Our First Spohn Guitar Arrives
Max Spohn is a young luthier who we have been following for some time. His wonderfully modern takes on traditional acoustic guitar designs, and his fresh approach to inlays and rosettes sets him apart from his peers.
We're delighted to be working with Max and have just received our first Spohn guitar into our showroom. Let's take a look at this new guitar and find out a bit more about Max.
This first Spohn guitar to cross the threshold at TNAG is a 00 model in Fiddleback Mahogany and Moon Spruce, a wood combination that lends itself excellently to the 00 size, providing a wide tonal palate with rounded trebles and a ever-present bass, as well as the richness and sophistication you would expect in the mids of a 00.
As well as Max's talent for building exceptionally responsive acoustic guitars, it's his attention to detail and fresh approach to decoration that really catches the eye. His inlay and rosette work is inspired by luthiers such as Raymond Kraut as well as artists such as Wassily Kandinsky.
- Top: Moon Spruce
- Back & Sides: Fiddleback Mahogany
- Rosette: Blue-dyed Ash burl, purfling lines
- Lower Bout: 14.5"
- Upper Bout: 10"
- Neck: Honduran Mahogany
- Stainless steel, double-action truss rod
- Neck Profile: C
- Fretboard radius 20"
- Medium 18% Nickel Silver
- Nut Width: 1-3/4"
- Scale Length: 25"
- Saddle Spacing: 2 1/4"
- Bridge: Rocklite Ebano, pinless
- Endpin: No endpin, no endpin hole
- Peghead Overlay: Moon Spruce
- Backplate: Rocklite Ebano
- Tuning Machines: Scheller Brass with Ebony buttons
- Case: BAM Hardshell
- Strings: Elixir Medium .013-.056
- Serial Number: 24
- Weight: 3 pounds 11 ounces
We caught up with Max to find out a little more about him as a luthier, his journey into the profession and his approach to guitar building:
TNAG's Richard Poll: Hi Max, How are you? For those readers who don’t know the history of Spohn Guitars and your journey as a luthier, can you tell us a little bit about how you got started in the industry?
Max Spohn: Hi Richard, Thank you for this interview. After graduating from high school I wanted to become an industrial designer but I soon noticed that I am bored pretty easily by drawing the whole day. So I started modifying my electric guitars which was more fun. My mom brought me to the idea that lutherie could be the right thing for me and so I started an internship with Thomas Ochs, a classical guitar builder in Germany.
Within the first week I knew that I don’t want to do anything else than becoming a luthier. My journey then brought me to Markneukirchen where I studied lutherie at university for five years. During this time I also went to Eugene/Oregon to intern with Raymond Kraut which was one of the most inspiring and intense times I had. I graduated from university a year ago and moved back to my hometown where I built my guitars in a very small shop. Now I am in the middle of setting up my new and almost five times bigger workshop and am excited to work on some new guitars.
RP: How would you describe the Spohn ‘sound’?
MS: The Spohn sound is articulate and well balanced. It responds to the lightest touch and can still handle a heavy right hand. The trebles are thick and sweet and remind me of the response of a classical guitar.
RP: When searching for a specific tone from an instrument, what qualities do you look for in a particular set of wood?
MS: Talking about the top wood I almost exclusively use Moon Spruce from the Swiss alps. I hand select them and look for the best stiffness to weight ratio. Also every piece has to be musical. With this I mean if you are running your hand across the piece of wood it has to make a glassy, whispering noise. I try to select my wood as consistent as possible to be able to adjust the sound differences with the thickness and bracing.
When it comes to selecting the back and side wood I think the most important aspects are the density and damping as well as the stability. For example I try to use lighter weight wood for clients that mostly play their guitars at home and want to 'feel' the sound of the guitar as well.
RP: This is a question we like to ask all our luthiers. What are your favourite materials to work with?
MS: My most favorite tonewood combination is Moon Spruce over Honduran Mahogany. Funny enough this is the combination of the first guitar you guys have received from me.
I like the clarity of Moon Spruce with the punch you get from the Mahogany back. And even better if the piece has some figure in it. But I am also a huge fan of Koa for back and sides. I love its color and texture. Always a joy to work with such fantastic materials.
RP: Koa is one of my favourite back and sides woods too. How would you describe your approach to lutherie, and how do you deal with obstacles in the build process?
MS: My guitars are built in the Somogyi tradition of a responsive guitar. They feature a very active top and back and a stiff and stable rim assembly.
To still be able to build a light weight guitar, I laminate my sides with a core made of balsa wood. By holding one of my guitars you wouldn’t expect the sides to be 5mm thick. This gives the plates a strong and rigid fixation to let them vibrate more freely.
The bracing system of my tops varies between my models. Most of my 00 and OM shaped guitars are built with a modified falcate bracing while my MDs are X-braced.
I want my guitars to inspire the player not only by the sound but also by its appearance. With my inlay work I create unique pieces that combine art and craft to do so.
When you work with wood you often have to deal with obstacles. With more and more experience you learn not to freak out over everything unexpected that happens and even find something positive in it. So it can also lead to creative ideas and new approaches.
RP: Do you get to play your guitars much yourself?
MS: When I started with lutherie I played less and less guitar. But now I am playing more again which feels good and helps with my approach to build guitars. Besides playing in a blues band, I play mostly fingerstyle music when I am at home.
I keep my guitars strung up for at least ten days before I do the final set up and send them out. During this time I try to spend as much time as possible with the guitar to get to know her sound and keep the quality consistent.
RP: We recently received our first Spohn Guitar from you, a 00 in Fiddleback Mahogany and Moon Spruce. What can you tell us about this guitar and the build process?
MS: This first guitar you have received from me is my smallest model, the 00. I am a big fan of small guitars because of their comfortable size and intimate sound, while I try to keep their response equal to a much bigger guitar.
Building this one in my favorite wood combination was of course a lot of fun. On this one I really let the design process flow within the build process. So I added the inlays one after another how I felt the guitar needs it which is something I enjoy doing on a spec guitar. I particularly love the subtle details in the dark blue dyed burl inlays in combination with the rich color of the mahogany.
RP: We have another guitar in build with you currently, what can you tell us about this instrument?
MS: Yes that’s right! I am just about to join the top and back and start with it!
To complement the sound of the Mahogany 00 we will go all in and build a Brazilian Rosewood guitar next.
This one will be my new OM shape which is based on the 00. So it will have a wider waist than the previous one and a very similar silhouette to the 00.
My OM’s are known for their balanced and open tone and the new shape will add a lower bass to the mix.
The back and side wood is from a nice stash of Brazilian Rosewood a luthier friend of mine helped me to find from a violin maker that passed away last year. The wood was imported in 1965 and has all the proper paperwork with it.
This guitar will come with a Master Grade Swiss Moon Spruce top with some light bearclaw figure in it. It will have a cutaway for a better access to the upper frets, a spruce headstock overlay, which has become one of my signature details and a pinless bridge. I am currently looking for the perfect inlay material to match the Brazilian back and sides which is always one of the most fun parts.
RP: 2020 has been a very strange year for all of us, what does the rest of 2020 and 2021 have in store for you?
MS: 2020 has been a weird year so far though I had some exciting moments. Besides joining the TNAG roster and moving my workshop in a bigger place I have teamed up with guitarist Vin Downes. He is now playing one of my 00s which makes me proud to have another guitar in such skillful hands.
I hope the rest of the year will be a bit more relaxing so I can focus on building the next batch of guitars and hopefully in 2021 we are able to visit live concerts and go to some guitar shows again.
I am looking forward to work with you on the next guitars and see what our collaboration brings in the future!
RP: Thank you Max!
The guitar that Max talks about that he is building for us - an OM-C in Brazilian Rosewood and Moon Spruce - is available to pre-order now:
This OMC will feature a glorious set of Brazilian Rosewood for the back and sides paired with a Moon Spruce top. It is currently in build and will arrive in December 2020.
Max Spohn says about his OM, "This is my take on the classic Martin OM. With its midsized body, it is perfectly suited for fingerstyle playing. Its voice is responsive and well-balanced over the whole fretboard."
- Back/Sides: Brazilian Rosewood
- Top: Mastergrade Swiss Moon Spruce Neck: Honduran Mahogany Headplate: Spruce with custom inlay Backplate: Brazilian Rosewood Fingerboard: Ebony with fake binding Bridge: Brazilian Rosewood
- Binding: Ebony
- Backstrip: Custom inlay
- Side Markers: Brass dots
- Rosette: Custom inlay
- End Graft: Rectangular
- Fret Wire: Medium
- Finish: French polish
- Strings: Medium .013-.056
- Tuners: Schaller, Brass with Ebony buttons
- Case: BAM case in carbon black
- Trussrod: Stainless steel, double action
- Nut width: 45mm
- String spacing at bridge: 58mm
- Scale length: 25“
- Fingerboard radius: 20“
For more information about Spohn Guitars, please don't hesitate to get in touch by calling us on +44 (0) 207 835 5597 or +1 615-383-8947, or by emailing us here.