It’s retro all the way with this latest parlour guitar from the redoubtable Patrick James Eggle… David Mead comes over all old–timey
Remember the old complaint: “They don’t make ‘em like they used to…”? Well a few instrument makers seem to have taken it to heart and have set out to rummage through the history books in order to produce contemporary guitars that have the golden voice of another era. In particular, Patrick James Eggle has produced this parlour model that treads the path of yesteryear’s manufacturing methods so accurately that it could easily be termed a modern classic in a literal sense!
The word on the street is that all mahogany parlour guitars are trending – indeed, Patrick tells us that he can’t make enough of them at present. I’ve certainly noticed that I’m seeing more smaller bodied guitars pass before me these days. I guess it might have something to do with some conscious conservation of the rarer timbers – who knows? Or it might simply be down to the popularity of an artist like Ed Sheeran, whose all-mahogany signature model we looked at a few issues ago.
In any case, this delightfully understated 12-frets-to-the-body parlour guitar looks older than its years from the outset. Its plain, unadorned appearance places it not too far from 1920s Martins, historically speaking, and I warmed to it immediately.
So it’s out with the ruler and some measurements to give you some sense of scale. The upper bout is approx 254mm, with a lower bout at 345mm, thinning down to a waist of 210mm. The body length is 485mm and the depth goes from 87mm at the neck side and 103mm at the tail. So it’s a delightfully petite instrument with an all mahogany construction that promises some warm and sweet tones in the long run, but I think we ought to take some time out to consider some of the finer points of construction first of all.
To begin with, the body and neck are all made from Honduras mahogany – a wood that is becoming harder and harder to source in any quantity, but a timber that was widely used in guitars a century ago. The simplicity of the finely grained mahogany is virtually unbroken, too, Patrick having decided to forego any fancy trim or ornate rosette along the way. The mahogany used in the soundboard is lighter for a faster response and more volume – in fact one of the more remarkable things about this guitar is its weight. Just my initial fumbling around revealed that it’s a very light instrument to hold.
Breaking the mahogany trend it’s old growth Brazilian rosewood for the Eggle’s headplate, fingerboard and bridge. True to say that it’s a controversial wood to use these days, but there was a time when guitar manufacturers used timber that was readily available and this included Brazilian rosewood. You’ll even find it on the fretboards of some 1950s Fender Strats if you look hard enough. The tuners here are worthy of note in that they are aged nickel Waverlys and are really a beautiful asset as they add to the general vintage vibe in place here.
One of the older style building methods that Patrick has brought to this guitar is that it has no adjustable truss rod. Instead, there is a non-adjustable square steel rod running down the centre of the neck. Not particularly in favour these days, Patrick says that he loves them, despite the extra degree of care and attention that has to be paid to the neck construction and fret levelling. He says that there is less string energy dissipated through the neck which means an increase in volume and fewer dead spots. We’ll see if this theory holds true in a few moments!
Other building methods include the use of hide glue – as in the golden era acoustics – which dries hard and increases the transference of sound between the constituent parts of the instrument. Also the arrow jointed headstock – a very strong joint where the volute actually forms the arrow head which is slotted into a vee in the headstock. Tricky to do, I’m told, and more expensive – but it’s rugged and should prevent any accidental decapitation of a beloved instrument!
Whereas a lot of all mahogany acoustics guitars have a reputation for a dark, warm tone, this guitar is exceptionally bright – but in a beautiful, sweet way. It’s also surprisingly loud, which is no doubt because of a combination of the factors that I’ve mentioned above. Patrick was also right about the truss rod eliminating dead spots, because I couldn’t find any at all. In fact virtually everywhere I played on the neck gave a similar tonal response – which is really quite unusual. Most guitars tend to loose a little sustain as you go further up the neck but the parlour coped amazingly well in this respect. Chords played around the seventh to tenth frets sang out wonderfully to the extent that I’m sure if I engaged in a blindfold test many people would suspect that they were listening to a much bigger guitar. Any illusions about a parlour sized body resulting in a lack of bass need to be readdressed, too, as Patrick has squared the circle in this respect and managed to conjure up a very useable amount of bass response from this little chap.
Naturally the 44.5mm nut width met with my approval as I always seem to be ranting on in these pages about how those extra couple of mm make an incredible difference when playing fingerstyle.
Some of the methods of construction I’ve detailed here have been abandoned because they are time consuming and expensive, rather than merely “old fashioned”. I would imagine that they don’t sit well with contemporary production line manufacturing, either. But I’ve played some acoustics that were built in the 1920s or 1930s and have sometimes been amazed by how much they still have left to give in terms of volume and tone. Here, I think Patrick has managed to call up some of the prime virtues of the older style of building and merged them together in a contemporary instrument with truly remarkable tonal and dynamic ranges. Bravo!
Pros: Fabulous tone and a powerful voice – a real mighty mite!
Cons: Lack of ornamentation and vintage chic might not be everyone’s cup of tea
Overall: Take some top grade timber and combine it with classic methods of construction by a modern master and you can’t lose!
Manufacturer: Patrick James Eggle
Retail Price: £4,400
Body Size: Parlour
Made In: UK
Top: Honduras mahogany
Back and Sides: Honduras mahogany
Neck: Honduras mahogany
Fingerboard: Brazilian rosewood
Tuners: Waverly aged nickel
Nut Width: 44.5mm
Scale Length: 632mm
Strings Fitted: .012 – .052
Left Handers: To order
Gig Bag/Case Included: Hiscox case
Sound Quality 5/5
Build Quality 5/5
Value for Money 5/5
Patrick James Eggle