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The Rogitar
The Wintonbeast

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This is the Rogitar. So christened by its owner, Glenn Rogers.

Glenn originally called to ask if I would attempt a version of the Shakti guitar – a modified Gibson with 7 diagonal harp strings built by Abe Wechter for John McLaughlin in the 1970s.

Over a few emails and phone calls the idea evolved to include a pair of chikari strings, running from the inside of the venetian cutaway to the tail of the body, plus 12 internal sympathetics. The idea of internal sympathetics is not new, and much is owed to the work of Fred Carlson – www.beyondthetrees.com and his generous sharing of his own building experiences. The guitar also has a deeply scalloped fingerboard and a rear access panel to tune the sympathetic strings. The sympathetics feed through the top of the bridge, over a jawari (on the inside of the top), and through the neck in a carbon fibre channel under the fretboard . The string pressure alone holds the jawari in place as it needs to removable for adjustment on occasion. The jawari gives the guitar its sitar voice, depending on the key the player is in and the tuning of the sympathetics.

The diagonals feed through the treble side of the lower bout and pass under the six main strings to a second head on the bass side shoulder. A pair of carbon fibre bars running from the block that anchors the string ends to the second head block, and free of the top of the guitar takes care of the compression from the diagonal strings leaving the top bracing to contend with the usual six strings.
Both necks are fully removable by allen key via the rear access panel.

The back and sides are Indian Rosewood, top master grade Sitka Spruce. The necks and internal blocks are Mahogany. Fingerboard and bridge are ebony. Check the photos and you’ll see the fingerboard is also deeply scalloped – this assists in the heavy bending of notes common to Indian influenced music – it also is fretted in stainless steel. The guitar has a spalted rosette of an unknown timber. It was piece of firewood that just looked too interesting to burn!

Tuners for the diagonals are Waverley banjo inline planetary tuners with ivoroid knobs. The 18 tuners on the main head are Schertlers with ebony buttons. The 2 chickari strings are attached by zither pins and are tunable by wrench. This decision was more informed by Glenn’s playing style as he plays mainly in a sitting position on the floor.

Glenn has tried various string combinations, lately settling on 10 – 47 with an unwound G. The sympathetic strings are 4 x .008s, .009, .010.

For further and up to date musings, along with info on Glenn other varied musical pursuits and CDs, go to www.glennrogers.net




The Wintonbeast ,built for Andrew Winton is a good example of what can happen when the build brief is well,,, brief. Andrew and I had only met a few times on my visits to Western Australia, and we both knew we wanted to collaborate somehow. This is the result.

We eventually settled on 7 strings and something that could sound "orchestral" with a tuning of A a E a e' a'' b'' (of course) Since its birth the beast has been played at major festivals all over Australia, the SXSW festival in Texas, venues in New York and Canada.
For more about Andrew, gigs, Cds etc visit www.andrewwinton.com

The attached article was first published in the autumn 2006 edition of the Guild of American Lutherie quarterly journal. ( www.luth.org)

I don't know how the more unusual projects get off the ground for most people, but I vaguely remember a campfire beside the Guinness tent at the Fairbridge Folk Festival (about an hour's drive south of Perth in Western Australia), and the usual guitar-head beer-talk that naturally ensues. Somehow eighteen months later I sent Andrew Winton a drawing with(almost) every silly idea I could think of for him to consider --- and to my surprise he said "Yeah, looks great!" So I built it. Andrew lives in Perth. I live in Melbourne, 2500 miles away.

The brief proposed seven strings, the word "orchestral" was in there, and the word "piano,'" and of course "lapsteel." Andrew's final preferred tuning was A E a' E a"e' b. String gauges run (low to high) .082", .045", .056",.045", .032", .017", .017", with the two low Es in unison. The first six strings have a 27" scale; the 7th has a 36"scale. The top is western red cedar, the back and sides are Australian blackwood, as is the neck. It is bound in curly maple, and all the black is ebony. It was built in the Spanish style and required a few little inventions on the way.

I gave up trying to draw plans up for the neck/head/fingerboard extension, and instead built a dummy version from balsa and sent it to Andrew. I think the photos will explain.

In Photo 1 you see my three-year-old daughter, Lucy, and the Beast.

Photo 2 shows the top/sides/neck assembly ready to receive the back. There are two open bars: one in front of and one behind the bridge plate. These bars are a cedar and carbon fiber laminate as I wasn't sure of the final tuning or tension at the time.

Photo 3 shows how the open bars are let into the side braces, hopefully to transfer some of the "weight" to the sides.

Photo 7 is an end view. I included an access panel for pickup installation and general dinking around inside. It is also very handy for clamping the bridge.

I didn't want to entomb a pair of bearings inside the head without access; hence the cover plate engraved with "The Wintonbeast No 1" seen in Photo 8.

The instrument was finished and sent across the country last November. Andrew was in the process of recording his third album, and was sweating its arrival since he had to first "learn" how to play it. But the CD was released in January and he has since toured nationally.

The build was a real journey with a lot of up and downs, but it has rekindled my interest in harp guitars. (Oh dear!) When Andrew received it, he said he was in shock for a day or two! Since then he says the instrument has opened up a new playing style which he is still evolving.

My "other job'' as a theatre-production manager will take me "over west" later this year as I tour Australia and New Zealand with the Russian Imperial Ice Ballet; so I look forward to seeing how Andrew and the Beast are getting on.

In the early stages I referred Andrew to some websites --- Harry Fleishman's and, in particular, Fred Carlson's, just to see if we could break out of the mold on this project --- break what I call the tyranny of symmetry. We didn't quite do it this time , but I look forward to the next opportunity.

Photo 4-6 are various views of the headstock. The fretboard extension is ebony faced in West Australian Sheoak. The arch is to allow the 6th string to pass through to its tuner. The string is diverted around a stainless-steel post supported by two bearings mounted inside the head. The bottom string passes over its own nut which is set into a piece of Gidgee (a desert hardwood -harder then ebony). I made the nut removable for ease of future adjustment. It sits on two brass pins which locate it.