Circa Guitars Shop Tour

Before setting out on his own as Circa Guitars, Maine’s John Slobod worked alongside two of the world’s best luthiers: Julius Borges and Dana Bourgeois. Now, out of a funky, multi-use building in Portland, Maine (one of his neighbors down the hall is ukulele whiz Joel Eckhaus, the proprietor of Earnest Instruments), Slobod himself is building some of the nicest Martin-inspired guitars available today. As a one-man shop, Slobod focuses on just a few shapes: OMs, 00s and dreadnoughts; all are impressive. “The 12-fret 00 is almost the perfect design for the way I build,” he says. “That model, no matter how you slice it, always comes out great. If customers come to me and they don’t know what they want, I sometimes steer them into a 00 because you can do so much with it. Because it’s small, you can push it … it doesn’t get too sensitive like a 000 can.”

During my visit, the luthier’s workshop boasted a ton of great tone woods, an immense LP collection (nice to see a working turntable amidst all the power tools!) and just one finished guitar (an older Bourgeois). When a new Circa gets finished, I guess its lucky owner wants it ASAP. Besides their famed tone and playability, each Circa creation boasts incredible aesthetics … looking at these guitars reminds me of looking at Chris Craft powerboats, designs that somehow look both traditional and modern at the same time. For more information on these guitars, visit his site here.

Slobod has a healthy surplus of necks ready for future instruments.

Some of the forms that Slobod uses on his guitars, and his Fox side bender.

Looking down on his workspace from the upstairs loft.

Slobod with a Bourgeois guitar he keeps around the shop.

Honduran mahogany is standard on his guitars, but Slobod can employ a variety of tone woods. From curly “Beeswing” mahogany to cocobolo and Indian rosewood. On Indian rosewood, Slobod says, “It’s cheap, it’s quartersawn, it sands easily and they sound fantastic. I just sleep better at night building a guitar out of Indian rosewood.”

Gorgeous 42-style pearl inlay.

The devil is in the details and the back strip on this future Circa guitar certainly has details.

Doc Watson presides over the festivities.

Gotta love a guitar builder who still raids thrift stores for music. Slobod boasts a large and diverse LP collection.