among many violin makers, including Geoff Seitz and Greg Krone. Others, like Bernard Allen, choose maples native to the United States like red, birdseye, and fiddleback. Allen likes their high-quality sound and beautiful appearance. John Wynn departs from the spruce and maple standard set in the 1930s by Gibson for mandolins. He loves to incorporate Missouri woods like black walnut and Douglas fir. Both Wynn and Seitz customize their instruments even further with fine abalone inlays and intricate wood carvings.
Luthiers also adapt instruments to serve particular functions. Luther Medley is best known for his “doghouse” bass. A devoted bluegrass musician, he engineered an affordable bass fiddle designed especially for quick, rhythmic bluegrass. The neck is narrower for easier plucking instead of bowing. The body’s bottom and top are constructed of Baltic birch wood, often used in speaker cabinetry for high sound output. Medley’s biggest innovation is the addition of a “treble bar” to the standard bass bar construction. The result is a bass that produces an equal amount of volume across all strings and a vibrant sound conducive to “thumpin” the bass without external amplification.