Barbarossa Guitars

Fine Hand-made Guitars

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Please also check out my specials, which are guitars that are already made
and can be shipped immediately!
How it works:  Buying a custom guitar from Barbarossa:

Please have a look at my custom guitar page.

Please also look at my pages showing steel string guitar construction  and   classical construction  and inlay page.

Usually, you will have a good idea what you want.  By phone and email, we will work out exactly 
what your guitar will have.  I will send you a final specification which you approve.  As soon as
you send me the $700 deposit, the clock starts on the delivery date.  I am guaranteeing 9 months
to delivery for now.
  (I can usually deliver sooner than than 9 months.)  I will send you photos
of you guitar as it comes together.  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.
(Don't worry, I'm well enough compensated for my time!)  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.
The 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, I have other designs as well if you are interested in a Torres copy, Manuel Ramirez
copy, others.)
I am happy to work with you to define a customized design for your guitar.  As noted below,
this will likely cost something extra (though not necessarily).  Simple things will cost very little.  
I stand behind my work.  If you are not happy with the guitar, you can return it for adjustment,
or, if it is still in new condition, a refund, except for the $500 non-refundable portion of the
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


See how my guitars are built:

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

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 flamed koa guitar at the bottom 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 65F and 80F 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.
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.

You can learn about set up and compensation here.
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)

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.
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.
Guitar Base Price:  $1800
This includes:
First grade mahogany, bubinga, purpleheart or padauk back and sides
AAA Sitka spruce, AAA Engelmann spruce, or AAA Western Red Cedar top
Ebony or rosewood or sycamore binding
Top purfling:  Black-white-black (BWB) strip
Bridge:  ebony or Indian rosewood
Rosette:  BWB + Herringbone, see this example:
Pick guard:  black or clear or none
Headstock:  solid
Head plate:  Indian rosewood or ebony, with Barbarossa mother of pearl inlay (wood to match binding and bridge)
African ebony fretboard (may have some lighter streaks)
(You can also have a variety of other woods with no inlay)
I choose my own tops, one at a time, based on stiffness and aesthetic qualities (and for bearclaw for some tops.)
Figured wood costs a lot more than plain wood, some woods are just more expensive to obtain.  My storage and
seasoning of the wood costs me a lot.  My pricing system allows you to choose how you want to spend your money.
If you want fancy wood, great! I love to build with that kind of wood; but it increases the price of the guitar.
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.
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 top
Western Red Cedar top
Indian rosewood binding
Herringbone purfling
Indian rosewood bridge
Indian rosewood fretboard
Abalone 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
Custom design work (negotiable, call or e-mail)
Custom inlays  (negotiable, call or e-mail)
Pickup:  I charge $100 for installing pickups.
I will obtain the pickup and charge actual costs for it.  Alternately, you can obtain your own
pickup and ship it to me and then there will only be the installation charge.
Other customizing:  please call or e-mail for a quote
These are shots of me at my top supplier:  Pacific Rim Tonewoods, where I pick my tops:
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)

For example photos of my guitars, click on:   Pictures and Specifications
HERE for sound clips of my guitars
Standard steel string guitar:

Your choice of style and body size:  Style 5 (3/4 size), Size 1, 00, 000, OM,
dreadnought, slope-shouldered dreadnought, or GA.
My steel string size specifications, with Martin sizes for reference:
Dimension B1 B0 B00 B000 OM GA D Martin 0 Martin 00 Martin 000 Martin D
Scale Length:   24.9 24.9 24.9 24.9 25.4 25.4 25.4 24.9 24.9 24.9 25.4
Frets clear of the body:   12 12 12 14 14 14 14 12 12 14 14
Width at lower bouts:   13.00 13.75 14.50 15.25 15.25 15.63 15.63 13.50 14.31 15.00 15.63
Width at upper bouts:   9.25 9.88 10.60 11.75 11.75 11.62 11.50        
Body depth at tail:   4.15 4.25 4.30 4.15 4.15 4.50 4.88 4.19 4.06 4.13 4.88
Body length:   19.00 19.13 19.13 19.38 19.38 20.00 20.00 19.13 19.63 19.38 20.00
Overall length:   38.00 38.00 38.50 40.00 41.00 41.00          
(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.)

Price:  $1800

This includes:
First grade mahogany, bubinga, or padauk back and sides
AAA Sitka spruce top
Ebony binding
Top purfling:  Black-white (BW) strip
Bridge:  ebony
Rosette:  BWB + Herringbone, see this example:
Pick guard:  black
Headstock:  solid
Head plate:  choice of Indian rosewood or ebony, with Barbarossa mother of pearl inlay
(click on thumbnail of headplate:)  (You can also have a variety of other woods with no inlay)

Fretboard:  ebony
Fretboard inlays:  mother of pearl (MOP) dots (at frets 3,5,7,9,12,15)
Fretboard side inlays:  MOP dots  (at frets 3,5,7,9,12,15)
Frets:  large
Machines:  Schaller chrome plated
Truss rod:  TRS, access through soundhole
Nut and saddle:  bone


Standard classical guitar:

Design:  after 20th Century Ramirez  OR  Hermann Hauser Sr.
Price:  $1800

This includes:  
First grade Indian rosewood, bubinga, or padauk back and sides
AAA western red cedar top (or AAA Engelmann spruce top)
Indian rosewood binding
Top purfling:  BWB strip
End graft:  Indian rosewood + maple
Bridge:  Indian rosewood
Rosette:  See photo below of standard rosette
Headstock:  slotted
Head plate:  Indian rosewood
Headplate inlay:  none
Fretboard:  ebony
Fretboard inlays:  none
Fretboard side inlays:  none (or MOP dots, if desired)
Frets:  large
Machines:  Schaller chrome plated, pearloid buttons
Nut and saddle:  bone
Also available:  Flamenco after Marcelo Barbero (1951)
Price:  $1900
Specification is essentially the same as the Classical, EXCEPT:
Monterrey Cypress back and sides
AAA Engelmann spruce top
Ebony tuning pegs or Schaller machines
My standard rosette (click on the thumbnail):

My standard headstock crest for classical and flamenco (click on the thumbnails)

Standard classical headstock and crest Flamenco headstock with friction peg holes and standard crest.

Standard classical headstock and crest Flamenco headstock with friction peg holes and standard crest.
For Options, see above on this page.
Some optional classical/flamenco rosettes (click on the thumbnail):
Check out the new Guitar Woods page for more information on wood.
Hard-shell Cases:

Click on this picture for more pictures:

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.
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.
My policy for guitar orders is to build after the order is placed.  I need a $700 deposit on ordering.
$500 of the deposit is not refundable.
The balance is due prior to delivery.  You can return the guitar if you are not happy with it.
I will either adjust it or provide a refund (except $500 of the deposit), as long as the guitar
is in new condition.  (Please see the warranty section below.)
Currently, I can ship a new order within 9 months (as of January 2015).
I can usually pull in the schedule by quite a lot; but I can only guarantee 9 months.
(Life keeps throwing me curve balls lately.)

Minnesota residents:  6.5%  sales tax applies.
Please call me at 651-766-8757 if I can answer any questions or if you would like to place an order.
I am also readily reached at:   (Please remove the obvious "no-spam" part of my address)

Legal Stuff

All guitars sold in Minnesota are subject to 6.5% sales tax.

Commissions require a deposit of $700 ($500 of this is not-refundable.)  Balance is due when the instrument is complete.  Refund for all but the non-refundable $500 of the deposit if the guitar is returned in like-new condition.

Prices are subject to change. The price of a commissioned guitar will be locked in once the initial deposit is received.


I build a limited number of guitars each year and the waiting period is 9 months as of Jan-2015 (although I can usually beat this guarantee.)

All transactions must be in U.S. dollars in the form of cash, money order, certified bank draft, bank transfer (wire), or PayPal.  Final satisfaction of CITES or any other necessary export/import regulations are the responsibility of the buyer.


My instruments are guaranteed against defects in materials and workmanship for my life as an active luthier. I will not cover damage due to fair wear and tear, abuse, neglect, extremes of temperature or humidity, or natural disaster, nor can I be held responsible for the tendency of Brazilian rosewood occasionally to develop hairline fractures despite decades of proper seasoning.
Periodic maintenance is the responsibility of the owner and is a condition of warranty.  Repairs or alterations performed by someone other than myself risk cancellation of this warranty.  All shipping expenses for warranty work are the responsibility of the buyer.


For fifteen days after receipt, if a custom instrument proves unsuited to the player, it can be returned for the purchase price, less the $500 non-refundable portion of the deposit. If not in original condition, the cost of restoration will be deducted.



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:  19-Sep-2015