Two for Jack: Introducing the Datlen Luthiery Jumbo
Last year, I was contacted by a client named Jack to build a couple of guitars for him. What’s interesting is that Jack wanted two identical guitars, except for the top wood–one for fingerstyle and one for flat-picking. What’s also cool is that he trusted me to build a size and model that I had never built before.
Jack wanted a large guitar with no frills. After a few emails back and forth, we settled on a design. My new Jumbo model is roughly the size of a Gibson J-185, but I redesigned the body shape and braced it accordingly.
It was a really fun project to design and build these guitars. I really appreciated Jack’s confidence in me since this was somewhat uncharted territory. Jack was also kind enough to contribute some background and his thoughts on the guitars I built for him.
“So, about last spring I had the idea to commission a couple of instruments, just as a way to get back on track with music and guitars. My wife and I had experienced a period there where our son’s health was very poor, and I found myself in the position of having the sell quite a lot of my collection to fund medical expenses. Just what needed to be done. But he is getting better, slowly, and I was really missing my passion.
I happened to run into a video posted on the Mighty Fine Guitars website of Stevie Coyle interviewing an up-and-coming California luthier named John Datlen. I checked his work out as much as I could on the web and then phoned him and took the plunge. John is a truly humble and straightforward kind of guy. We had no trouble establishing a connection, though we lived thousands of miles apart. He had been considering adding a new model to his lineup, what might be roughly called a OOOO. I like a little bigger guitar, so we decided to go ahead with this new model and make a sort of matching pair, one in Engelmann/Cocobolo and one in Adirondack/Cocobolo.
“In short, the guitars are both amazing, absolutely first-class in every way, not so much as the tiniest flaw in either of them. The general fit and finish is perfect, the purfling and binding miters are perfect, the entire scheme of both guitars is executed perfectly. It’s as though you walked into a great guitar shop and just picked out the two most beautiful, compelling guitars you could imagine and brought them home.
The Engelmann/Cocobolo was constructed with more of an impulse toward fingerstyle playing. This guitar has quite a velvet, creamy sound to it–a very flowing, articulate kind of sound, if that makes any sense, plenty loud and rich. The Adirondack/Cocobolo has a much more fundamental sound to it, more of a penetrating, dynamic kind of sound. This is exactly what I was hoping for when John and I embarked on this project.
“I play mostly fingerstyle, so that was the idea behind the Engelmann guitar, but I'm also dabbling in more single-note playing, so I thought an Adirondack guitar might work really well for this. I also think, though I haven't had too much time to experiment, that the Adirondack guitar will work really well for the stuff I play in alternate tunings. It's amazing how good these guitars both sound now, both around a month or so old; it will be truly interesting and intriguing to see how the sound of each develops and matures as time goes on.
Jack was a pleasure to work with on this new project. My OM had been the largest guitar I offered, until now.
I am so pleased with how these guitars came out and I’m delighted to announce that the Jumbo is officially being added to my lineup.