Roger Bucknall began building instruments back in the 1970s and over the years Fylde guitars have been seen in the hands of legendary British players like Martin Simpson, Martin Carthy, Davy Graham, Gordon Giltrap, Nic Jones and a multitude of others. As you can imagine, having built instruments which have given voice to the genius of some of the greatest players on earth means that Roger has quite a few stories to tell. Fortunately he thought exactly the same and so the history of Fylde guitars, how they came to be built and some of the people who play them are detailed in a lavish new book called Wood, Sweat And Tears – The Guitars And Times Of Roger Bucknall.
Gloriously lavish pictures of some of the instruments Roger and his team have created accompany the tale of how the company began in Lancashire around 40 years ago before moving to their current location in Penrith. Along the way there are some remarkable and surprising stories – did you know, for instance, that Roger once made snooker cues for world champion Ray Reardon?
Along the way, there’s a considerable amount about the ethics of hand building and how machines play only minor supporting roles in the manufacture of the instruments. All Fylde guitars are built by hand – as Roger says, raw wood comes into the workshop one end and it leaves the other end in a guitar case, but quite a lot of hand driven craftsmanship goes on in between. He says that he believes that someone who has bought one of his instruments would probably like to think that the neck was shaped by an actual person whistling a tune rather than some soulless automaton. In fact, the only time he has ever come close to giving in to modern building techniques was when he spent a considerable sum of money on a CNC milling machine, but he became so wary of it that he has only ever trusted it to cut truss rod covers! Everything else is done the old fashioned way with chisels, hard graft and a passion for building the finest instruments possible.
Any book written about acoustic guitars – not forgetting the odd mandolin, cittern and bouzouki too, of course – wouldn’t be complete without pictures of guitars being built, and the finished product, too. So the second section of the book is dedicated to close-up pictures of the raw product being fashioned into musical instruments and the third details the story behind some of the exceptional guitars that have passed through the workshop. Here you’ll find pictures of Falstaffs, Ariels, Alexanders, Orsinos and all the other members of the Shakespearean dramatis personae from the Fylde range in all their finery. So you can expect to see lots of Brazilian rosewood, Engelmann spruce, North American redwood and African blackwood in action – plus a few guest appearances by lesser known woods like pink ivory, figured myrtle, leopardwood and zebrano.
At 246 pages and featuring no less than 380 pictures, this coffee table tome is virtually essential reading for anyone with an interest in hand built acoustic instruments. Our copy gives a reassuring creak when it’s opened, like you’d expect from a treasure chest, which is quite apt, when you consider the riches that lay within! So, hats off to Roger for taking the time and trouble to tell his story so wittily and so well and kudos too for photographer Mike English for the wonderful pictures of these fabulous guitars.
Wood, Sweat And Tears is available exclusively via the Fylde website at and is priced at £47.50. There’s a 46 page sampler available to view on the website and so go on, feast your eyes!