There are hundreds of things, from small and to not so small, that determine the playability and sonic characteristics of an acoustic guitar. Some - like the type of wood and body shape - are visible. Other's are hidden, the bracing inside the body or the way components are crafted, stored and graded for example.
For five years we've made ongoing incidental changes in the way we work. Each run of guitars has been better than the one before. This past year, 2015, the changes we put in place were huge. They touch almost every aspect of our work process. We think the results speak for themselves.
Good Bye Polyester
Having survived the 1970's without owning a leisure suit we thought we'd dodged the bullet of bad taste until, starting to make guitars, we ran into polyester all over again...this time as the first layer of the finish on the body.
Most factories love polyester as a base coat. It's thick, fills wood very well and dries quickly. But there are better ways to build up the finish of a fine guitar. You use only varnish, apply very thin layers, let each layer cure for a few days and sand between aplications.
Last summer we installed a negative pressure spray room and moved to an all polyurethene lacquer. Doing so adds pretty close to a week to the time it takes to craft a MacKenzie & Marr guitar. The resulting finish is thinner, letting the wood vibrate with less resistance. Vibrations .... good. Polyester.....bad.
Components Made In House
For most businesses corner cutting equals more profit. We think we've reversed that equation. For us the real profit is in sticking to a rigorous regime of only doing first class work with first class materials and (here's the clincher) selling the stuff we don't want to our competitors. The young lady in the photo is grading bracing we cut from raw Spruce. The pile on the table has no knots or imperfections and the grain is straight - MacKenzie & Marr quaity. The blue bin holds braces she's rejected and will be sold. Some very well know guitars are built with our rejects.
We Mill and Dry Our Own Wood
Until this year we we, like almost every other guitar maker on the planet, relied on outside suppliers for pre-milled book-matched tops. Two years ago we began planning to mill our own. We've been drying spruce and cedar under controlled humidity and now we're cutting the resulting wood. We select only the best of our quarter sawn pairs for MacKenzie & Marr guitars. The rest we sell to other factories.
Hand-Set Dovetail Neck to Body Joint
There may be a valid argument (apart from the obvious cost saving) for bolting a neck onto an acoustic guitar but we're not interested in hearing it. We've used hand-set tapered dovetail joints to mate the body and neck of every guitar we've produced and will continue to do so.
Laser Cut Top, Back and Side Pieces
Traditionally a bandsaw is used to cut the curved shapes of the solid wood body pieces. No matter how sharp the blade there's a resuting rough edge. We now cut all body parts by laser for an absolutely smooth edge. It's a small thing but, like all the other "small" things we do in the workshop it goes a long way toward creating a world class instrument.
Contoured Neck Block
The neck block, the piece of wood that sits inside the guitar abuting the (duh!) neck, is often overlooked as nothing more than a structural necessity. It is also an intrgral component of the "voice" of each guitar. Starting with the 5th Anniversary Tofino all MacKenzie & Marr guitars incorporate a new block designed with a flared, rounded-corner top piece. The elimination of right angled "abrupt" corners recovers requencies that would normally fall off before producing sound.
Lightweight Spruce Bracing
We cut and shape our own bracing from select Spruce fitches that have been drying for two years. The braces then return to the dry room for an additional two months before being graded. Only straight grain light weight braces move on the become part of a MacKenzie & Marr guitar. The rejects are sold to other brands.