Achim Peter Gropius, Germany
I was born in Berlin in 1967. Unlike many other makers I dont have a strong musical or woodworking background in my family. I have played classical guitar from the age of 9 and after secondary school I reached a fairly high amateur level. At this point I had to make a decision what to do with the coming period of my life. By some coincidence I came into a traineeship at a violinmaker's store. Here I got infected with the instrument-makers virus. From this moment I set my mind on becoming a guitar maker and after quite a while, I finally received an apprenticeship at the violin makers school in Mittenwald, where I received a very traditional training.

After this apprenticeship was over, I had a short employment in Nuremberg in the workshop of Max Strohmer before I went to Reutlingen to work in the violin makers workshop of Johannes Galic. After another two years I found that it was time to stand on my own feet an opened my own workshop in Reutlingen in 1996.

In general, I follow a strongly traditional approach to guitar making. My guitars are almost entirely assembled with hot hide glue and my standard finish is a traditional French polish. I refuse to make bolt-on necks (actually a technique from industrial production), and I plane all tops by hand. I believe this is very important. This approach keeps me in touch with the material and provides more constant tonal properties. On the other hand I am also open to modern materials and techniques where I see a real advantage - e.g. the Carbon-fiber reinforcements I use for my necks. Recently I have also started to make sandwich- (double-) top guitars with remarkable success.

Each year I individually handcraft a small number of master grade classical guitars. After years of experiments I focus now on two models. One is a body shape of my own design, which deviates from the traditional classical shape slightly, the other one is a traditional classical outline, which is based on the plantilla of a Herrmann Hauser I guitar. In addition I have a slightly oversized body outline which I use mainly for guitars with more than 6 strings.

For my soundboards, I use either German-spruce or Western red cedar. Generally, German spruce instruments sound more transparent and are able to produce a larger variety of tone-colors than cedar; western red cedar instruments distinguish themselves by a very quick response and an overall warmer, darker timbre than spruce instruments. As mentioned above I also offer classical guitars which utilize sandwich top construction. These double top instruments produce a more massive sound than traditional guitars; they also produce particularly strong fundamental tones. Sandwich tops are surely not the first choice for players who are focused on tonal brilliancy and transparency, but people who are looking for a dark and mellow guitar should give these guitars a try.

For the back and sides of my guitars, I use Indian rosewood or flamed Maple as standard. South American rosewoods and other varieties of wood are also available on request. I have found the combination of a cedar soundboard with a Honduran rosewood body to be particularly successful. Honduran rosewood produces many lovely overtones and gives a cedar instrument's sound a special vibrancy. Honduran rosewood also ensures excellent projection - superior, I believe, to most other kinds of rosewood.

For the necks of my guitars, I prefer woods with a medium density. The most important things to look for here are stiffness and a high resistance to warping. For many years, central American cedar and several kinds of mahogany have proved to be the most suitable wood for these purposes. A good alternative wood is alder, which matches the color of maple back and side better than mahogany. My favorite neck-wood is Khaya-Mahogany or Alder (on Maple-instruments).

In addition to the standards above, numerous options are available on request. My style of working Is very flexible as I don't have a serial production, but handle each guitar individually, even if I make more than one at a time. For this reason I can offer many options free of charge - e.g. different scale lengths, fingerboard widths or string spacings. If anyone requests a certain wood for the binding, it'll only cost a smile. I also offer two different bridge designs, a classical rectangular bridge and a slightly curved one. Customers can also choose between a 20th fret for the high E-string or the classical 19-fret version.

Besides building new instruments, I am very involved in restoring stringed instruments. I appreciate this work quite a lot as it affords me the opportunity to see and hear many instruments by other makers and to study their different approaches to classical guitar design and sound. During the many years I have been involved in instrument restoration, I've held in my hands instruments of almost every well known maker, either for minor adjustment or for larger restoration. These instruments have included contemporary makers as well as vintage instruments by J.G. Stauffer, Manuel Ramirez and Santos Hernandez.
Achim Peter Gropius