Bench Press: La Conner Preview, Part 3

We’re back with the third installment of our special Bench Press previews of the second annual La Conner Guitar Festival. We’ve been reaching out to some of the luthiers we’re looking forward to seeing (again) and asking them what they have up their sleeves for the show. This installment features Maegen Wells and Sheldon Schwartz, both of whom we were lucky enough to meet at the first festival in La Conner, last year.

Once again, we asked just one question: Are you working on anything special for La Conner?

Maegen Wells, Maegen Wells Guitars & Mandolins

There’s an extra special story behind the 15″ archtop that I’ll be bringing along to this year’s La Conner Guitar Festival!

The day is March 6, 2018, a Tuesday, approximately 8 o’clock in the evening. Elton John’s “Your Song” is blaring from the speakers in my shop as I’m saying farewell to one of my favorite things in the whole entire world–the inside of a guitar box. This is a special day, a day I’ve known was coming for a while, but now that it’s here… I realize I could not have possibly imagined how much joy was about to fill my life. I grab the top for the guitar and look over it one last time, and read the message I’ve left in between the two legs of the X-Brace:

For Eleanor Jane

Perfect. I begin to glue.

Eleanor Jane is my beautiful and perfect niece who was born earlier that day, and since I couldn’t be there with them, I figured I would welcome her into this world the best way I know how, by boxing up a brand new 15″ archtop with rosewood sides. It was a perfect celebration! Elton John and all.

This small body archtop is going to have a big voice–with a beautiful Sitka spruce top and flamed maple back, both of these plates started making music the moment I started carving into them. With Indian rosewood sides, the body and f-holes are bound in flamed mahogany, creating a beautiful contrast. Up against the rosewood, the mahogany truly looks like golden fire. The neck is made out of Spanish cedar, which I’ll be leaving its natural color, along with the rosewood sides. I’ve got an exciting color job planned for the top and back to compliment the rest of the instrument, but you’ll have to come by my booth at the La Conner show to see what it is!


Sheldon Schwartz, Schwartz Guitars

I’m working on a small jumbo-sized Oracle model, or OSJ, with koa back and sides and a Bear Claw Sitka spruce soundboard to show in La Conner.

I made my first full-sized Oracle model in 2005 and immediately began working on the drawings for a slightly smaller version with a 15″ lower bout. As luck would have it, a visitor to my shop saw those drawings hanging on the wall and said, “I’d like to have one of those!” That was in 2008 and since then, every OSJ I’ve built has been spoken for. Needless to say, I’m excited about bringing one of these guitars to a show for the very first time.

I’ve had the woods for this guitar put aside for a while. The koa is a very richly colored set with a bit of an usual figure–a flamey curl combined with a sort of bee’s wing pattern. The soundboard is from a purchase I made in 1994. It’s very light and stiff with beautifully spaced grain lines and a very mottled looking Bear Claw pattern. I’ve had real good success using nogal (Peruvian walnut) for necks and I thought the color would really set off the koa. For this guitar also I’ve combined three pieces of nogal with two thin maple accents.

The photos are “in the white” and with the first coats of grain filler. Getting to that stage when I can hardly wait to hear it!