About Retrograde Guitars
The goal of Retrograde Guitars is to bring boutique methods of building to a style of guitar that is historically factory made. The aesthetic is inspired by the department store laminate arch tops of the 50s and 60s, but the build quality is that of a handmade stringed instrument.
In the late 1950s, laminate arch tops were stamped out on production lines and distributed to music and department stores. As blues and jazz turned electric, players began to prefer the laminated guitars, as they could be played at higher volumes without feedback. When rock and roll hit, the laminated archtop was the tool of choice. As amplifiers grew louder, many musicians converted to solid body electrics, sacrificing the sweet, saggy tone, for more sustain and bite. The rest is history, and at this point the laminate top has remained unchanged from its early form.
I believe that with attention to detail and an understanding of the variables within the lamination process, a truly unique instrument can be made. While Retrograde Guitars are primarily electric, great care is taken to construct and voice the guitar as an acoustic instrument. By molding the tops in a vacuum press, one layer at a time, a very stiff, yet light and lively top can be made. (Please see the section on Vacuum Press Laminate Tops for more insight into the process.) The arched plate is then braced with Adirondack or German Spruce and voiced as an acoustic instrument. The neck is carved out of Spanish or Port Orford Cedar, a material mostly used in the classical guitar world. The use of Cedar cuts down considerably on the weight and adds a lovely, open resonance. Finally, the instruments are finished in a varnish, rather than a lacquer. The use of varnish adds warmth to the tone, and has a more broken in feel than a bright sounding factory lacquer.
Two body styles are available as a starting point for customization. Retrograde guitars are built to order, working one on one with the player to create a unique instrument to fit your playing style and tonal desires.
The Corralitos is a larger body style with a 15 3/4 lower bout. This shape follows in the tradition of the 16" jazz box, but is desiged to be more ergonomic and balanced to the player. The Corralitos also uses the "Jazz Style" neck joint, with an elevated fingerboard and traditional archtop heel. Although it appears to be a glued in joint, it is actually a bolt on, accessable through the pick up cavity. This allows for easier neck adjustments, if needed, as the guitar ages.
The Cambridge has a smaller 14" lower bout, making it more familiar to the modern rock and blues guitarist. The Cambridge has a three bolt " Catalog Style" neck joint. This joint was popular on the old department store guitars. A solid, and functional joint, the three bolt joint has that funky 60s style and helps to keep costs in the range of giging musicians. (The "Catalog Style" joint is also available on the Corralitos model.)
Other custom options include:
- Handmade bridge and saddles
- Custom nut widths and scale lengths
- Hand wound pickup options including McNelly, Lollar, Mojo Pickups, and more...
- Custom wiring options
- Hand rubbed sunbursts and homebrewed varnishes
- Antiqued varnish and relic hardware
- Custom wood laminates and plate voicing
- Custom designed inlay
- If you have an idea, lets talk about it. That's the advantage of working with a personal Luthier.