Wednesday, October 01, 2014

Axes and wood

click photo to enlarge
I'm not, in general, someone who likes familiar slang, particularly that which applies to a line of work, an interest or a hobby. Hearing someone describe a BMW as a "Beamer" irritates me in much the same way as hearing the likes of Jamie Oliver use the terms "slosh" (for pour) or "chuck" for sprinkle does. I've never liked the way some enthusiast photographers refer to lenses as "glass" (surely they are so much more than that). And as for rock musicians calling an electric guitar an "axe": well, that irks me just as much as the modern habit of calling a university a "uni". All these examples seem, to my mind to conflate a certain laziness with an overly chummy and "insider" familiarity that is often designed, in some small way, to erect fences to outsiders.

It was the term "axe", meaning an electric guitar that came to mind when I came to write this piece about a new guitar that I recently bought. I presume that "axe" derives from the shape of the guitar, or perhaps the sharp sound - who knows or cares? However, since it was the wood of this particular guitar that I was going to describe "axe" seemed to have some sort of connection. Many musical instruments have interesting and beautiful shapes that derive, in the main from the way they work - form really does, usually, follow function. However, many are enhanced during construction by the use of wood, application of paint, inlays and so on, and none more so than electric guitars. Moreover, though the sound is what you most want from such an instrument, appearance is also a factor when you come to buy one.

The example in today's photograph doesn't have the usual paint job, sunburst staining or varnished finish. Instead it has a burred (burled in US-English) poplar top that I find unusual and attractive. This is mounted on mahogany and the instrument is completed with a maple neck and a rosewood fingerboard. With a veritable forest of timber having fallen under the axe to produce it I must make sure I keep it a long time and get the most from it

photograph and text © Tony Boughen

Camera: Canon 5D Mk2
Mode: Aperture Priority
Focal Length: 105mm
F No: f8
Shutter Speed: 1/13 sec
ISO: 100
Exposure Compensation:  -0.67 EV
Image Stabilisation: Off.