June 2021

  • Personal Selection Bog Oak and Bearclaw Spruce Leonardo For Sale
  • Ben Walker. Vals
  • John Smith. To the Shore
  • Ullapool Cancelled
  • New Music for the 12 string Guitar
  • Toby Hay's Ariel
  • Antonio Forcione. JOY
  • Bob Benedetto and Bill Neale
  • Pigeon and Bear Meet Alchemist.
  • Innes Watson. Chicken and a Robin.
  • Louis Bingham. Flying with Strings
  • Gareth Evans. No Surprises
  • Benefits of learning an instrument
  • Keith Snape. The Lords Seat
  • Chris Herring. Goat Island
  • Si Barron. So Long Michael
  • Fergus Halliday. Ardhaven
  • Fiddler on the Roof.
Personal Selection Bog Oak and Bearclaw Spruce Leonardo For Sale

An extraordinary instrument. 5,000-year-old Bog Oak, quarter sawn, jet black, and beautifully figured, paired with the whitest, stiffest and most spectacular piece of Master grade Italian Spruce I've ever seen. Although all the physical characteristics of soundboards can be judged "in the rough", the final appearance only becomes clear after the very last part of the lacquer and polishing process, and in this case, even Mike's lovely pictures can't do justice to the astounding Bearclaw figure.

45mm Ebony fingerboard with Slotted Abalone Diamonds. The neck is very old Mahogany, with red and black lines and outer sections of what I think is African Walnut, sometimes I get parcels of unknown wood from retired cabinet makers and by the time I've identified it, it is already a guitar! Whatever this is I'll be using it again.

The Leonardo design is unlike most other guitars, it's not a small guitar, It was designed from square one to have a cutaway, and it doesn't look at all right without it. The body is relatively shallow and exceptionally comfortable to play. In this combination of timbers, it has a "big voice", clear and strong, the overall size produces a full bass response, the stiff Spruce soundboard ensures properly balanced treble, and the Oak back and sides add a liveliness that many of the heavier, traditional timbers do not have.

The bindings are Snakewood, bordered by red lines, which I think brings everything together in one of the most spectacular, one-of-a-kind guitar we have ever made.

For Sale £8,250.


  • Bog Oak and Bearclaw Spruce Leonardo For Sale
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  • sound-board

Ben Walker. Vals

Ben loves the new guitar that we showed last month. He very quickly produced this recording, the early stages of a new piece he is working on.  The guitar sounds lovely: full, rich and smooth, like dark chocolate. Ben is a very talented young man and covers a lot of musical ground…

I'll let his website explain: Ben's website

John Smith. To the Shore

I've said it before, and I know I will say it again, there is no mistaking John Smith. The first few notes, just the first word, and we know who it is straight away.

John has been planning, recording, re assessing everything during lockdown. I think it's fair to say he has spent the time putting down some deep personal and musical roots, ready for the next stage of his inevitable and deserved stardom. He has tours planned, can't wait.

John's Website

Ullapool Cancelled

It was hardly a surprise, there were still too many risks and unknowns for this years festival to go ahead. We have asked Richard Lindsay to hold on to our ticket money and now we can relax and focus on being ready for next year.  Because we were under so much pressure to supply guitars during the lockdown, we weren't likely to have much to put on display this year anyway, and the special guitars that we have been working on to dazzle and amaze you all can now be put up for sale. 

We hadn't even decided how things were going to work at the display stand- including whether to sanitise the guitars in between each player. I've a horrible suspicion that hand sanitiser is not a good guitar polish, and I haven't dared test it out.

It certainly wouldn't work with French polish; I think we'd have a number of players stuck to the guitars.

"I tried one guitar at the Fylde stand and just couldn't put it down…"

Ullapool Website

New Music for the 12 string Guitar

At the end of 2019, a film crew from The state51 Conspiracy record company took the train from London to meet up with myself and Toby Hay. They didn't get here. After 9 hours stuck in the train with no facilities due to a power failure, they returned to London. They succeeded at the second attempt a few weeks later, but then several things went wrong with the video and the audio. Some clever engineering recovered most of it, and here we are. You might have to concentrate, listen and watch carefully.

It was fun, I was a bit rude at one point about some of the silly claims we often hear in the guitar making world, sorry about that.  Actually, no, I'm not.  

The film explores the story of Toby's custom 12 string, the Album he recorded, the reasoning behind the guitar, and how the arrangement with State 51 came about.

I'm trying to find some nicer hats. With the ones I use at the moment, I have to cut the brims off on the bandsaw and they look a bit rough, so at least they match me.

Toby now has a six string, so perhaps we can expect another film "New Music for the Six String Guitar"

State 51 Conspiracy website

Toby Hay's Ariel

Here it is, not the usual Mike English pictures I'm afraid, just me struggling with a digital camera that has more functions than I have brain cells. (Careful!)

The back and sides are powerfully striped Macassar Ebony, which compares nicely with his 12 string and the top is very light-coloured Cedar. Toby would have liked to use Spruce, but I persuaded him that the guitar would be rather bright, Cedar gives a lovely mellow tone on a small guitar. Toby's 12 string has a red kite inlaid in the fingerboard. This one has a curlew.

Toby's FaceBook Page

  • Toby Hay's New Ariel
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Antonio Forcione. JOY

Another example of Fylde guitars in different musical settings. 

I think the Kora sounds so good alongside Antonio's guitar, and doesn't that guitar look small! I'm sure it wasn't that small when we made it.

I'm fascinated by the Kora; I saw a film about them being made in the "basic" form, but I can see lots of upgrades in instruments like the one used here. I wonder if there are any huge gourds grown in England?  Hmmm.

Antonio's webpage

Bob Benedetto and Bill Neale

A lovely set of pictures sent to me by Bill Neale, taken at Bob Benedetto's house. Bob was very complimentary about the guitar, which is very nice of him.  Don't you just love that Radio and violin? 

I have Bob's book on making archtop guitars. It's "the" reference for anybody venturing into that world.

Bob's site, lots to look at here 
and Bill's section in particular 

Pigeon and Bear Meet Alchemist.

An exotic "Alchemist" guitar made for Sam English, who is responsible for most of the video content on this site. Actually, it's for Sam's wife and I'm not sure who will play it most. You might have to look closely but I think the pattern on the back looks like a pigeon and a bear. The top is Sinker Redwood. Mahogany and Ebony neck.  Ebony bindings. This guitar might feature in more photographs in a future newsletter. I will explain when it happens

  • Pigeon and Bear Meet Alchemist
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Innes Watson. Chicken and a Robin.

Well it is a sort of link from " Pigeon and Bear".

We last met up with Innes just as all the covid horror was starting. In fact, he is the very last person I hugged. Apart from Moira of course.
He's a good friend and deeply involved in much of the music world in Scotland.

I was hoping to help publicise this event: UNICORN STUDIOS PRESENTS 

but I wasn't able to get a newsletter written in time, so I'm a bit late. You can still look though.

And you can see a lot more here; Innes' Website

Louis Bingham. Flying with Strings

I should really have headed it "Cittern and Bird Marionette". 

We are very lucky to reach so many talented people in different areas, not just music.

Louis' website. Nice website picture Louis! 

Gareth Evans. No Surprises

Another from the very talented Gareth Evans,  he gets a great tone from his Falstaff, particularly on the  "harping"  parts.
We need more!

Gareth's Website

Benefits of learning an instrument

Felicity Bell from Evergreen Violins in Virginia contacted me, she had seen the "Gigs at Home" pages that Mike and I were running last year to keep everyone happy during lockdown.  We've stopped now as lots of other people have started doing similar things.

I wonder if there has ever been a study of human behaviour or character plotted against which instrument they play?  Are violin players always a little bit mad? Is there really a connection  between Saxophone playing  and heroin use? Do any guitar players have any money?

Link to website

Keith Snape. The Lords Seat

Any excuse to feature some of Gordon's Music. This tune is one of his better-known brushes with classical music. I'd hazard a guess that our dear departed friend John Renbourn was influential in this.

Keith plays it rather well.

Chris Herring. Goat Island

A John Renbourn tune. Lots of nice links to the previous item here.

Chris is a guitar maker in his own right and gaining a reputation for himself. The guitar he is playing here is his father’s Falstaff, he has quite a lot of videos posted playing different guitars and often playing music from my favourite artists, Gordon Giltrap included.

Chris' Facebook Page

Si Barron. So Long Michael

I should have featured Si a lot more in these newsletters. I used to use a lot more songs but more recently I've been concentrating on instrumental pieces, maybe it's time to re assess. Si is another of the younger players who have discovered the suitability of the original Fylde design. The Oberon will be fifty years old very soon. Say happy birthday Oberon.

I promise this next bit is true: A few minutes after writing the above, a visitor brought his old guitar to show me. It's basically an Oberon, but made in my bedroom in Hythe in 1972, before I started Fylde or thought of the names. Fifty years ago. Oh, my word, how did that happen? I will try and write a proper story and post pictures next month.

Si's Website

Fergus Halliday. Ardhaven

I found this purely by accident and asked Moira to help me find the mails I had from Fergus some time ago, I'm no use at such things. As I understand it, Moira uses something called "patience" when I give her tasks like this, I don't know where she got it from, I've looked on eBay and Amazon.

You might notice that Fergus’s Tenor guitar has five strings. I suppose we must have made it that way.

Fergus is launching his own business as an independent tourist guide in Scotland and wanted to include trad music where possible. What a splendid idea!

Here is his YouTube channel

Fiddler on the Roof.

Or, as Moira puts it "Idiot on the roof". My conservatory is making progress. I think my Violin playing “stance" looks quite professional, and I don't think Yehudi Menuhin ever played on a sloping slate roof in the rain, so I'm one up on him.

I've just noticed that I'm right at the focal point of our broadband satellite dish. If I'd realised that a few days ago, I could have put myself on Eurovision.

And several friends have told me to be careful that I don't Topol off, I do have some strange friends.

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