Tie Blocks

Traditional bridge design has an inherent flaw—the strings have to be tied on. As a result after they leave the hole in bridge they are pulled upward before they reach the saddle, and this considerably reduces the ‘break angle’ over the saddle, which in turn has a deleterious affect on the sound.

A neat and simple solution to this problem is to use ‘tie blocks‘, aka ‘beads’. A string is threaded through and tied to a bead before going through the bridge on its way to the saddle. There are three holes and a groove in the bead, which allows this to be done easily, tidily and securely. When the string emerges from the hole it goes straight from there to the saddle, improving the break angle.

An incidental benefit of the tie block system is that the tying can be done away from the guitar, thus reducing the risk of damage to the soundboard.

Other solutions have been tried, principally making additional holes in the bridge, but these are quite fiddly to use, not very tidy, and must clearly weaken the bridge to some degree.

CITES and Rosewood

Currently all Opus One guitars have ribs (sides) and backs of Indian rosewood. Brazilian rosewood is by general consent the best wood for the job, but it is virtually unobtainable, while Indian rosewood is almost as good and so far not too difficult to obtain. (This applies to traditionally fan-braced guitars—lattice-bracing is a different story.)

However, Dalbergia, to which species rosewood belongs, has now become endangered as a result of hugely increased demand, and CITES (the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species) has made it illegal to trade in any kind of rosewood across national borders.

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When it comes to choice of wood to use in classical guitar construction there are two main schools of thought (three if you include flamenco guitars—perhaps I’ll do a separate post on that later). They both mandate the use of spruce or cedar for the soundboard, but apart from that they are almost opposites. Surprisingly they both make playable and excellent sounding guitars, thus demonstrating that, like life, guitar acoustics are more complicated than you might expect!
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