Barbarossa Guitars

Fine Hand-made Guitars

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How it works:  Buying a Custom Guitar from Barbarossa

Having me build you a custom guitar will likely be a dream come true. If you want something unusual in your guitar,
for instance a particular neck width or shape, or a particular combination of woods, I can make that dream come true.
I have a passion to build guitars that look, feel, play, and sound great. If you check my testimonials page, I think you'll
find that my customers agree that I achieve those goals.  You can also listen to my guitars at the sound clips page.
You can look at examples of my guitars on my photos page.  For pricing information, please see my price and order page.
These are shots of me at my top supplier:  Pacific Rim Tonewoods, where I pick my tops:
Usually, you will have a good idea what you want.  By phone and email, we will work out the design
details and exactly what features, materials, trim and inlays, etc. your guitar will have.  I will send you a
final specification which you approve.  As soon as you send me the deposit, the clock starts on the
delivery date. 
Especially important for many of my customers is the shape, width, and thickness of the neck.
Please take a look at my neck customization page.  Custom width, thickness and shape (including
matching the neck profile of an existing guitar -- if you can provide me that profile) is usually
no extra charge:  This is one of the most basic features of a custom, hand-built instrument and
it's part of my base price (within reasonable limits.)  Set up is also very important.

You can learn more about guitar set up here.

See how I build guitars:

Steel String Guitar Construction

Classical Guitar Construction

Guitar Set-up


Weissenborn-style lap steel


These may also be of interest:

Violin construction
Major Modifications

Building a Les Paul kit


Your Own Web Page for Your Guitar


A new feature is a personal page for your guitar.  I will provide you with a personal web page that chronicles
the birth of your special guitar and I will send you notes letting you know when updates are posted.
You can share this with others so they can share in the excitement of your special instrument as it
comes into being.
On completion, you make the final payment and when that clears, I ship to you.  I will also ship with the guitar
a CD of digital "baby" photos of your guitar during its construction.
My guitars (steel string or classical/flamenco) have a basic set of features that come with the
base price.  Please see these basic features, as listed below.  This base price is quite low.
This allows customers to obtain a hand-made, hand-voiced guitar at a reasonable price.
Therefore, special features not included in the basic features cost extra:  cutaways, inlays, pickups,
special tuning machines, etc.   You can see examples of my inlay work here.
The base price is the same for any size/style of steel string guitar (D, slope-shoulder D, GA, 000, 00,
Size 1, Size 5.)  The price is the same for any model classical guitar (20th century Ramirez style,
Hauser Sr. copy; and I have other designs as well if you are interested in a Torres copy, Manuel Ramirez
copy, others.)  (I can also build you a 12-string version of more or less any of these size guitar; there
is a $200 charge for a 12-string.)
I am happy to work with you to define a customized design for your guitar.   If my standard shapes
or sizes do not suit you, I can do custom design work for a unique shape or size for you.
Please click HERE for a matrix that shows examples of pricing for several guitars with
various options.
Click HERE for sound clips of my guitars
My steel string guitar size specifications, with Martin sizes for reference:

(OM and 000 are the same body the only difference is the scale:  000 has the 24.9-inch "short"
scale and the OM has the 25.4-inch "dreadnought" scale (this is true for Martin OMs and 000s
as well).  The shorter scale is more comfortable to play for most people:  it requires less force
to fret the strings.)
How I build your guitar:
Tops are individually thicknessed, braced, and voiced.  Backs are joined and finished to
take best advantage of the wood figure.  The backs are individually chosen for the guitar
and braced and voiced by hand. This is a completely hand-made instrument, with personal
attention to detail.
Neck joints:  I use a Martin-style dovetail joint for steel string guitars and I use a traditional
Spanish foot for the classical guitars.  I use Honduran mahogany or sapele (African mahogany,
very similar to Honduran) for steel string necks and end blocks.  I use Spanish cedar or
Honduran mahogany (Spanish cedar is standard, Honduran mahogany by request) for
classical guitar necks.  I use Spanish cedar for flamenco necks.
Finishes:  I use KTM-9 water-borne lacquer as my standard finish.  This finish looks and sounds
just like traditional nitrocellulose lacquer, except it is:  easier to work with, much less toxic*,
more environmentally-friendly, and it's better than nitro.  It is tougher and more chip-resistant
than nitro.  I can build the finish faster than nitro and it doesn't require a long hang period to
allow solvents to gas-off like nitro does.  KTM-9 is great stuff.  I no longer use nitro.  Virtually
no major makers are using it either.  Everyone has changed to catalyzed finishes.
Please see these testimonials for the KTM-9 finish.  You can also see an excellent example
of what the finish looks like on the figured wood guitars on of the B00 page.
It's indistinguishable from nitro except that it doesn't chip like nitro.
(* I couldn't justify exposing myself or my family to the toxins in nitrocellulose lacquer anymore.)
I can also finish your guitar with sprayed shellac.  This is a good choice if you want a traditional
look for a classical guitar.  The finish will be buffed out; but will not be quite as glossy as the
KTM-9 finish.  (I am starting to do French polish; but I'm "not ready for prime time" yet with
French polishing, so I'm not yet willing to do customers' guitars with it.)  Shellac is so non-toxic
you can eat it.  (It's what prevents M&Ms from "melting in your hand.")
Please have a look at the wood I use to make my guitars.  There are many good option for
wood combinations.  Most will cost extra.
I use first quality genuine African black ebony fretboards.  I can use Indian rosewood,
cocobolo, or Maccassar ebony on request.  Ebony is the best wood for fretboards, for visual
appeal, durability, and hardness, in my opinion.  Ebony is very hygroscopic (it reacts strongly
to changes in humidity.)  Therefore, you may need seasonal truss rod adjustments depending
on your local weather.  I build and finish in my climate-controlled shop, which has temperature
between 65°F and 80°F and humidity controlled to 50% ±10%.  If your climate is different
from this, the fretboard will react and a truss rod adjustment may be needed.


You can learn more about guitar set up here.


You can see examples of my inlay work here.
I can customize your neck for your needs, including copying the profile of an existing favorite
guitar neck.  Width is whatever you prefer (within reasonable limits.)  Thickness and shape
are quite variable, depending on your needs.  Please see my neck page.
Frets:  I use a fairly large fret wire:  The "crown" is what you see of the fret.
Crown dimensions (inches):
CW = 0.080 inch  (2.0 mm, ~5/64 inch)(crown width)
CH = 0.043 inch  (1.1 mm, ~3/64 inch)(crown height -- as rolled:  this will vary slightly because
                                                               of the fret-leveling process)

I can use other fret wire sizes on request from a customer.
Tuning machines:  Gotoh chrome-plated machines are standard.  I like these better than the other options
out there.  I can put different machines on your guitar.  This may cost extra.  Here are examples of other tuners:


Schaller chrome 3L-3R, or Gotoh chrome 3L-3R (standard for steel string) Schaller gold 3L-3R with ebony buttons (option for steel string at increased cost) Array of Hauser-style classical Schaller tuners (ebony buttons at increased cost) Schaller vintage-style open-back steel string tuners (at increased cost for steel string)

Schaller chrome 3L-3R, or Gotoh chrome 3L-3R (standard for steel string) Schaller gold 3L-3R with ebony buttons (option for steel string at increased cost) Array of Hauser-style classical Schaller tuners (ebony buttons at increased cost) Schaller vintage-style open-back steel string tuners (at increased cost for steel string)
Truss rod:  for steel string guitars, my standard truss rod is either the LMI TRSDS rod or
This is an excellent, reliable truss rod.  The wrench is a 9/64-inch Allen key.  The truss rod access will be
at the headstock.
I use Spanish cedar linings.  They are wonderful for strength, weight, and tone, easy to work
with and they smell wonderful.  I can use mahogany linings on request.
I build on a traditional Spanish solera: 
This traditional hand-building method allows me maximum flexibility and eliminates the need
to have many different molds, etc.  This method has a long and successful history.  It was almost the only
method until factories came along (some traditional builders used inside mold boards like violin
forms.)  I prefer this method.  I can repeat the shape of the guitar with good precision.  Most of
the shape is determined by the side shapes, which I bend on forms (very repeatable):
Pickups:  I can custom fit your guitar with a pickup.  I charge $100 for installation and I will charge
you for my cost for the pickup.  Alternatively, you could ship me the pickup and I would just
charge the installation fee.
I keep a stock of figured woods.  I can send you photos for you to choose from.
Examples of wood we can use for your guitar, with the extra cost that they would add to your price:

(Subject to change without notice)
"Killer" koa back & sides $700
Plain koa back & sides $300
"Killer" curly mango $500
Plain / slight curl mango $150
Maccassar ebony back & sides $700
Flamed walnut back & sides (dep. on figure) $300-$500
Flamed Oregon myrtle back & sides $400
Plain Oregon myrtle back & sides $100
Flamed bigleaf maple back & sides $300
Flamed black acacia back & sides (very similar to koa) $400
Figured Honduran mahogany back & sides $200-$700 (depends on figure and availability)
Plain Pacific madrone back & sides $100
Pacific madrone back & light ripple sides $300
Pacific madrone light ripple back & sides $200
Plain purpleheart back & sides No charge
Figured purpleheart back & sides $200
Figured bubinga back & sides (set selection available) $100-$200
Highly figured bubinga back & sides $500
Osage orange back & sides $200
Redwood top (plain) $100
Bearclaw Sitka spruce top $200
European srpuce top $200
Other woods:  contact me and I will quote other woods, assuming that I can obtain them.
Examples of wood I use:

AAA Sitka AAA Engelmann AAA western red cedar AAA redwood (option at increased cost)
Plain mahogany (steel string standard) Padauk (steel string standard) Bubinga (steel string standard) Indian rosewood (classical standard)

Brazilian rosewood can still be found (good sets) but will be a large up-charge ($3000-$4000 range)
and will require a larger deposit to cover purchase of the Brazilian rosewood.
Options at no charge:
Custom shaping of the neck:  V-shaped, rounded, or flattened
Custom neck width
Engelmann spruce, Sitka spruce, or Western Red Cedar top
Indian rosewood, ebony, or sycamore (light colored) binding
Herringbone or black/white/black purfling
Indian rosewood or ebony bridge
Indian rosewood or ebony fretboard
Abalone or white mother of pearl dot fretboard inlays
No inlays (all-black fretboard) or just side inlays
Special set-up (high or low)

Options that cost extra:

Florentine (sharp) cutaway:  +$500  (custom design needed for Size 1)

Venetian (soft) cutaway:  +$800  (not available on Size 1)

Abalone rosette:  +$100
Abalone edge trim:  $400 (top or back)
B-Band under-saddle pickup, Model A-1, with preamp:  +$130, and +$100 installation ($230 total)
12-string:  + $200
Hard-shell Cases:
It's critically important to protect your investment in a custom guitar with a top-quality hardshell
guitar case.  I will not ship a guitar without a good hardshell case.
I will provide hardshell cases from TKL These cases are the "Professional Series," models 8900,
8905, 8915, 8916, and 8975.  I only provide these cases with guitar orders.
Click on this link:
Then click on the type of guitar
Then click on the link the case with a number "89XX":
8900 (classical, B00)
8905 (000, OM)
8915 (Dreadnought)
8916 (GA)
8975 (Size 1)
The only difference between these cases is the size and shape
These cases are the best I have been able to find for a reasonable price.  They are lined with
open-cell foam wrapped in attractive velvet.  They fit great.  These cases are used by many makers.
Click on this picture for pictures of the TKL professional case:

I will not deliver a guitar without a hardshell case.  It is essential to protecting my work and your
Check out my page about TKL cases.

Site Map:
Pricing & Policies
Your Custom Guitar
Customizing the Neck
Sound Samples
Contact Me
Meet Your Builder
Wood Choices


© 2015, James W. Blilie, Barbarossa Guitars                        5997 Turtle Lake Road, Shoreview, MN 55126                        This page was last updated:  13-May-2015