is an unsolicited review emailed to me by the author, Philip Fleming, a
couple of weeks after his purchase. The guitar he is referring to is an
FT-15-000C which slightly pre-dates my guitars for Eric Schoenberg. The
words after the line are unedited.
I want to tell you about a great guitar I just purchased used: Bruce Sexauer
’s FT-1512C. I’ve held off posting for a while so I could gain perspective
on the guitar
This guitar is a left handed 12-fret cutaway. The body shape is a subtle
mixture of OM and 000-12 with classical guitar influence in the upper bout.
The top is German Spruce. Back and sides are Honduras Rosewood bound in
Ebony with alternating Ebony and Maple purfling. The body is finished in
Varnish. The Ebony fretboard is unadorned and bound in ebony with a
mahogany neck that is comfortable and has Bruce’s standard headstock shape
and nickel Waverly tuners. The bridge is an ebony belly type with clean
lines. The guitar is currently my avatar on the 13th Fret.
I was drawn to this guitar for two reasons. One was the 000-12 cutaway
design. I have read that one of Bill Collings' successful (if lesser known)
guitars is his 000-12 cutaway because it offers the 12 fret tone with the
access of a 14 fret guitar. The best of both worlds, if you will. Bruce’s
guitar captures that ergonomic and visual aesthetic without the pyramid
bridge and slotted headstock (which are cool looking but not my preference).
I prefer a blank bound board, dark binding, an unbound headstock and a
tasteful rosette. The white purfling trim in the binding is subtle, yet
helps to define the guitar. This guitar has a design that is almost Shaker
influenced in its tasteful subtlety. It's odd, because this is how I would
order a guitar, yet I found it used. The matte finished neck has a profile
that is unlike most guitars I've played and maybe classically influenced.
It plays well with no fatigue for me.
The other thing that drew me to the guitar was the maker. Bruce Sexauer has
a reputation as a top quality builder with a proven track record. An added
bonus is that he freely shares his experience here on this forum. This
guitar, made in 2000 is a wonderful example of his work. The fit and finish
is excellent (and some small shop guitars I've owned were less than
impressive in this aspect). The setup is excellent. The neck has only the
slightest hint of relief. Action is 6/64" low E and 4/64" high e.
Intonation, provided by a stylishly well crafted and angled saddle (with an
Ivory grain to it) is spot on. Bruce provides and extra nut and saddle so
the player can compensate for large changes in humidity. Clean playability
up and down the neck with no trouble spots has not prompted me to do
anything but look at the spares.
No here’s what sealed it: Tone. I was immediately impressed by the sheer
amplitude of the guitar. This guitar does need to be pushed to be louder
than any other guitar I've ever played. The sound leaps from the
instrument. I've heard this description before about other guitars in the
past, but dismissed it as hype. I didn't get much done the day I received
it because I kept picking the guitar up and playing it. I was so impressed
by the powerfully full, chest moving bass and the clear, strong trebles.
Yet this guitar doesn't have the scooped out, anemic midrange I associate
with some popular factory guitars. I can clearly hear notes in a chord and
the tone sounds balanced, clear and full in all ranges. Not sterile. Until
now, I had believed that great tone in one range meant a compromise in
another range because the guitar couldn't produce it all and, regretfully,
something had to give. Well, this guitar can do it to a point where I need
to adapt my style in order to get it to sound it's best. I'm so used to
having to push guitars to get what I want. This guitar can certainly handle
it. But at the same time it asks for a better touch and rewards the player
with warmth and clarity. Not many guitars are warm and clear to me. Most
seem to sacrifice one for the other.
After some time playing the guitar by itself I feared that the tone I
experienced would disappear when compared to the OM-18V or the Ehlers OM I
own. This kind of "out of the box infatuation" has happened before to me,
only to be promptly dashed when put in perspective. Simply put: wrong. I
put new Pearse PB 12-53 on this guitar and the Ehlers (the OM-18V has very
new Firewires on it and I feel they compare favorably to Pearse). I've
always enjoyed the warmth of the OM-18V, but the added treble and bass of
the Ehlers had driven me to want more from a guitar. The Ehlers is a dread
depth bodied OM/GC that just offered more of everything (except
playability - the OM is easier for me to play). Bruce’s OM depth guitar has
a deeper and clearer bass than the deeper bodied Ehlers. Plus it has clear
midrange and treble as well. The full package. Impressive.
Don't get me wrong. I don’t like to “compare” guitars. I feel the ones I
already own are worthy of being played professionally and used to record.
They are impressive instruments that stand on their own merits and are not
necessarily better or worse than others. The best way to describe the tone
of Bruce’s guitar is to say that, if the OM-18V and/or the Ehlers have
elements of the "best" tone (for me), this guitar is like those guitars, but
with more of everything and more focus. As if someone wiped the grime from
a window and everything was crisp, clear and easy to discern. Someone once
described the tone of Brazilian Rosewood as being “everything you want in
rosewood with all the unwanted noise removed.” Although this guitar is not
Brazilian, Bruce has been able to coax a tone from it that clean and pure.
I would have believed that guitar that sounded like this would have been
hard to play, because I couldn’t hide in a blanket of lush overtones. I
found it to be quite the opposite. The purity of tone is sweet and
liberating. After experiencing this guitar, it's hard to hear my others in
the same way. I don't like to use this expression, but I'm blown away.