A stunning looker with some innovative new moves… David Mead unlocks its secrets
We’ve met Patrick Eggle’s Saluda model a few times in the past, but this particular instrument represents a variation on the theme and comes packed with innovation and fresh ideas. The Florentine cutaway is easily the most obvious diversion from Saluda standard spec, but there’s a lot more going on under the surface including a new bracing pattern and a pin-free bridge. And the story doesn’t end there, either!
This instrument was attracting a lot of admiring glances at a recent guitar show in Devon and so we had to reel it in for review as soon as we could. To begin with it’s an absolute stunner to look at, but a few words with Patrick confirmed that there are changes afoot in the overall design with a few very interesting tweaks here and there.
The first thing that strikes the eye is the ebony-bound myrtlewood back and sides complete with leopard like spots and café au lait hue. Patrick tells me that he likes working with myrtlewood in the workshop and that it produces a very balanced tone with a decisive spring in its step. To complement this, the top is Sitka spruce with its accustomed tight grain and complex cross patterning. The decision to include a Florentine cutaway – as opposed to the Saluda’s usual Venetian – was based on a photograph of a guitar Patrick made long ago that he has on his wall to this day. A Florentine cutaway is altogether more fiddly to produce as it involves matching two separate pieces of wood seamlessly as opposed to bending a single piece as would be the case with the Venetian. Here, the workmanship is flawless as usual without any apparent break in the myrtlewood grain pattern.
Another change in routine at Eggle HQ was the Saluda’s neck inasmuch that it’s a laminate of Honduran mahogany and ebony, the reasoning here being that it adds extra strength and stability this way around. Then there’s the arrowhead headstock joint; I must add that I wouldn’t have detected an actual joint between the top of the neck and the headstock, but Patrick assures me that an arrowhead joint is not only one of the strongest available, but that it also represents a tradition of instrument building from long ago. In fact, the volute that you see on many instruments is actually a decorative leftover from this type of joint.
The headstock itself is a sort of mahogany and ebony sandwich, if you see what I mean, and is finished off with the most excellent Gotoh 510 tuners.
When it comes to the pin-free bridge, this isn’t just for show either as doing things this way around means that there is no need for a hardwood bridge plate underneath the guitar’s top. This allows the combination of X and oblique fan bracing to be moved forward which should result in giving the guitar more volume and enhanced bass. Even the subtle heart shape of the soundhole means that the bracing can sit further forward and so the reasoning behind these changes really is formidable with everything done for a positive purpose and not just for the sake of a chic design shake-up. I like it!
Of course, it wouldn’t be an Eggle guitar without the trademark falling leaf pattern down the ebony fingerboard. The leaves are made from a combination of black and gold mother of pearl and look spectacular. The side markers are worthy of note, too, as Eggle has abandoned the usual dots in favour of mother of pearl pin stripes which are both unusual and classy at the same time.
It’s easy to see what Patrick means about myrtlewood having a vibrant and balanced quality to its sound as the Saluda certainly has a very broad soundstage. The bracing adjustments seem to have been a worthwhile experiment, too, as there is certainly a good supply of volume available with a lively set of dynamics, especially when picked hard. The trebles are light, sweet and rounded and the basses fully present and correct without so much as a hint of a boomy bottom-end. The neck profile is extremely user-friendly for both strumming accompaniment and serious fingerstyle and as such, there’s not a lot more that a player could ask for with this guitar.
It’s an instrument that demands to be played, too, as I found myself lost in its charms for much longer than would be considered normal for reviewing purposes. I was actually playing for fun – and that says a lot for an acoustic that is so brand spanking new that the aroma of fresh nitrocellulose lacquer literally fills the room whenever the case is opened!
There are some makers in the UK who are synonymous with top quality instruments and PJE is certainly up there with the best of the best. I’ve had the pleasure of playing quite a few Eggles over the years and each one has its own uniqueness and individuality. As far as the Florentine Saluda is concerned, this is a very young guitar and so it will mature over the years to reach its fuller potential, but even now it carries all the hallmarks of a prodigy in that it’s already a very good instrument, but you just know that one day it will be a great one!