Classical Guitar Maker Kevin Aram

In the past twenty five years I have made over 300 classic guitars, most of these being smaller bodied Spruce top instruments. Each guitar is individually hand made and uniquely named. I make every part myself with the exception of the Strings, the Machine Heads and the Fretwire. For the first ten or so years of being in business, I combined making with restoring and repairing which gave me the opportunity to examine some of the finest instruments in the world. These included guitars by Vicente Arias, Paulino Bernabe, Domingo Esteso, Arcangel Fernandez, Ignacio Fleta, Herman Hauser I, Santos Hernandez, Manuel Ramirez, Josè Romanillos and David Rubio.

I live and work in the heart of the North Devon countryside. This area is regarded as one of the most beautiful and unspoiled areas of England. Since moving here in 1991, I have concentrated solely on the development of the small and medium sized Spruce top guitar in the Torres and Hauser traditions. My experience of working with this type of guitar must be amongst the most extensive of any maker working today. I have built and repaired instruments for many professional musicians. Some of these who come to mind are: Gilbert Biberian, Carlos Bonell, Colin Downes, Anthea Gifford, Forbes Henderson, Joe Jewel, Earl Klugh, Eleftheria Kotzia, Norbert Kraft, Jonathan Leathwood, Juan Martin, Pepé Martinez, Friedemann Wuttke and John Zaradin.

My best known customer is Julian Bream. I was introduced to Julian by George Clinton, the then editor of "Guitar International," in August 1986. Julian Bream purchased the guitar, "La Cancion," from me in October of that year. And in 1988, he purchased a second instrument, "Myrtle, "from me as well. He has used both instruments for concerts worldwide. In addition, he used "Myrtle" to record the Popular Catalan Folksongs by Miguel Llobet on the recording "Julian Bream - La Guitarra Romantica."

My guitars are known for their beauty, playability, reliability, projection and above all their musicality. Of this type of guitar they are amongst the finest available. I build two basic models of guitar. Variations on these themes can be ordered to suit yourself. Scale lengths, fingerboard widths, neck dimensions, decorations and timber types can be infinitely varied.



"TORRES" MODEL

This is a small bodied guitar, measuring 356mm across the bottom bout, closely modeled on the work of Torres. Antonio de Torres (1817-1892) is widely acknowledged as having established the essential constructional features of the modern classic guitar. The pattern and layout of this model are based on a Torres guitar and were given to me by José Romanillos, the guitar maker and author of the book "Antonio de Torres Guitar Maker - His Life & Work." I have studied the work of José Romanillos, having carried out maintenance and repair work on quite a few of his instruments (including Bream's famous 1973 guitar). We have been friends for many years, and I would like to think my instruments carry some of the spirit of his work.

The front is European Spruce, the neck Braz. Cedar and the Fingerboard Ebony. The Head Facing and Bridge are usually Indian or Braz. I have used a variety of timbers for the back and sides. Some of the choices I offer are: Indian, Braz., Figured (Rippled) Maple or Sycamore, Birds Eye Maple, Quilted Big Leaf Maple, Siricote, Plane (Lacewood), Walnut and Yew. I often make the backs in three or four pieces, sometimes using a combination of timbers. Indian Rosewood with a center panel of Birds Eye Maple matched to Birds Eye Maple body bindings is a popular choice. Many fruit woods can be used for this back center panel and body bindings, Apple, Cherry, Plum and Pear could all be used. I make each rosette individually and, whilst they all follow the same basic idea, I seldom produce two that are identical. The woods used for the rosette are matched to the purflings and bindings. The scale length I use for this model is 650mm though I have used shorter lengths to great success. The fingerboard width is 51mm at the nut and 61mm at the twelfth fret. String spacing at the bridge is 60mm.

The big sound of these guitars belies their smaller size and is very focused. They have tremendous projection.

"ARAM" MODEL

This model has been developed in response to the need for a larger bodied guitar though, at 365mm across the bottom bout, it is not large by today's standards. The jumping off point for the development of this guitar was a 1943 Herman Hauser measured by my pal Jeff Elliott of Portland, Oregon. Herman Hauser I (1884-1952) was a German maker who, being influenced by the guitars of Torres and Manuel Ramirez, produced some of the finest classic guitars of this century.

For this guitar I usually use a European Spruce top, but I have also used Western Red Cedar, Yugoslavian Fir, Yellow Cedar and Engelmann Spruce. The most popular choice for the back and sides is Indian though I often use other timbers, alone and in combination, as with the Torres model. The neck is Braz. cedar and features a 'V' joint at the head. The fingerboard is ebony and, whilst the standard scale length is 650mm, I have successfully used longer and shorter lengths. Fingerboard width at the nut is 52mm and at the twelfth fret 62mm. The string spacing at the bridge is 60mm. Each rosette is again individually made, and the woods used complement the purflings and bindings.

The sound of this guitar is very open with excellent string balance. It projects very well but also sounds very clearly to the player - making it an excellent instrument for both the professional concert performer and the serious student. I prefer to use Rodgers machine heads.

My method of construction is to prepare three guitars at once but to only assemble one at a time, enabling me to focus entirely on that instrument. The total construction time including polishing is spread over a 2½ to 3 month period. I keep a large stock of timber, and most of what I am using now was purchased ten or more years ago. The use of certain techniques to "test" the guitar during the building process ensure that my guitars, whilst light in construction, are extremely reliable. I am very proud of my work and feel there are very few things left in this world that are made in the way I make my guitars. (Learn more).