Just Got Michael Dunn #503 - The Double Whiskey

Michael Dunn is a Canadian builder who specializes in Selmer-style gypsy jazz guitars but who also makes archtops, resophonics, ukes, harp guitars and just about anything else. We spoke about a year ago about a design collaboration and the theme I came up with was to change the grain orientation of the top and use different shades of wood.

In keeping with Michael Dunn's habit of naming his instruments after Django Reinhardt tunes, I dubbed this design the "Double Whiskey."

Because I'm a graphic designer by trade, I also knew that I could get way too involved and art direct this into the ground. I chose instead to leave Michael Dunn with a sketch of the seed idea and then I left wood choices and design details entirely up to him.

It's nice to get a guitar in this or that type of wood, but there's also value in letting an artist do his work. Let a great builder choose their own favorite materials and you're likely to get their best-souding instrument.

After a week of overnight shipping courtesy of DHL, I opened the case and I have to say I'm thrilled with this instrument. It's a variation on his "Mystery Pacific" model with an internal resonator design that takes off where the original Selmer Macafferri guitars were. The pieces of the resonator "scoop" are alternating pieces of satinwood and ironwood.

Top is red cedar in two shades. The back is satinwood which I am unfamiliar with but it has a grain much like mahogany and a nice chatoyance that's not overpowering. There's also an ebony piece and the ninding switches from dark to light in contrast. The treble side is ebony and the bass side is half ironwood and half satinwood. Notice the screened soundport. The ironwood has an interesting appearance - mor elike a mineral or marble than wood. On the back are darts of ironwood, chakte-kuk and snakewood. The headstock and tailpiece are also ebony and ironwood.

Looking inside, the linings are also of red chakte-kuk. I keep discovering new details and subtle aspects of the design. Check out the heel cap as an example. Don't forget the fan frets. Back is double X-braced.

Django's personal Selmer was #503 and this one is Michael's 503rd guitar. I'm very very impressed with the workmanship and the sound and with Michael Dunn's aethetic tastes.

Selmer/Macafferi guitars, for the uninitiated, are surprisingly versatile, louder than most archtops and I'm not sure if it's the long scale or the special strings but they play like an electric. While they're primarily used for jazz and swing, you run no risk of being drowned out by a banjo and they're great fingerstyle guitars as well. This is a great design - somewhere between a flat-top and an archtop and often does not get the recognition it deserves as a great, historical guitar innovation.

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Dave Bricker


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