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An Interview with Luthier John H. Dick

I lived in Iowa for about 22 years, spend eight of them playing guitar, but somehow I missed that Iowa is home to Luthier John H. Dick. His shop is in West Branch just outside of Iowa City. He was kind enough to let me drop by while I was in Iowa doing some performances.

John builds double tops, and has for the last ten years. He’s extremely passionate about his work, and builds a helluva guitar. John talks about everything from how he got started building to using his CNC router (the coolest device ever?) and gives us a tour inside of one his double tops. This might actually be the coolest interview I’ve ever published.

Part 1

  • When and how John got into building guitars
  • Why he started building double tops
  • How his design has evolved over the years
  • A look inside a double top

Part 2

  • A look inside a double top (cont.)
  • About Nomex
  • How John installs the Nomex in a top
  • On the Durability of double tops

Part 3

  • Top woods
  • Finishes
  • On Shellac and pigments

Part 4

  • John discusses his “Double Back” guitars
  • Bracing
  • John shows off some works in progress

Part 5

  • About John’s CNC router

Trying Some Guitars

No visit to a luthier’s shop would be complete without trying out some guitars! These are very much unscripted, just me giving first impressions and chatting with John about the guitars. The first has a cedar top and Indian rosewood back and sides with a double back. The second is Spruce and Indian rosewood with a solid back.

5 Responses leave one →
  1. 2010 March 30

    Had some time this morning to listen to everything. He seems to be doing a successfully merger of modern techniques with time tested older techniques. The cnc router makes good sense and I wonder if it makes his guitars a little less expensive since he saves some time with it?

    The ceder topped guitar seemed to have an outstanding upper register but kind of thin in the first couple of positions. While the spruce top was almost opposite. Was that your impression? Of course, I cannot really get the full impression over computer speakers! I am looking forward to playing one (or more) of John’s guitars at GFA con.

  2. 2010 March 30

    I think they were both good, but it’s hard to tell in a small room. I enjoyed playing both of them more than the Thames double top my friend has.

    I won’t be selling my Thames to buy one, however.

    -CD

  3. 2010 April 1
    kuan permalink

    His guitars are already a bargain. With the amount of time he put into building that CNC router he probably needs to make 200 guitars to get it all back.

    JD is the sandwich top pioneer in the United States. He learned the fine art through collaboration with Gernot Wagner. It was he who passed it on to other makers who again passed it on.

  4. 2010 April 1
    Ryan permalink

    Thanks for posting this. I grew up in Cedar Rapids, IA and went to school in Iowa City. I’d love to visit John’s shop the next time I’m in the area.

  5. 2012 April 28

    Thanks for posting this! I am just about to go visit John’s shop and try his new model myself! I like your relaxed style, so we hear what John has to say. Best of luck in your future work, this blog is great!

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