Nick Branwell is a London-based luthier who is perhaps best known for his beautiful Torres style classical guitars. Recently Nick has turned his attentions to the steel-string acoustic instrument and he invited me to visit his workshop this week to play his guitars and find out more about him as a luthier. How could I refuse?
Once I'd negotiated the crowds assembled for the Wimbledon Tennis tournament I found Nick outside the station and we walked the short distance to his workshop chatting as we went. Nick has been a professional gardener for many years and upon reaching our destination I was greeted by a beautifully tended garden full of colourful blooms. This was certainly a hint of good things to come!
Nick makes three models of steel string acoustic guitar and I chose to play them starting with the smallest, the Estuary model. This one is made from Wengé and Engelmann Spruce and features a 14 fret neck join, unusual for this body size. As you'll see in the video below this makes for a very present and surprisingly powerful little guitar with great sustain (it's that wengé again!) which I really enjoyed.
Next up was Nick's take on the traditional Martin OM design - The Southfields. In this case we have another Engelmann Spruce top and Cherry on the back and sides. Cherry has increased in popularity over the last few years and Nick certainly makes it work. Once again we have a 14 fret neck.
Finally I played a guitar that had piqued my curiosity when I saw it on the Branwell Guitars website, The 505. This is a take on the idea of a 0000 body like a Martin M, the Bourgeois J-OM or a Froggy Bottom F14. It sports a Cedar top and Black Walnut on the back and sides. This is a powerful guitar with the Cedar doing a good job of smoothing out the spikier transients.
I thoroughly enjoyed my time at Branwell guitars surrounded by amazing art pieces created by Nick's wife, the sculptor Almuth Tebbenhoff, relaxed guitar-fueled conversation and Nick's lovingly made instruments.
Until next time