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Luthier Focus: Michael Bashkin

 

Michael Bashkin is hands down one of the nicest guys you are likely to meet in the guitar world. His gentle manner mysteriously hides the genius within, and his personality shines through in the utterly mind blowing instruments he builds.

Colorado-based, Bashkin has been at the forefront of the modern acoustic lutherie scene for decades. The tone and response of a Bashkin guitar are extremely inspirational; immediate, rich and sophisticated, they are superb instruments for the discerning contemporary player.

In this week’s ‘Luthier Focus’ we take a deeper look into the man behind the legendary Bashkin Guitars. 

Michael Bashkin started out, post-high school, with his sights set on becoming a  professional photographer and he worked in several commercial studios in NYC, but after a while he wanted a change of scenery and moved out to the Rocky Mountains to continue college as an art major with an emphasis in photography.  It was during this time that his interests shifted to forestry which occupied him for the several years and culminated in a graduate degree in forestry and a job as Soil Scientist for the US Forest Service. 

The story goes, one day Michael went to have his guitar worked on at a local store, on arriving he took a look at all the tools, wood stacks and guitars in the shop and the light bulb went off and he just knew he wanted to start working on guitars.  Fast forward a few years and he spent a while doing repairs in the same local music store and started building guitars in the little free time he had. That was 20 years ago.

Michael Bashkin brings a unique vision and sensibility to the art of guitar-building – a philosophy that crystalised during his years teaching tropical forestry in Belize, Central America. Michael’s approach is holistic, merging his experience as a visual artist, a musician and a lifelong student of wood. He understands wood on a level that few others do. He sees grain the way a photographer sees the nuances of texture in reflected light. He hears the resonance. He feels the personality captured in a sheet of Italian spruce. He hears the voice, bright and full of life, waiting to be expressed.

Having studied with such gifted luthiers as Ervin Somogyi and Harry Fleishman, he shares their abiding respect for both aesthetics and function – balanced elegantly. 

The Bashkin Sound:

One of the most wonderful thing about living in the ‘Golden Era’ of guitar making is that we are able to witness so many new and established luthiers all creating their own individual signature sound, which in turn help us (the musicians) find that sound we are craving in our heads. Through new bracing techniques and voicing strategies, each luthier can design a tonal pallet that is true only to their guitars.

The ‘Bashkin Sound’ is something I had heard about way before I ever got to play one of Michael’s guitars. 'Immediate', 'responsive' and 'sophisticated', were the words our old colleague and friend Michael Watts would use to describe Bashkin’s guitars. It was, in fact, back at the very first The North American Guitar meeting where Michael Watts brought into the room Bashkin’s ‘Great Wave’, and it was then that I first got to play and hear that Bashkin Sound! I was in love! Rich, articulate and indeed one of the most sophisticated instruments I had ever played, and a sound I had never heard before.

Here is what Michael Bashkin has to say about The Bashkin Sound…

"Every Bashkin guitar I want to be incredibly responsive and continue to sonically accelerate with more energy input from the player.  Within that my preferences are for a guitar with crisp articulate bass with a brassy attack.  On the mids and high end, I want more information around the note and more even mix of the fundamental and overtone series.  Another way to think about it a dry vintage tone on the low end and a more contemporary rich tone on the highs and mids."

Bashkin Guitar Models

"A GUITAR FOR EVERY PLAYING STYLE." Michael Bashkin

Michael Bashkin builds three standard guitar models: The OM, The OO, and The SJ. With a wide choice of sizes and body styles, these original Bashkin designs can be customised extensively to match your playing style and provide an instrument that will feel comfortable even after many hours in a single session.

Whether you’re a raucous flat-picker or a fingerstyle player with a soft touch, you’ll find that all Bashkin guitars project a rich and complex voice. Fundamental notes and overtones are meticulously balanced. The tone is full and unbiased. In your hands, the guitar is extraordinarily responsive and powerful as it faithfully expresses your personality. Explore each of our guitar models, standard features and customisation options below. 

The OM:

SPECIFICATIONS

  • Lower Bout: 15.1”
  • Waist: 9.1”
  • Upper Bout: 11.1”
  • Depth at Tailblock: 4.5”
  • Depth at Neckblock: 3.5”
  • Body Length: 19.3"
  • Scale: 25.4" 

Each OM instrument is individually voiced to provide a dynamic range broad enough to respond immediately to the player’s most subtle touch - or when called upon, to speak with power and presence - with very little urging. This is an exceptionally comfortable instrument with excellent note separation and balance that makes it an ideal choice for composing and recording.

Here is a stunning OM in Honduran Rosewood we brought into the TNAG Showroom back in 2016. Built in a phenomenal Swiss Moon Spruce on Honduran Rosewood back and sides, with a Honduran Mahogany neck topped by an Ebony fingerboard with Ebony binding. This model also featured Michael Bashkin's renowned fan fret design, extending the scale on the bass side.

  • Top: Swiss Moon spruce
  • Back and Sides: Honduran RW
  • Neck: Honduran Mahogany
  • Headstock Overlay: Rosewood bound in Ebony with inlay
  • Back of Headstock: Rosewood
  • Binding : Ebony with Holly and Ebony side purflings
  • Purfling: Rosewood with veneers
  • Rosette: Torched Koa
  • Bracing: Adirondack spruce top, Sitka spruce back
  • End graft: Honduran RW/Koa/Ebony and Holly veneer
  • Kerfing: Solid Spanish Cedar
  • Tuners: Waverley gold with Ebony knobs
  • Back Xbrace Cap: Rosewood
  • Bridge Plate: Rosewood
  • Nut/Saddle: Bone
  • Bracing/Bridge glue: Hot hide glue
  • Bridge Pins: Ebony/Abalone dot
  • Fret Markers: Buffalo horn inlays
  • Truss-rod: 2 way stainless steel
  • Bridge: Ebony
  • Fretboard: Ebony bound in Ebony
  • Nut width/Saddle width: 1.75" / 2.31"
  • Multiscale: 25.75-25"
  • Dimensions: Lower bout 15.1", Waist 9.1", Upper Bout 11.1"
  • Depth at tail/neck: 4. 5"/3.5"
  • Finish: Nitrocellulose lacquer

 The SJ:

"SERIOUS POWER, BIG DYNAMICS, SWEET SOUND..." Michael Bashkin.

The SJ is a compact, jumbo-sized guitar with a balanced sound of enormous depth and presence. With a standard scale and a neck that meets the body at the 12th fret, the bridge can be shifted more toward the top's sweet spot in the center of the soundboard. This produces a remarkably responsive and resonant instrument with great power across its dynamic range.

SPECIFICATIONS

  • Lower Bout: 16"
  • Waist: 9.9”
  • Upper Bout: 11.9”
  • Depth at Tailblock: 4.2”
  • Depth at Neckblock: 3.5”
  • Body Length: 20.2"
  • Total Length: 40"

 

Here is an incredibly sweet Multi-Scale SJ Cutaway that we brought into the UK back 2016. One of the first bespoke builds we had been a part of with Michael. This beautiful instrument featured a Swiss Moon Spruce top on Honduran Mahogany back and sides, with a Honduran Mahogany neck topped by an Ebony fingerboard with Ebony binding, along with Michael’s renowned fan fret design, extending the scale on the bass side.

  • Top: Swiss Moon spruce
  • Back and Sides: Honduran Mahogany
  • Neck: Honduran Mahogany
  • Headstock Overlay: Rosewood bound in Rosewood with inlay
  • Back of Headstock: Rosewood
  • Binding: Rosewood with Holly and Rosewood side purflings
  • Purfling: Rosewood with veneers
  • Rosette: Torched and segmented burl
  • Bracing: Adirondack spruce top, Sitka spruce back
  • End Graft: Mahogany/Burl and Holly veneer
  • Kerfing: Solid Spanish Cedar with Rosewood
  • Tuners: Waverley gold with Ebony knobs
  • Back Xbrace Cap: Rosewood
  • Bridge Plate: Rosewood
  • Nut/Saddle: Bone
  • Bracing/Bridge Glue: Hot hide glue
  • Bridge Pins: Ebony/Abalone dot
  • Fret Markers: Buffalo horn inlays
  • Truss-rod: 2 way stainless steel
  • Bridge: Ebony
  • Fretboard: Ebony bound in Ebony
  • Nut width/Waddle width: 1.75” / 2.31”
  • Multiscale: 26-25.4”
  • Dimensions: Lower bout 16”, Waist 9.9”, Upper Bout 11.9”
  • Depth at tail/neck: 4. 2”/3.25”
  • Finish: Nitrocellulose lacquer

The OO:

"AN ARTICULATE AND WELL-BALANCED FINGERSTYLE GUITAR..." Michael Bashkin

The 00 is an exceptionally comfortable fingerstyle guitar with a fast response and a sweet sound that belies the body size the guitar and lends itself to a variety of playing styles.

SPECIFICATIONS

  • Available in either short 24.9" or standard 25.4" scale.
  • Lower Bout: 14.25”
  • Waist: 8.3”
  • Upper Bout: 10.3”
  • Depth at Tailblock: 4.15”
  • Depth at Neckblock: 3.5”
  • Body Length: 19.65"
  • Total Length: 39.2"

Bashkin Design Features: 

Tonewoods:

All Bashkin guitars are made with Tonewoods that have been individually selected by Michael based on their cut, sonic and aesthetic potential. All Tonewoods are seasoned and dried before use. Tonewood storage and instrument construction both occur in a humidity-controlled environment to ensure long-term instrument stability. Upon placing your order, you are invited to consult with Michael on the goals for your instrument and reserve individual wood sets that best satisfy them for your guitar. 

 

Purflings:

 

Michael makes all his binding and purflings – using nothing “off the shelf”.  They are milled from the same board to ensure excellent color matching. Standard binding and purfling choices include Koa, Rosewood or Ebony with black and white veneers as decoration. 

Headstocks:

 

The headstock overlay is fully bound and mitered to match the body. In addition, the back of the headstock features a carved volute and hardwood 0.045” overlay, features that add strength and visual distinction.

Bashkin Premier Features:

Premium features give you even more design latitude to create a guitar completely customised for you.  Some premium features, like a multi-scale design or a cutaway, will give you specialised functionality as well as visual impact.  Others, like the Ryan-style arm bevel, will enhance your playing comfort, especially in long sessions.  Still others are designed purely to add elegance to the instrument’s appearance.  Explore all the possibilities with Michael Bashkin, your design partner.

Multi Scale / Fan Fret Design.

The multi-scale fret geometry plays just like a regular guitar but creates a tension gradient across the strings (more tension on the bass and less on the treble). The increased tension creates more power and focus in the bass strings, especially useful for drop tunings, and a more complex, richer high-end.

Bashkin guitars can be made in two multi-scale configurations, 25.75 – 25” and 26 - 25.4”. The first one is a bit longer on the bass and shorter on the treble than a standard scale guitar. The second configuration is just longer on the bass.

Cutaway:

The view accepted by most luthiers today is that a cutaway allows the player to access the upper part of the fretboard – and does not affect the sound of the guitar significantly. Meanwhile, the graceful curve of the cutaway adds beauty and visual complexity.

Inlay work & Endgrafts:

 

The rosette, in particular, is considered the one of the main visual features of the guitar.  The endgraft, like the overlay on the reverse side of the headstock, makes a more subtle statement. 

 

Together these tasteful embellishments allow Michael to express his sense of design and demonstrate his skill.  

Ryan Style Arm Bevel:

The Ryan-style arm bevel relieves the corner where your arm contacts the guitar, resulting in an instrument that is more comfortable to play. The bevel cap is cut from the same wood as the binding to ensure good color matching and seamless flowing lines. 

Testimonials:

“Intimate and yet huge sounding, and super easy to play. The SJ blows me away every time I play it!  It leaves nothing wanting…”

“One of the prettiest guitars I have ever seen, with segmented rosette, tail piece and headstock..”

“Michael’s build execution is near flawless. It is as good as it gets in custom lutherie…”

“Tonal juggernaut. One of, if not the finest instrument in my collection…”

Incoming Guitars to The North American Guitar:

This year we are committing to an incredible selection of stock instruments for the TNAG Showroom, not just offering a wide variety of body shapes and sizes but also branching out into other tonal arenas from wood alternatives to the mainstream.

The actions of CITES placing Indian Rosewood on appendix 2 certainly shook up the guitar world back in January 2017. and is still shaking it up for many today. However, apart from the obvious good, it is doing for the environment and the sustainability of the worlds wood, a byproduct is it has helped the guitar market, us (TNAG) the retailer and the luthier widen their imagination and acceptability for alternative woods for both internal and external ergonomics of the guitar. 

We have 4 outstanding Bashkin instruments on their way to our London showroom this year, so we ask Michael to tell us a little bit more about them…

MB:  Let's start with the two OMs.  One has a Carpathian spruce top coupled with a new tonewood I am really excited about called Katalox.  Its common name is Mexican ebony which automatically gives you some idea of its properties;  dense with rosewood like tonal qualities.  It will have nice overtone component coupled with the clarity and snap from the Carpathian spruce top, and some nice visual accents that you and I have discussed.  The second OM is also a Carpathian top and beautiful set of flamed European Maple, but nothing flashy on the aesthetic end.  This is a guitar I'm am going to try and say the most with the least amount of visual information in a more classic simple design.   Both these guitars will also have a new symmetrical bridge design.

The first SJ is with Indian Bay Laurel and again Carpathian spruce top. The Indian Bay Laurel is one of the new alternative tone woods I am excited about using and getting out there is the guitar world.  The final guitar is a multi-scale SJ  cutaway with an arm bevel, and Swiss moon spruce top over a really old set of Mahogany back and sides.  This guitar will have several unique inlay designs that will incorporate the torched burl elements we discussed earlier.

Serial # 152, 2018
  • Top - Carpathian Spruce 
  • Back and sides - European Flamed Maple
  • Neck - Honduran Mahogany
  • Headstock overlay - Ebony bound in Ebony with maple veneer line inlays
  • Back of headstock - Ebony
  • Binding - Ebony with Maple side purflings
  • Purfling - Santos with Holly veneers 
  • Rosette - Burled woods
  • Bracing - Adirondack spruce top, Sitka spruce back
  • End graft - Ebony
  • Kerfing - Spanish Cedar 
  • Tuners - Waverly’s - butterbean/nickel
  • Frets - Medium (.080x.040")/ hemispherical ends
  • Bridge plate - Maple
  • Nut/saddle - Bone 
  • Bracing/bridge glue - Hot hide glue
  • Bridge pins - Ebony
  • Fret markers - Amber inlays
  • Truss-rod - Stainless steel - 2 way 
  • Bridge - Ebony
  • Fretboard - Ebony bound in Ebony 
  • Nut width/saddle width - 1.75” / 2.25”
  • Scale - 25.4”
  • Dimensions - Lower bout 15.1”, Waist 9.1”, Upper Bout 11.1”
  • Depth at tail/neck: 4. 125”/3.125”
  • Finish - Nitrocellulose lacquer
Serial # 151, 2018
  • Top - Carpathian Spruce 
  • Back and sides - Katalox
  • Neck - Honduran Mahogany
  • Headstock overlay - Katalox bound in Ebony 
  • Back of headstock - Katalox
  • Binding - Ebony with Maple side purflings
  • Purfling - Santos with Holly veneers 
  • Rosette - Burled woods
  • Bracing - Adirondack spruce top, Sitka spruce back
  • End graft - Ebony
  • Kerfing - Spanish Cedar 
  • Tuners - Waverly’s - butterbean/nickel
  • Frets - Medium (.080x.040")/ hemispherical ends
  • Bridge plate - Maple
  • Nut/saddle - Bone 
  • Bracing/bridge glue - Hot hide glue
  • Bridge pins - Ebony
  • Fret markers - Amber inlays
  • Truss-rod - Stainless steel - 2 way 
  • Bridge - Ebony
  • Fretboard - Ebony bound in Ebony 
  • Nut width/saddle width 1.75” / 2.25”
  • Scale - 25.4”
  • Dimensions - Lower bout 15.1”, Waist 9.1”, Upper Bout 11.1”
  • Depth at tail/neck: 4. 125”/3.125”
  • Finish - Nitrocellulose lacquer
Serial # 150, 2018
  • Top: Swiss Moon spruce
  • Back and Sides: Honduran Mahogany
  • Neck: Honduran Mahogany
  • Headstock Overlay: Rosewood bound in Rosewood with inlay
  • Back of Headstock: Rosewood
  • Binding: Rosewood with Holly and Rosewood side purflings
  • Purfling: Rosewood with veneers
  • Rosette: Torched and segmented burl
  • Bracing: Adirondack spruce top, Sitka spruce back
  • End Graft: Mahogany/Burl and Holly veneer
  • Kerfing: Solid Spanish Cedar with Rosewood
  • Tuners: Waverley gold with Ebony knobs
  • Back Xbrace Cap: Rosewood
  • Bridge Plate: Rosewood
  • Nut/Saddle: Bone
  • Bracing/Bridge Glue: Hot hide glue
  • Bridge Pins: Ebony/Abalone dot
  • Fret Markers: Buffalo horn inlays
  • Truss-rod: 2 way stainless steel
  • Bridge: Ebony
  • Fretboard: Ebony bound in Ebony
  • Nut width/Waddle width: 1.75 / 2.31
  • Multiscale: 26-25.4
  • Dimensions: Lower bout 16, Waist 9.9, Upper Bout 11.9
  • Depth at tail/neck: 4. 2/3.25
  • Finish: Nitrocellulose lacquer
serial # 153, 2018
  • Top - Carpathian Spruce 
  • Back and sides - Indian Bay Laurel
  • Neck - Honduran Mahogany
  • Headstock overlay - Ebony bound in Ebony 
  • Back of headstock - Ebony
  • Binding - Ebony with Maple side purflings
  • Purfling - Santos with Holly veneers 
  • Rosette - Burled woods
  • Bracing - Adirondack spruce top, Sitka spruce back
  • End graft - Ebony bound in Ebony
  • Kerfing - Spanish Cedar 
  • Tuners - Waverly’s - butterbean/nickel
  • Frets - Medium (.080x.040")/ hemispherical ends
  • Bridge plate - Maple
  • Nut/saddle - Bone 
  • Bracing/bridge glue - Hot hide glue
  • Bridge pins - Ebony
  • Fret markers - Amber inlays
  • Truss-rod - Stainless steel - 2 way 
  • Bridge - Ebony
  • Fretboard - Ebony bound in Ebony 
  • Nut width/saddle width - 1.75” / 2.25”
  • Scale - 25.4”
  • Dimensions - Lower bout 16”, Waist 9.9”, Upper Bout 11.9”
  • Depth at tail/neck: 4. 25”/3.5”
  • Finish - Nitrocellulose lacquer

The TNAG Bespoke Payment Process...

We are able to tailor a financial package to suit your circumstances, whether this is through any of our finance options, such as TNAG LayAway, Divido or DivideBuy finance.

We also offer our TNAG Buy with Confidence, where we offer a five-day ‘cooling off’ period for deposits to ensure you have made the right choice and, of course, we are here to assist in any way possible should your circumstances change.

An Evening With Michael Bashkin of Bashkin Guitars

We are extremely proud to welcome luthier sensation Michael Bashkin of Bashkin Guitars to The North American Guitar for an exclusive event on Thursday 8th November 2018.

Join us for a complimentary champagne reception followed by an audience with Michael Bashkin and a live showcase of Bashkin Guitars by award-winning English guitarist Stuart Ryan.

Tickets are strictly limited. Click here to grab yours...

So for more information on ordering your very own Bashkin Guitar, please do not hesitate to contact us on +44 (0) 207 835 5597 or email us here.

Have a wonderful weekend.

Ben

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