Bryan Rourke's Classical Guitars

Robert Mac Millan

Describing the amazing Tasmanian Tonewoods to build his guitars, Bryan Rourke has this to say:

My favorite for tone is the King Billy. It would be the most similar to other builders, falling somewhere between a very light, old dry redwood and the lightest western red cedar. It is very responsive, very warm with lots of bass and volume. For my light touch, it is my favorite classical hands down. At least the tops you have sent me, they were delicate. Anyone building one would be able to voice the top to their liking, with more or less bracing to get more treble if desired. Do nothing special with it and it sounds fantastic. I thinned the tops to 2.5mm and started my fan braces about 3.5. I took them way down but did keep some small braces near the ends of the fan braces. In summary, light and warm top on a deep body = loud and clear with low end, brace more for heavier players.

The Huon pine is the complete opposite timber. Both pieces I have worked are dense, heavy almost. Moreso than even the European spruces. Sitka almost in stiffness, but genuinely... dense. Not that they don’t sound great but it is a different starting tone and needs a much thought ahead of time as to what you want to get. I wanted a light and responsive sound so I thinned the top to maybe 2.3mm but braced my first one too heavy starting at 3.5 or 4mm. I ended up removing a little more from the top after it was all strung, and it is very loud, very clear, and very even across the frequencies but it is muted in the treble for me because it is still over-braced. I should have started with even smaller braces, such is the strength of the top. I did do the spruce trick of sanding the outer edges of the top to thin, but I would take more off if I could from underneath. I did not brace the ends of the fans and I would still not.

It is still a wonderful guitar, but I leave it tuned down so that the frequencies match the top better. In standard tuning it is noticeable in some missing sparkle / top end. A heavier player might not notice, or would even prefer. Lesson learned, build light as you dare with it, the strength is there.

My second huon-top is built lighter (the red gum) but I have not had a chance to play it properly as it needs a neck angle adjustment which I just have not got to with the 3-year old lighting fires every second! The treble is much nicer, and if anything it has too much bass and I would have put it on a slightly thinner body. Mine are quite deep at 110mm or more. A very complex tonewood, much more interesting to me than plain spruce top. More things going on in the sound, a better bass response, but tending to warmer than spruce still in sound. Of course, deathly allergic, sharp smell. A very nice classical top for people looking for something more round in their voice, or probably perfect for any steel string builders.

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