Interview with Kent Schoonover/Schoonover Resonator Guitars

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Rob Anderlik's picture


Colin Henry's picture

Great interview as usual Rob.

Jon G's picture

Enjoyed that very much, Thanks Rob. My walnut Schoonover is one of my fav's. I don't think Kent gets the credit he deserves. He is, in my opinion, one of our finest builders.

Rob Anderlik's picture

Thanks Jon. I agree with you - Kent makes world class instruments and his guitars deserve more recognition. Now that Gaven Largent and Jeff Partin are playing them I think that recognition will be forthcoming. 

MarkinSonoma's picture

Another great job, Rob. You are really on a roll with these interviews! The pieces you did with other folks from some years ago were very good, but your new ones are just at another level. 

Excellent questions, fine photographs, etc.  I learned a lot from Kent here.

I've been around only a few Schoonovers myself, and I liked them all, a lot.  Jon is on the money. I would concur that Kent is one of our finest builders. 

My Clinesmith is built from Western Bigleaf Maple (Acer macrophyllum).  And this is what is cool about these interviews and the forums, sometimes we have little revelations. As a dobro player, I am in relative isolation here in NorCal wine country, and don't get around other dobroists all that often. Kent mentioned that he thinks of Bigleaf maple as being more like mahogany than the way maple is traditionally thought of for a guitar. Lightbulb moment for me - I knew that this wood is softer on the Janka Hardness Scale than Eastern maple and is more "mellow" and maybe less "bright" than a lot of maple guitars, but I could never really put my finger on it until now. 


Greg Booth's picture

I'm not sure you can infer from what Kent said that Western Bigleaf Maple is more like mahogany than maple. I know from chosing the wood for my Horn that the majority of curly maple you see in Scheerhorns and many other dobros is that variety. I chose a set of Northern curly maple for the more gnarly grain and Tim also suggested that the Northern isn't as bright and cutting as the Western Bigleaf. I think Kent was talking specifically about quilted Western Bigleaf. He also says in Rob's interview, "Even the way the grain is oriented in the wood affects its stiffness and will therefore have to be considered in the construction for the way it can influence the sound." In quilted maple the wood is cut in a different orientation to the annual rings and grain than curly maple. 

MarkinSonoma's picture

I stand corrected on the verbiage Greg, or lack thereof in my post. 

I'm not going to argue with what you or Tim Scheerhorn say but I have read on different websites and guitar forums about the properties of different maples and a couple of  conclusions I have reached is that it's probably not nearly as simple as any of the parties here are making it out to be, myself included, and from my own experiences I can only go on what my ears tell me: My Clinesmith strikes me as being "darker" than any number of curly  maple resonator guitars i have been around.  Perhaps this has more to do with the luthier design than the wood set itself. I remember you saying years ago that my Clinesmith was probably the first one you actually liked after test driving a few of them previously. It might be that despite its "curliness" as opposed to its western big leaf "quiltedness" it could have been closer to the sound you were hearing in your head as to what constitutes  a desirable reso.

I have been around some curly maple resos (builders to remain nameless) that when I have hit the strings hard or sat across from somenone playing them some of the highs would kind of make me wince.   I don't know if they were always Western Big Leaf or Eastern maple, those suckers might "cut through the mix" but maybe not always in a good way. 

In the acoustic guitar (and lumber) world quilted maple I believe would be considered "flat sawn" whereas curly is considered to be "quartersawn."  If you set aside wood species for a minute, the most premium of premium woodsets are generally thought of as being quartersawn.  Except one might prefer the sound of the flat sawn wood, so i guess in reality being quartersawn doesn't necessarily make for a better guitar.

Taylor has introduced this year a completely  redesigned set of curly maple back and sides guitars in their 600 Series, pioneered by flattop luthier wunderkind and eventual successor to Bob Taylor, Andy Powers. The thinking at Taylor in San Diego is that as the world's supply of exotic tonewoods continues to dwindle we have a renewable resource of of North American trees that will be the guitar woods of the future, and big leaf maple is one of them. These guitars to my ears definitely have a softer sound than some maple flattops I have played in the past form various builders.  The old rap on maple was that it could be on the harsh side, but to quote from an Eric Clapton song, it might be that  "it's in the way that you use it."  

Brent Libhart's picture

Great article!  I've never had the opportunity to play a Schoonover or talk to Kent personally,but everything I have ever seen or heard from him is outstanding.  His guitars have some of the nicest and/or most unique finishes I have ever seen and seem to sound just as good.  I would be the first one in line to give one a whirl should the opportunity ever arise.

AusTex64's picture

Seems like Kent would be a real asset at ResoSummit.


Bob McEvoy's picture

Mark in reference to your comment about living in an isolated reso world, many of us live in a reso isolated world.  For example, I have never seen or played a Schoonover and only one Clinesmith.   That is why we treasure this and other forums to help us understand.  To this point, I thought there was Maple and Mahogany etc.  I now know that there are many other sub species.  Thanks for the above discussion.

And -- Thanks to Rob for bringing these articles to us.  These interviews give us an opportunity to understand what's out there.

Willie's picture

Great interview Rob! I have met and talked to Kent at IBMA once or twice a few years ago. You won't find a nicer guy. I really enjoyed talking with him. I was especially intrigued by his top support and he took the time to explain it to me. Just looking at it, I would have thought that it would deaden the sound, but when I played one of his guitars, I could see it did anything but. They had great tone and plenty of volume. I'd sure like to have one, but it ain't in the cards right now. Sigh...maybe someday!

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