Blues, jazz and rock ‘n’ roll is as American as the wild west cowboy. In fact, I see it all as a single continuum. Roots music, which has its origins in a buffet of American influences is never more than a few steps away from the Cowboy song.

In a similar fashion, my concept for the Hell’s Half Acre guitar isn’t overtly kitch. Rather than a literal interpretation, using only blatant western cues, I wanted to hint at the idea in a cool way.

The trail driver’s whip and lasso were as crucial as his pistol and rifle—maybe even more important. The twisted form of the rope and the braid of the whip reminded me of a half-herringbone purfling that I had lying around. Made of small parallelograms  of alternating maple and ebony, I thought it would look good against a dark chestnut or black figured maple. I made up a test block of maple on mahogany and sandwiched the “rope” between the maple and a strip of ivoroid cellulose.


The next step was to apply a dark brown stain. To avoid deep penetration on the purfling, it has been lacquered lightly.


After the stain has set, I used a small sharp to scrape the binding and purfling clean. Using my index finger as a guide I can vary the width of the scraped area by rotating the blade, being careful not to cut too deep.


Here’s what it looks like cleaned up. I think it evokes the idea without being too over the top. There’ll be plenty of other chances to do that on this build.


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Jol Dantzig is a guitar builder, designer, writer and filmmaker. He has worked for Gibson, Fender, Guild, Ovation, Gretsch, and was a founding partner of Hamer guitars—one of the first boutique custom guitar brands. Dantzig’s work has been played by hundreds of artists including Sting, Steve Stevens, Larry Coreyell, Dug Pinnick, Billy Gibbons, Keb Mo’, Nick Lowe, KK Downing, Glenn Tipton, John Abercrombie, Glen Campbell, Rick Nielsen, Kenny Vaughan, Lita Ford, James Honeyman Scott, Elliott Easton, Andy Summers, Peter Frampton, Martin Barre, Lyle Workman, Brad Gillis, George Harrison, Jeff Ament, Dweezil Zappa, Jeff Tweedy, Nancy Wilson—and many others.

7 thoughts on “Americanarama”

  1. Wow, that purfling is complex! Little pieces of wood cut up and lined up like that. Will you do the whole guitar with that stuff?

  2. It’s going to be a sweet guitar without a doubt. I would only point out that cowboys aren’t an American invention.

  3. @Moadib: Thanks, I’m looking forward to this one too. Your point is understood—from Spain, South America and most closely, Mexico. The cattle and horse herding Gauchos and Vaqueros preceded the Western American cowboy. But that’s another story…

  4. @Jol +1 internets to you my friend for your depth of cowboy knowledge. Well done. Can we expect to see a Latin America themed instrument anytime?

  5. Jol… in the past you have been against staining the wood directly. What made you change your mind? It looks amazing, don’t get me wrong… just wanted to know.

  6. @Jason: First, let me clarify this idea. I’ve never personally been against the idea of staining wood. Wood stains have been a part of fine woodworking for centuries and is a legitimate technique.
    There are certain trade-offs when figured woods are stained. Staining can improve contrast in the figure, but often can reduce the translucence and depth of the figure.
    Staining maple is a touchy endeavor, and it took some time to develop a technique that I feel represents the best of both qualities. Once that hurdle was passed, staining maple was brought to a new level. I feel my technique was worth the wait, and I’m happy to do it that way now. It wasn’t a matter of changing my opinion.
    While working at Hamer, a lot of policies and directions that were instituted were attributed to me because it was often my job to articulate them to customers and the press.

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