"Féileacán Iúr"

June/July 2011: Keith, Somerset



Having completed the handover Féileacán Iúr makes itself at home in Keith's garden:



Here's Keith's first recording of "Sally Gardens/Star of County Down" in standard tuning Capoed at the 7th fret. Next is Keith's arrangement of Jay Ungar's "Ashokan Farewell" in standard tuning followed by a tune Keith has written for me for me in DADGAD, Capo 2 called "Butterfly F.I." Next what was originally a song written by Keith 25 years ago, re-recorded minus words, as a double tracked instrumental with strummed backing (thin nylon pick) and melody (mostly fingernail rest strokes) called "Megan". Now for some videos - first "Dream a Little Dream of Me":




Next one of Keith's tunes called "Madly Hopping" in dropped D tuning:



Finally, here's Keith's arrangement of Shetland fiddler Tom Anderson's "Da Slockit Light":



Appearance and Construction: This is a small (345mm lower bout), 630mm scale, 12 fret to the body slot head guitar. It fits snugly into its supplied Hiscox Pro II small classical case. The shape has a pronounced waist and fairly angular shoulders to the proportionately quite large upper bout. Dave also supplied a microfiber cloth for cleaning the guitar, a build log CD of photographs and a very detailed specification booklet listing not only comprehensive dimensions, but all the different woods used for various parts of the guitar. The white spruce top and the yew back and sides are matched with some very attractive bindings and purflings to give an overall Werthers and Cream colour scheme. Although I'm not usually a big fan of the visual aspect of very light coloured tops, the overall appearance is actually very appealing. A yew rosette is a pleasant contrast to the stark white top. The yew back and sides are a delight to view, and are well shown off in their thin lacquer finish. Dave's end cap treatment, continuing the binding/purfling from the sides, and the grain colour and pattern from the back is very good looking indeed. There is an egg-shaped soundport, through which the neat internal construction, including carbon fibre stabilising rods can be well seen. The rosewood bridge has a simple rectangular outline with some very elegant curves in all directions from its thin edges to the thicker areas for the unslotted rosewood pins and the twin bone saddles. The saddles are higher than you might expect and are well intonated and nicely rounded off at the ends for hand comfort. The sycamore neck and stacked heel show some interesting graining. My memory may be at fault, but I have the impression that the heel on this guitar is a little less bulky than that of Samhain the Traveller. Oil finish has been used here. The adjustable truss rod is accessed via the soundhole. The neck is bolted on, with no glueing underneath the fingerboard, allowing for very quick and simple disassembly should it become necessary. The ebony fingerboard is pleasingly bereft of fret markers on its face, and has yew binding as well as some attractive b/w/b purfling to its sides, plus side dot markers. There are18 well-finished stainless steel frets and a bone nut of 45mm width across the fingerboard. The slotted headstock has a yew veneer front and back, with more attractive detailing in b/w/b around its edges, and around the insides of the string cutouts giving an extremely attractive appearance, to my eyes at any rate. I found it impossible wind the top E string in such a way as to avoid running over the headstock wood, and when I managed to minimise this, the string was leaving the nut at quite an alarming angle. The lower E had a similar problem, though to a lesser extent. It's only fair to say that this didn't seem to cause any tuning difficulties, and is not uncommon in slot heads. Some grooving of the wood may develop over time though. The individual open-geared machine heads suited the guitar, and worked well - the wooden buttons felt nice in use too. Very close inspection showed some small tooling marks here and there and an occasional iffy bit in the top binding. The spruce edge around the rosette wasn't entirely perfect in places and the soundhole/ reinforcing piece edges could have been smoother. Minor criticisms, possibly related to the short and pressured build timescale, and nothing I'd get overly upset about I don't think.


Playability and feel: With no strap buttons fitted, I only played sitting down, when the small body felt light and comfortable on either leg or in the "classical" position. The soundport was ideally placed to enrich the sound to the player. The 12 fret neck meant everything was close at hand with no left arm stretching to reach first position. The oil-finished neck felt a little sticky to me - hot weather and hot hands didn't help, I'm sure, but, as with Samhain, I'd have preferred a lacquer finish here. There was also an area of slight roughness on the back of the neck, roughly centrally in the area beneath frets 1 to 3, which in view of the oil finish, could be quickly and easily fixed. The nut had nice rounded off edges. Fret ends were well shaped and finished - very comfortable with no sharp edges, and the 45 mm nut with sensible string spacing allowed easy fingering with no unwanted "falling off the edge". Spacing here is one of the things that I'm very fussy about as I get too many adjacent string on thumbnail noises if the spacing isn't great enough. Here, it was just right for me. The top binding could have done with being rounded off slightly - I found it very uncomfortable to my bare forearm, though not when playing in a "proper" position, only when slouching in a comfy chair - something this cuddly little guitar encourages! No, I wouldn't want a forearm bevel, just a bit of sanding around the edge! The high saddles were comfortable to rest on, when necessary, thanks to the rounded off corners at the outer extremities. String spacing here, which I didn't measure exactly, is generous, and maybe a little wider than my Fylde I would guess. Some people are very particular about string spacing at the saddle, but I am a lot less fussy at this end than the nut end. With minimal neck relief, 12th fret action was a little over 2mm bass E and 2mm treble E, which is a good starting point for experimentation, and pretty much how I like it, and I found the guitar easy and comfortable to play in any position on the neck. I'm sure a lower action could easily be achieved if required. After a day or two, not surprisingly, movements and settling resulted in a large increase in neck relief. Dave promptly posted me a 9/64 Allen key which enabled me to reduce the relief again. At this stage I also deepened the nut slots a bit more to gain an even slicker first fret action. Some material could now be usefully removed from the top of the nut, though I never quite got around to that.


Sound: First reaction was to wonder where all the sound was coming from - plenty of volume and dynamic range; very sustaining; balanced sound with remarkably full bass for such a small guitar; fast attack; plenty of tonal variation with technique; warmth, tone, balance and volume well-maintained right up the neck. Hard to believe this guitar had only just been strung up when I collected it. The guitar always feels very "alive" and responds to the lightest touch. The unwound strings even have a degree of sweetness already, which I'm sure will increase over time. Even during my week with it I felt this was happening. It was very noticeable that it became much easier to obtain natural harmonics after a few days - at first the 5th and 7th fret harmonics were a bit muted, but they very soon blossomed considerably Fingerstyle is obviously what this guitar is designed for - and it is a joy to play in this way. Intricate passages work well and intonation was excellent everywhere too - even combinations of high fretted bass strings with open high strings sounded good. Pleasant gentle strumming sounds could also be easily had too. I had to try DADGAD, being Dave's favourite tuning, though not mine! It was a rewarding experience though - lovely sympathetic resonances and no problem with looseness in the lowered strings. I might be persuaded to use that tuning more if I had one of these little wonders lying around tuned and ready to go! High capo positions were a pleasure to play in - the trebles sounded very sweet here, and the chiming sustaining sound remained balanced, toneful and tuneful. No tuning adjustments necessary wherever I placed my Planet Waves NS capo. I am very much a convert to soundports as there is a perceptible enriching of tone to the player, plus some extra volume, as a result. I never got around to putting my usual Newtone Masterclass PB 12-54 strings. It seemed a shame to remove the original Daddarios, which held up well throughout my intensive weeks playing and still sounded good, though a little duller . I put a fresh set of the supplied Dadds on for Paul to save him time as he wasn't collecting the guitar until after the theoretical changeover weekend. The new strings did sound a lot sproingier - very nice indeed.


To conclude: Another lovely guitar from Dave! Like the original Traveller, it has a characterful tone (with maybe a touch more warmth ) ideally suited to fingerstyle playing, where it's sustain and responsiveness allow a wide range of dynamics and tones to be produced with little effort. The balanced sound allows multi-part pieces to come across clearly and musically. The small size and freely vibrating nature of this guitar made it a very engaging and often surprising (in a good way) instrument to play. I'm looking forward very much to my time with the sapele version, which had a slightly sweeter, syrupier tone I seem to remember - and, should one ever materialise, I'd love to try a cedar topped version. Huge thanks must go once again to Dave, of course, for instigating and organising this Double Road Trip, for making such great guitars, and for entrusting them to our tender care, especially so fresh from the workbench. I hope our experiences of these guitars will be as helpful to you, Dave, as they are pleasurable to us. Keith.


July 2011: Paul, Dorset.



Paul recorded a number of songs that can be found here on his Soundclick page.


Sight and feel: It is interesting and different. The paleness of the top contrasts with the yew rather well. Dave's construction is unusual with the carbon fibre rods and you can see that very well through the soundport. I find the guitar quite comfortable to hold. I need to lift my right leg a bit because the body is quite tiny, but my left foot makes a convenient footstool, or I just cross my right leg over my left. The neck seems to have a comfortable profile for me, but I do find the oil finish sticky. I did on the Traveller as well, but a bit of buffing with the microfibre cloth seemed to get rid of that. I struggled with the Butterfly in this respect. There is a little flat bit at the very far end of the neck that I kept running into (I don't play the dusty end much so I was running into it quite a lot). I like the slotted headstock. I found the narrowness appealing. I didn't change the strings (Keith had kindly done it for me just before I picked it up), but the tuners seemed to work well. I quite liked the simplicity of design, and the lining between the woods. I didn't particularly like the veneer on the back of the headstock. I thought the pattern of the yew continuing on the heel cap was a nice touch.


Playability: I struggled a bit to get clarity when I was playing. I put that down to poor technique, because I note that neither Keith nor Rob have the same problem I use a guitar primarily for singing accompaniment and I tried fingerpicking (good) flat picking (not as good) and strumming (not very good at all). But that's ok, guitars aren't very often all rounders. It does respond quite well to changes in picking weight, so it's possible to vary the tone easily and the concomitant of that is that mistakes and flubs (and I make loads of those) ring out with a clarity I falied to obtain from my ordinary playing. I've recorded several songs, and they are on Soundclick. I Recorded them quickly and without much finesse, as you can tell when you listen to them.


Sound: I really struggled to get good sound out of this little guitar. The guitar seems to sustain well, but does seem to favour bass notes. There's not the zingyness (technical term there) that I recall from the Traveller. If bass outweighing trebles is what you want then you'd like it, but it's the reason I don't buy dreadnoughts any more. My technique is very lacking, and I don't really know what makes guitars good, bad or indifferent, so I can't really say what needs to happen before the guitar gets the sound I'm looking for. I know that's not helpful, and I feel woefully inadequate for saying it this way, but I can't help it. At Keith's suggestion, I tried capo at 3, 5 and 7, and I could see why Keith suggested it. The balance did seem to improve with the capo on. The trebles got a little nicer. I believe the sound will change (open up) with use, and so I'm sure that nearer the end of the circuit it should sound better, but (lack of knowledge again) I don't know what those changes will entail.


Summary: As always, I'm very grateful to Dave for allowing me to be a part of this road trip, and I am saddened that I cannot get the best out of this little guitar but I can't. It is an attractive little thing. Cuddly and pretty, sits nicely in your lap. I do like the soundport but I just can't make it sound good. Paul.


July 2011: Rob, Southampton.



Safely handed over and at home with Rob's Brook guitars:



The first video - Martin Taylor's "True" in standard tuning:



Then a lute piece called "Ciaccona" by Sylvius Leopold Weiss, again in standard tuning:


Next, "I Don't Want to Spoil the Party" and "Penny Lane" in standard tuning:




The thing to bear in mind with this little instrument is that Dave constructed this, and its sister guitar, as an experiment in tone woods. Build two identically sized guitars but use different tone woods. I have played a couple of guitars before with yew as a tonewood, and in fact I own a very nice yew instrument. Having never played an all mahogany instrument, I am very keen to get my hands on the sapele version. My experience with yew is that is can produce a very bassy sounding instrument with plenty of clarity and sustain, though of course this could also be due to other factors as well, such as body size and scale length. The only way to truly asses the impact of a tonewood on a guitar is to carry out the experiment that Dave is bravely doing in this project. The only other yew guitar I have ever tried is a Brook Torridge that I was lucky enough to play down in their workshop and its eventual temporary 'home' in Ivor Mairants. Having played a number of Torridges I can safely say that yew is a brilliant tone wood. Let me come right out and declare, as I have done on previous posts, that this is not the type of guitar that I would choose. I was very much open to be persuaded otherwise, but I find parlors of this size generally a little uncomfortable. Having said that I have approached this review with a very open mind and with as much objectivity as I can possibly muster. I will not be commenting on any cosmetic issues that do not directly impact on the sound or playability of the guitar. We all know that Dave set himself a very ambitious target to get these two guitars finished on time, and I think it goes without saying that if you were to commission a guitar from Dave it would not leave his workshop in ANY condition other than perfect.


Playability: This guitar is small, and for me personally, uncomfortably so. I have struggled throughout with its diminutive size. It is not just this guitar- I have played very small guitars by other makers that I would equally pass by in my pursuit of an instrument. However, its comfort was not helped by its sharp binding, which I found tended to dig in to my right form arm, and my right leg. I did not try playing it in the classical position, which may well have proved more comfortable. Neck width was fine, though personally I found its girth to be slightly too big. But, necks are very easy to get used to, so I wouldn't worry about this unduly. What was odd though is that I struggled with certain capos- my victor and shubb capos both refused to lock on properly, causing them to be skewed somewhat. I had more success with my G7. I would prefer a smoother satin feel without the oil finish, as it can get very sticky.The headstock size and shape is growing on me- it was with trepidation that I changed the strings on the first day, though in the end it wasn't as cramped as I thought it was going to be. What is concerning though is the E string (1st) that is currently digging into the headstock. It is easy to see why many other slotted headstocks flair out a little and are wider than the neck. If this was my 'baby' I would be very concerned at this, though I'm not sure how easy it would be to correct. The action was brilliant- very easy to play, no issues there at all. Dave certainly knows how to set an instrument up to play effortlessly. The second string displayed a sitar like sound throughout the review that I was never able to sort out. It was even worse when tuned down to A in Dadgad. I found it almost impossible to get the guitar totally in tune with itself in this tuning, despite using my usual tried and trusted tuning method. I think the short scale didn't help with this tuning either- it felt a little floppy, but bear in mind I play in dadgad a lot with a 650mm guitar and with medium strings on the downtuned strings.


Presentation and design: It was noticable that this little guitar did not suffer the 'boxy' sound that some parlors exhibit. I believe the side port is partly responsible for that, allowing the player to get a a very nice representation of what the audience is hearing. It certainly is a very beautiful looking guitar, very lovely lines to the body shape, and some beautiful touches to the bindings and perflings. The headstock is particularly beautiful with its multicoloured layers of woods, and its yew backplate. The tuners are very smooth in operation and suit this guitar very well.


Tone: I have struggled with the 2nd string this week, which has somewhat coloured my perception of the instruments tone. However, looking beyond that I would say the tone is very very lively, but somewhat lacking mids. Bass and treble are there in abundance, but it is almost as if the sound man has dialled out all the mids from the tone that give it body. It may just be that this particular combination of woods doesn't suit. If the white spruce top is a little like adirondack (as Dave has hinted) then indeed, this guitar may require a little longer to bed in and mature. Personally if I were to have a guitar this small made for me with a yew back and sides, I would be inclined to pair it with cedar or engelman spruce, just to soften the edges of the sound a little. In fact, a cedar/ yew combination would, I'm willing to bet, give a tone that is on a whole new level of sophistication.


I am so desperately sorry at not being able to be more enthusiastic about this little lass. She is certainly a looker! I am also rather embarrassed by my lame attempts at making some videos this week. I have enjoyed having her round to stay and hope that she continues to make glorious music for many more years to come. Robbie


August 2011: Mark, Dumfries & Galloway.


First, two of Mark's arrangements in DADGAD - the slipjig "The Butterfly" and "One to One":




Then two of Mark's compositions "Geese on the Merse" and "The Grey Man (of the Merrick" again in DADGAD:




Finally Mark's composition in DADGAD:



Looks/ Aesthetics/ Fit and Finish: I was very taken by the body shape of this little guitar, it looks lovely, and tied in with a slotted headstock, has quite a "classic" rather than "contemporary" look to it. In terms of woods/materials, the wood choices were interesting, this being the first time I had laid hands on a guitar utilising both Yew and White Spruce. These woods in combination with the Sycamore bindings, neck etc give it an overall light hued appearance, which was quite subtle. I have yet to come to a definitive opinion as to whether I like Yew from a visual perspective, it looked a bit bland at first, though it was lifted by the inclusion of the sapwood. I'm admittedly used to guitars with more of a contrast, i.e. darker b/s, so it's more than likely a familiarity thing I like the heel shape on this guitar better than the one on ST, as well as the matching yew heel cap, and in general thought the neck was very well done. On first look it may seem unusual that the body and finish not finished contiguously but then the bolted on neck build philosophy lends itself to this, and makes for easy neck adjustments/repairs if needed, so is not something that is a concern for me Talking of finish, I personally like the "semi gloss" finish on Dave's guitars, I find it very practical in that I don't need to overly obsess about maintaining a "high gloss" finish when playing an instrument a lot over an extended period of time. Opinions will vary on this, we each have a preference when it comes to finishing which is fine, this is just my own personal feeling on the matter. In terms of negatives, the headstock bass string slot was routed slightly in the wrong position, you don't necessarily notice straight away, but look closer and you will see, and this has subsequently resulted in one "bar" of the slotted headstock not quite being wide enough to accommodate the tuner screws, the consequence of which is noticeable when you look inside the slots, something which I'm sure was a disappointment for Dave. Two other minor niggles were I didn't like the size/shape of the butt wedge, it seemed too wide, and would have looked better as a trapezoidal IMO, and secondly the purfling is slightly "furry" in places under the finish, I'm not sure why, regardless, as I said very minor issues for me.


Playability / Ergonomics: This guitar is wonderfully set up and played superbly well in terms of action, feel of the neck etc etc. I have to admit to struggling not to overdrive the strings, being used to 650mm scale length guitars, the reduced tension is noticeable, and I had to be careful, as a result of my overly heavy touch at times. You can hear me struggle bit with this aspect in some of the first batch of tunes I recorded, the later batch were played more lightly, and to be fair it reacted really, really well to a light touch. If I had this guitar for a longer period, I would have experimented with heavier strings, and maybe tweak the action to compensate for the string guage increase and see how it reacted. The body size could have been an issue, I'm a big guy in height and girth, but luckily I had procured a "neckup", which really makes a huge difference in getting small guitars like this into a comfortable playing position, without needing to resort to hunching over it. A final word on the neck, I loved it! Really liked the shape, and found it very comfortable for moving up and down the fretboard, the shorter scale length seemed to help in the playability stakes too, multi fret stretches were certainly less of an issue for me.


Sound: Finally, the most important aspect, how it sounds. Listening to both this and the Samhain guitar side by side, I think you can tell they have been crafted by the same builder, there are elements of a signature sound, in terms of how the trebles sound, the responsiveness and the sustain. The biggest difference between the two is the bass / low-mids, exactly how much of that is attributable to the smaller body size, how much is related to the materials, and also the top needing to fully come to terms with being a guitar is not one I could answer, but I suspect they all factor into the equation. Keith, I think used the term "spriong" and I think it's a great descriptor for how it sounds, it leaps out at you and slaps you in the face, there is an immediacy there which is quite engaging, but I have to admit to wanting some depth and warmth to the lower end which wasn't there. To go with some flowery language I think if Samhain is an oil painting, then this Butterfly is more like a watercolour, it can be an expressive medium in its own right, but without the depth and richness of colour an oil painting has. I think it would be perfect in recording situations where you have to slot the guitar into an already busy frequency range, or in an ensemble, and there will be people who are enchanted with its sound as an intimate solo instrument, but my preference is for something which has a bit more substance in the bottom end. I've thoroughly enjoyed my time with it, its always interesting to move out of your comfort zone, which I did with this in terms of body size and materials, it certainly asked questions of my adaptability as a player, which is something I can take on board and work on, as well as confirming that Dave knows what he is about when it comes to playability and sound. Looking forward to trying the Sapele version now!


August/September 2011: Martin, Hamilton



Martin has recorded a number of songs: "Blues Run the Game", "Can't Help But Wonder", "Darkest Hour", "Good Riddance", "Half of the World Away", "National Seven", "Norwegian Wood", "Strollin Down the Highway", "The Way it Goes" and "4 and 20". Here's a video of Martin demonstrating the guitar:




"I very much enjoyed my time with this guitar, and although I won't do a review as such, I'll summarise my thoughts here.


First of all, I really like the look of this guitar. The woods are striking and beautiful, and I was taken with the subtle contrast of colours between top and sides, and thought the binding and purfling was done very nicely, helping make the lines, shape and colours of the instrument very pleasing to the eye. I also loved the smell - yes, I'm a soundhole sniffer, and in this case I wasn't disappointed - lovely fresh woody scents abounded. Instantly sitting down with FI, I was amazed at the lightness of the body - the back in particular seems to be very lightly built, and at times I was a little tentative about how I held or even lifted the guitar as it seemed extremely delicate, which it probably isn't. When playing it felt very comfortable to hold indeed - I loved the small body size, perfect for couch-noodling, and I was happy with the balance of the neck/body in my lap. The headstock design is sleek and beautiful, and the shape of the body is very distinctively Dave's, perhaps a signature look?


In playing it, again I was struck by the ease of access to the strings with both hands, and how well it sat in my lap. The neck is a gloriously smooth chunk of loveliness, which belied it's nut width, and felt very snug in my smallish hands. The sound was quite impressive too, in particular the bass notes, which surprised me in how strong, deep and resonant they were - how much of this is due to the sideport I'm not sure, but I liked it. I hate using the word 'boxy' as I'm not altogether sure what it means in terms of an individual's perception of a sound, but in this case, when strummed, I'd say the guitar sounded a bit tight and....'boxy' Sorry... However, when plucked as it is supposed to be, it sounds great, with nice trebles cutting through that pounding bass.


I'm not going to bother talking about fine cosmetic details as that's not what this guitar is about, as it was built in a restricted time frame as an experiment, but nevertheless, ignoring petty flaws, this is still a remarkable looking instrument, and one I'd be happy to own.


Thanks for the trial, Dave - I liked it, but now can't wait to try the sapele version.


September 2011: Andy, Aberdeen




For me playing guitar is an introspective thing that I do for my own enjoyment. I love being in the house alone or when everybody else is in bed and just playing for my own enjoyment. If anybody else is listening (including a microphone) I enjoy the experience that bit less. So, with that in mind, I decided not to try and produce any "performance pieces". Instead I just stuck the zoom H1 in front of the guitar, tried to forget it was there, and just played about for a few minutes. I've edited out a few gaps and a couple of false starts but this is basically just one take of me trying to act naturally. Various work and family commitments mean that this may be all I can manage in the way of a recording, which is probably a blessing. "Andy's Noodling"


September-October 2011: Leo, Lancashire, Lynn Boston, Jonathan, Driffield


October 2011: Joe, London


Here's Joe playing some tunes in DGDDAE tuning. The tunes are The Piper's Weird, Jim Ward's Jig and The Blarney Pilgrim:



Sound: The guitar was couriered to me so had the strings slackened for transport, and when I restrung with fresh strings I found a buzzing noise on the D-string which made it unplayable without a capo. This seemed to be a nut issue, or fretting issue close to the nut, exposed by a too-flat neck - an easily fixed problem and indeed the problem disappeared once Dave had educated me in trussrod adjustment. I think the guitar still needed to acclimatise a bit more as it was another day or so before I started to hear the sort of volume, sustain and definition I remembered from the first time I had seen FI (it was there when I went to pick up FT from Dave's house at the beginning of this road trip project) - it has plenty now! I'm afraid though, that I have struggled a bit to find many sounds I wanted to hear more of - there have certainly been some, but they were few and far between. To my ears the trebles are quite spiky (and the bass maybe not quite spiky enough), which at times I found quite jarring (I have appreciated the soundport on previous De Faoite guitars, but on this one there were times when I wanted to stuff a sock in it!). Hopefully it just needs a bit more time, or maybe different strings, or maybe my trussrod adjustments, while necessary, were not sufficient, and it needs some of Dave's Magic Luthier Dust too. Anyway, to my ears, the sound needs to mellow.


Playability: I find this guitar shape very comfortable. The current string height is a consequence of my own efforts with the trussrod, and I'd probably try to lower the action a fraction again once the nut issue that is causing buzzing is fixed. There is a bit of play in the 6th string tuner button - the button spins an eighth of a turn before it starts turning the shaft. Faulty button? The flat-D neck profile at the nut end didn't quite suit me - I seem to remember having this problem with ST, though not FT (and Dave will probably tell me they're all identical so this is all in my head!); but for my hands it felt like the neck needed a few more thou's planed off the curved bit where my thumb sits when playing around first position. No real issues then - nothing that couldn't be fixed.


Looks: The woods are prettily presented - I've commented before on Dave's thoughtful aesthetics, and the way that grains, sapwood, and flames are combined on FI is a real feast. On the whole though, this is my least favourite of the De Faoite guitars I've seen - I'm not a fan of pale woods and this one hasn't converted me. It may or may not be important background information that I prefer Johnny-Cash-as-Man-In-Black to Elvis-in-a-White-Jumpsuit. And perhaps I am just conditioned into thinking that guitars need rosewood back and sides - the grain on the yew sides is not unattractive, but to my eyes it looks like rosewood that has been bleached. And finally, while I like the fact that the binding is a darker wood (including the fretboard - and I wish more luthiers took the trouble to shape the fretboard end to match the radius where it meets the soundhole), the colour of the binding is a bit too orange-y for my taste.


Conclusion: I did enjoy my few days with FI, I did find a few sounds that I liked and it's been another valuable exercise in terms of thinking about my own pre-conceptions of guitar sounds and aesthetics. Plus, I learned how to adjust a trussrod! But I afraid, sonically and visually, it just didn't appeal to me.


October 2011: Mel, London



This is the third guitar of Dave's I've tried and definitely my least favourite. That's not to say it's a bad guitar, just not really to my taste. My first impressions were that it looked pleasing to the eye and was a great size. I've already had the sapele version so I knew what I was getting in terms of the shape. I actually found the yew version more comfortable to play but I suspect that's just because I'd gotten used to the size when I had the other guitar. I quite liked the yew back, although I usually have a preference for darker woods.


Sound-wise, this guitar didn't really sing for me. I didn't dislike the tone but my usual guitar is a very mellow cedar/walnut combo and I failed to warm to the spruce/yew sound. The bass on the guitar is great but I didn't find much sustain in the top notes and the top can sometimes be a bit lifeless. Joe had warned me about that and advised giving the guitar a good strum to bring it back to life. I tried the guitar in standard tuning, DADGAD and Open G. I thought it worked pretty well in Open G but I didn't get on with it as well in standard where I found a buzz on one of the strings. Joe had demoed how to adjust the truss rod so I may have been able to cure the buzz by altering the action but, to be honest, I didn't have much time with the guitar and I was happy to spend that time in Open G.


In Open G, the yew butterfly was very easy to play and I've found this with all Dave's guitars. The neck profile, scale length and string spacing obviously work really well for me. I did get a bit of cramp whilst playing but that's probably more to do with the fact I'm not finding much time to play at the moment anyway. Unfortunately I didn't get time to record anything - a shame as I did find that the profile of the guitar improved my playing! I will definitely take that away from the experience and use it to inform my next purchase but for me, I preferred the sapele version in terms of sound. Thanks again to Dave for providing such a fantastic experience. I really enjoyed comparing two guitars with the same shape but completely different woods.


October 2011: Leon, Portsmouth



I've been playing FIR this week and have enjoyed it so far, it doesn't get me like the Traveller 1 did but it is still a lovely little guitar without sounding little. The girls love this guitar btw, I think it is small enough for them, Anna (my better half) really likes the woods used, the styling and the craftsmanship - I would agree apart from the small gap (I know why its there) between the body and neck block ... but I don't spend much time gawping at this. I've got a mad week (month) this week but will try to record a little something - for sure I'll post a review. I don't think this guitar is such a black sheep myself - and I wonder if it were tuned down a tone with slightly heavier strings if this would be its natural place ... perhaps a baby baritone !


Very quick start to this thread - I'll post more through the week - but I delivered the Yew Traveller (I find it easier to call her this!!!) round to Ian's last night and we spent a great evening playing lots of fantastic guitars ... including this one it has to be said ... she/he has woken up at last and is a real beauty to play. Last night was interesting as I could really hear YT open up more and more ... this one needs to be well played to open up, but its worth it. I played her (OK she then) through the week and I enjoyed it but it didn't quite get me going then yesterday afternoon before going round to Ian's I had one last session and all of a sudden she had turned into a very nice guitar indeed.


I couldn't wait another week for Sapele traveller to arrive so I thought I'd post this video now. I actually recorded quite a bit on the Yew traveller despite having a very busy week and it really grew on me ... I could have done with more time as always. Anyway I'll do a short rview later but would also like to do something of a comparison review with the Sapele Traveller which I'll be getting off Rob next week. Here's a recording made using my Canon DSLR but the sound was recorded on a Sony PCM10 recorder which is a very nice bit of kit ... so you may occasionally notice a tiny bit of discrepancy between sound and picture. I've done nothing with the sound recording, it is just as it is. I listened through headphones from the laptop last night and it is a lovely sounding guitar to my ears ... picks up all my little udi flicks and string bends without being overwhelmed by the wrong kind of sustain - clear and ringing was my experience.



Here's my review of Dave White's twin guitars the Yew and Spruce Féileacán Iúr and his Sapele Féileacán Taistealaí


I am aware that there have already been lots of reviews of these two guitars and I will try to add to these rather than repeat too much, so I'll try to be as personal and subjective as possible. First impressions of both these guitars were their appealing size and compactness, particularly appreciated and admired by my wife and two girls who all really took to them, particularly FI. Both guitars were extremely playable and neither sounded boxy or small in scale, although the Yew Traveller took a little time to wake up ... more of which later. What I really love about Dave's guitars is that they are definitely unique, not something you would find in any shop, and built for sound and playability and for those of you who have taken part in this project and not had chance to meet Dave, you would find this to be very illuminating as his reasons for making in such a way and his knowledge of lutherie and the history of guitars is very interesting and refreshing. Contrary to what may appear to be unorthodox instruments in what is (necessarily) a conservative art form where innovation tends to be incremental, Dave seems to be as inspired by a great awareness of some of the earlier European guitars before the American steel string innovations by Martin and Gibson. Going back to Dave's original reason for putting these twin guitars out they were something of an experiment in tone woods to entice, challenge and encourage debate and response across our guitar community - feedback is the essence of this. This has also inspired an equally interesting guitar from Rory Dowling to finally descend on us Southerners, so we are definitely in the zone right now!!


FI was very interesting and in Dave's words a little "schizophrenic" in its nature. I experienced this in a relatively gentle way. When I first picked her up from Mel, FI was very nice to play but didn't really get me going like the first Traveller did (Samhain). I still enjoyed playing this through the week but felt particularly in the trebles a certain hardness in the strings - does this occur when treble frequencies feedback from the guitar body back to the strings and cancel each other out? I'm no luthier but this is how it feels as if a wave bounces of a seawall and deadens the next incoming wave ... I've noticed this on some ouds where it can be really pronounced. So the day I was due to go over to see Ian to hand it over to him, FI wakes up from her slumber and really blossomed. Very bubbly and feisty tone and feel making playing feel bouncy and funky under the fingers - a very appealing quality and coupled with the relative smallness of the guitar felt quite extrovert. This was borne out at Ian's where we played it between us along with his Sobells a Collings and a Bown and both agreed it held its own ... Ian really started to get stuck in and I think its responsive sweet but feisty tone and good headroom drew him in.


The Sapele FT was quite different which I gradually led me to discover a slightly warmer tone and the suggestion of a mysterious complex tone that would reveal over time (more than a week). Nicely balanced across all strings with no obvious dead areas but with a definite sweet treble at around the 7th and 9th frets. Both these guitars I had in standard tuning but tuned down one or two semitones (I did this without a tuner to just allow the tone to find their ground). Dave reckoned the bass response was a little low but I felt it was actually quite attractive, kind of restrained but not muffled, and it did sustain in a way that grounded the mids and trebles without pinning them down completely.I liked this guitar, it felt quite jazzy, and my nails after three weeks in my workshop are pretty small so my tone is less sharp and naturally warmer. Very easy to play and responsive and those sweet trebles making me want to soar up the fretboard whenever I could.


There were a couple of small details I would like to have seen which are technically cosmetic but do have an effect on my sense and feel of a guitar - it is a bit like the way food can taste differently when well presented.I would love to see a little extra attention (very minimal) around the side port, it seemed to be not quite finished compared with the rest of the guitar (on both), and the soundboard finish on FI looked a little uneven and skimpy when I caught a glimpse of it in the light. There was also a tiny gap between the heel and body of Yew FI which looked slightly out of place - this was not so on Sapele FT so isn't a question of the type of joint which Dave has good reasons for adopting. I also felt from my own aesthetic sense of proportion that the depth of the binding from the soundboard down the sides seemed too much. This depth seems to be a feature of some of the early "Romantic" guitars such as Panormos and Lacotes and offers a proportion that emphasises their compactness which can be very beautiful and seems to achieve its effect when done finely and lightly.


To sum up, I have really enjoyed both road trips, and this was a real treat. I am definitely on Dave's side, even more so having met him a couple of times now. I love to see people pursuing and perfecting their passion for an art ... especially when they are happy for me to be a Guinea Pig. Dave really puts himself on the line with these road trips both in terms of the trust and time he invests but also we should never underestimate the depth of the roots that lutherie has in him. Out of the two guitars I was surprised to be most intrigued by the Sapele FT - this I think will have years of opening up and unfolding which to me signifies a voyage of discovery.


Thanks Dave


October/November 2011: Ian, Southampton



Leon dropped this little guitar over to me on Sunday evening and we spent a few happy hours playing and chatting whilst consuming copious amounts of tea. Interestingly, the other road trip II guitar ( the sapele one) was delivered here on Saturday evening by Scorpiodog. So I have them both for a week or so. Last year, during the road trip of the Traveller I had a major problem with my video camcorder which has still not been resolved, mainly due to terminal laziness on my part. However, last night I spent a few hours experimenting with my Lumix DMC-TZ10 which is capable of recording video in AVCHD Lite format. Further experimentation following involving the usual nonsense of converting formats and codecs, re-learning how to use Final Cut on my Macbook (somewhat less than completely successfully) and now it appears that I'm good to go, at least as far as recording some stuff is concerned. No amount of video or audio manipulation will make my guitar playing any better, so you're stuck with it as is.


This morning, during a spare 15 minutes or so, I hastily recorded a few staggered bars of Clive Caroll's arrangement of Loch Na gCaor on Féileacán Iúr in DADGAD in our kitchen. I thought this entirely appropriate given that both titles are equally unpronounceable and my playing entirely matches my inability to articulate both names vocally. I rather like this little guitar which has certainly grown on me since I first clapped eyes on it back in July down here. I find the string spacing very comfortable, both at the nut and the saddle and am looking forward to the rest of the week with both instruments. Once all this was done, I had to re-learn the process of preparing material for the dreaded youtube monster and uploading it. For what it's worth it's here :



November 2011: Paul, North Wales


Here's a video of Paul playing his own composition "Coridons Song" on FT: