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JohnMarr's blog

Delivering Guitars in Uncertain Times

The coronavirus that appeared four months ago has arrived in North America with a vengeance.
At MacKenzie & Marr Guitars we want to let you know some of the things we're doing to ensure the continued safety of our customers.

Here's what we're doing:

Only one person works in our loft at a time. We usually work as a team but for the duration of the danger, we'll stay away from each other.

The option of picking up your guitar in person is temporarily not available.
We've suspended customer visits to our loft.

We've also suspended all shipments of replacement tuning buttons, bridge pins etc. Sending them requires a trip to the post office which violates our self-quarantine and social distancing. We apologize to those waiting for parts.

Guitar orders - including pre-orders of Tofino X - are on track and will ship on time. We have instituted a two-day delay between packing a newly set up a new guitar and shipping it. It's highly unlikely, that, if present,  the virus could have survived on guitars or cases during the voyage from the workshop to our loft or, from there, on the trip to a new owner's home, but the addition of a couple of days rest seems to be prudent.

We're extending the 7 day "Love It Or Leave It" money back guarantee by three days which will allow new owners to leave the carton closed for a day or two if they so choose, and still have a week to fall in love with the guitar.

Perorders of Tofino X won't be affected. The May production has been completed and will arrive in our Montreal warehouse on time. We'll have enough stock to cover all existing pre-orders and a few extras for additional orders.

It's too early to say what delays we'll experience with The Ian Tyson Inspiration, a potential new Tom Rush guitar and other fall deliveries. Testing and quarantine of artisans in our workshop have been in place since early January. I'm pleased to say that theses measures have all but eliminated the spread of the virus among our workers and their families. Our hope is that our suppliers of materials - wood, bone tuning machines etc - will have similar success and resume deliveries soon.

In short - we will take every step possible to ensure the safe delivery of guitars to our customers. We may believe that some of the things we now do are overkill but we also believe that's not our call to make. We will listen to the medical experts and rigorously follow their advice.

Spotting a Great Guitar Purchase

AAA Cedar top, high ration tuning machines

A great guitar is the sum of its parts plus the skill and care in assembling them. Too often, a guitarist buys a new guitar without asking the right questions about those parts.

Here are some things we suggest you should look for:

AAA grade (or better) solid wood:

It's not enough to know your new guitar is made with solid wood vs laminated (read plywood) wood. You should also ask what grade of wood was used in the construction. Top wood book-matched pairs are graded from B to A, AA, AAA and Masterclass.  The difference in sonic character between the different grades is significant. So is the price. When a brand you're considering won't, or can't tell you the grade of wood they used, assume the worst.

Dovetail Neck to Body Joint:

A dovetail neck-to-body joint is difficult to do. The skill and time involved often raise the price of a guitar. But that dovetail is critical in constructing a cohesive stringed musical instrument. Everything from weight distribution to sonic voicing relies on that one small joint. Less expensive guitars and/or guitars produced in highly automated factories where bolt-on necks are the norm rarely rise to the same standard.

Genuine Bone Nuts and Saddles:

If the guitar you're considering has a plastic nut or plastic saddle, treat yourself to an inexpensive upgrade with parts made from actual bone. The difference in sound will surprise you. Tusq and Nubone from Graphtec will produce similar results.

Wood or Bone Bridgepins:

The jury's out here. We use Rosewood, Ebony or bone, but we suspect conventional plastic would be fine.

High Ratio Tuning Machines:

Most guitars come with standard 14:1 ratio tuning machines. Really good guitars are equipped with 18:1 or 20:1 tuners, not just because they allow incredibly fine-tuning of each string but also because the machining needed to produce them must be more precise. They're simply better quality tuning machines.

 

Watching the Dragons Den episode from the United States

The blindfold guitar test

Our 2010 appearance on the CBC program Dragons Den is famous in Canada. It was one of the most popular episodes of the year.

We taped it in May of the previous year. When it aired on January 13, we were swamped with orders. Within 18 hours, we were sold out of Tofino. It would be another two years before our limited production could meet demand.

But, copyright restrictions prevented streaming Dragons Den outside Canada, so we remained relatively unknown south of the border. Let's change that. There are two options for American visitors who want to view two old guys changing the guitar business forever.

  1. If you have a VPN (a virtual private network) open it and select a server in Canada. Then simply enter the following web address into your browser:
    https://www.cbc.ca/dragonsden/m_pitches/mackenzie-marr-guitars
  2. If you don't use a VPN, or, don't have any idea what a VPN is there's another solution.
     Copy the URL,"https://www.cbc.ca/dragonsden/m_pitches/mackenzie-marr-guitars" (don't copy the quotes)
    Go to the following web site
    https://www.4everproxy.com
    Past the URL you copied in step one into the web site box.
    Select "Canada (Quebec)" from the drop down server list

Number two is a bit of a pain, but it works.

PLEASE NOTE. Sites that offer Virtual private servers such as 4everproxy generate their revenue from ads. Those ads are not always family-friendly.

You can order Tofino in our online store. Visit the Tofino page to learn more.

 

We'd Like to Give You a Copy of The Lost Tapes

Ian & Sylvia - the Lost Tapes

Courtesy of True North Records and Stoney Plain Records, we're giving away a copy of the new Ian & Sylvia record to everyone who purchases the new Ian Tyson Inspiration acoustic guitar.

Once we ship your new guitar we'll follow up with a coupon for a free copy of the disk.

Choose between:

  • CD
  • Vinyl LP (very limited quantities)
  • FLAC (High bit rate download)

N.B. The choice of the physical media - CD and Vinyl LP - will incur a nominal shipping charge.

We Now Ship to Europe

MacKenzie & Marr ships guitars to Europe
Musicians in Europe (that still includes Britain, doesn't it?) have been writing for years asking if they can buy MacKenzie & Marr guitars from us. Until today we've sadly had to say no. That's changed. Thanks to reduced shipping rates from our carrier and our newly discovered ability to fill out government export documents without wanting to commit murder, we now ship to most countries in Europe. We can't offer the seven day "no-hassle money-back guarantee" or the return for repair or replacement lifetime warranty but given the almost non-existence of problems on this side of the Atlantic in the last eight years, we're confident that's not an issue. Freight costs to most European countries are $300 CAD. We're working to lower that by a bit. Stay tuned.

You're not a Tom Rush Fan? We'll change that!

Tom put together a CD of some of his live shows a few years ago. We have a few copies and we'd love to give you one. All you need to do is send us a stamped self addressed CD mailer. CD mailers are available at most stationary stores. Please use our Canadian address. You'll find it on our contact page.

Fingerboards made with FSC certified Blackwood Tek

Blackwood Tek fingerboard on MacKenzie & Marr guitars

We're a small company. Our impact on the world, including our environmental footprint, is proportional to our size. But using that as an excuse not to do what we can would be a cop-out so every year we use the advent of Earth Day as an opportunity to do an internal audit of our business practices. As a result we've made changes in a lot of little things. Some things, how we pack guitars for example (we use end-cuts of ply-foam from a consumer packaging that would have gone straight to the landfill) extend the life of necessary consumables. Other things such as what we do with wood we rejected for quality reasons (we sell it to our competitors) actually reduce our costs. But nothing until now warranted talking about on Earth Day.

This year is a bit different. In addition to our internal examination of ways to improve we want to publicly announce a really big deal.

Rosewood and Ebony forests are threatened around the world. The guitar industry's need for significant quantities of both woods attracts, not only legitimate suppliers who practice sustainable forestry management, but also less-than-reputable loggers and vendors. Despite efforts by responsible companies (pretty much every brand, ourselves and our wood broker included) it is difficult to distinguish between the two. The global nature of the trade and the multiple layers involved murky the source.

Full logs - the source of our Rosewood back and sides- are not an issue. We know where they came from, who logged them, and every hand that touched them before ours. The big problem is the small stuff - specifically the blanks used to mill bridges and fingerboards - that's impossible to trace.

Two years ago we met Branko Hermescec, almost the epitome of the classic "mad scientist". He had developed an environmentally friendly way to modify New Zealand pine. He claimed products made with his process would be as hard, smooth and durable as Ebony, hence the name Blackwood. We were intrigued but initially sceptical. After two years of testing were happy to say his claims are completely justified.

Starting with our newest guitar we're eliminating all use of endangered woods for fingerboards and bridges. The Gratitude Canada 150 will feature KiwiWood fingerboards and bridges using FSC certified Blackwood Tek.

The Gratitude Canada 150 Guitar

Sitka Spruce and Mahogany acoustic guitar

On July 1 2017 Canada turns 150 years old. We're celebrating the birthday with a very special guitar incorporating the official Canada 150 logo. We call it Gratitude Canada150. With the official stylized Maple leaf logo on the headstock, and a 12th fret inlay of "Canada 150" the guitar pays tribute to the first century and half of our country's evolution. When we set out to create a new guitar to celebrate the 150th anniversary we gave ourselves two chalenges: 

The choice of materials had to be representative of Canada - and combined in such a way as to be visually stunning, 

The guitar had to rise above anything we'd done before - both in playability and sonic character.

The top wood is Canadian West Coast Sitka Spruce. The binding on the fretboard and body is Canadian Maple and the headstock itself is faced with rich flame Maple. As with all MacKenzie & Marr guitars the woods used are hand selected for each instrument using nothing but premium AAA quality. The body of Gratitude Canada 150 is an update of the often-praised Alberta body we introduced with the Ian Tyson Limited Edition in 2010. We kept the overall width and height unchanged but added  a bit of depth to the lower bout to heighten the bass range response of the spruce top. To learn how you can secure one of the limited edition of 48 guitars visit the Gratitude Canada order page and place your order now.

Guitars Make Great Gifts

This time of year it seems that Santa Claus works in our shipping department. We're constantly surprised by the number of generous spouses, parents, children etc who order MacKenzie & Marr guitars as Christmas presents. Here's what you need to know about buying one of our guitars to put under the tree:

  • We extend our 7 day "Love it or Leave It" no questions asked return policy until the end of the first week of the New Year for all guitars being given as gifts. Make sure you mark "Christmas gift" or "Holiday gift" in the comments field of the order form, or (as always) call us at (514)833-8352.
  • In order to insure your guitar arrives in time for the Holidays we recommend ordering as early as possible.
  • If you would like to order early but have us hold you guitar in our humidified warehouse let us know. We'll make sure we ship it so it arrives in time to go under the tree.

Calculating the Relative Humidity In Your Home

Comparing indoor and outdoor relative humidity readings for the same location

Here's how we check the approximate relative humidity in our loft. To begin with, we need the current outdoor temperature and the current dew point, which we get from any number of weather sites. In this example, they are 0 and -6, respectively. We load the calculator (http://andrew.rsmas.miami.edu/bmcnoldy/Humidity.html), plug those numbers into the appropriate boxes and hit the "Calculate" button. Hopefully, the resulting RH (relative humidity) will be close to the same as shown on the weather page we visited earlier.

Next, we clear the RH field, replace the temperature field with our current indoor temperature and calculate again. In this example, with no additional humidification, the indoor RH would be a staggering 50% less.  In all honesty, we rarely do any of those calculations for our location. We have a bunch of calibrated hygrometers scattered around the loft and one or two full room humidifiers running from late September until well into May. We make sure we're at least 40% RH, (preferably 45-50%) but it's good to know just how much of an uphill fight it is to maintain comfortable and safe humidity. Try it for your home. 

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An Important Note Regarding Porch Pirates

When we ship a guitar we always send it with instructions to the courier that a signature MUST be obtained at the time of delivery. If no one is home to sign for the carton, it will not be left. We do this to ensure that your guitar does not fall into the hands of porch pirates (or other nefarious characters such as bass players or drummers).

Fall In Love In Less Than a Week

Try any of our guitars in the comfort of your own home. If you don't fall head over heels in love within a week we'll arrange to take it back and issue a full refund (including shipping).

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