Excellent acoustics: Rick Turner’s personal 2007 Compass Rose guitar is a testament to his avant-garde style

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From September/October 2022 problem of Acoustic guitar | By Greg Olwell

From the “hippie sandwich” electric basses and guitars he made with Alembic in the 1970s, to the Renaissance electro-acoustic guitars and the Compass Rose acoustic and ukuleles he started building in the 90s, the late luthier and repair guru Rick Turner found inspiration in the past while exploring new technologies.

Turner has created many unique Compass Rose acoustics (even going so far as to design one for the extreme environment of Antarctica). The example here, considered one of his best, was the luthier’s personal guitar and a showcase of his bold concepts and skillful execution. It features a jumbo body with a Russian spruce top, Cambodian rosewood back and sides, and a Honduran mahogany neck. Distinctive signature details include an arrowhead-shaped headstock and a bridge inspired by baroque-era lutes. But a peek through the side sound port shows an interior brimming with Turner’s latest innovations.

Much of the spruce bracing is laminated with strips of carbon fiber, making it stronger and lighter than the solid wood type. Four carbon fiber rods anchor the neck block to the middle fights to support the neck, which floats. Turner based the neck on Howe-Orme instruments from the 1890s. The neck and fingerboard are cantilevered from the body for greater surface area for vibration; a clever mechanism allows the neck angle and string height to be adjusted with an allen wrench, eliminating the need for future neck resets.

“Because its bracing is reinforced with carbon fiber, Dad was able to build the guitar quite light for a jumbo,” says Ethan Turner, the luthier’s son and current guardian of the instrument. “It made a very resonant guitar with a big punchy sound. I love recording with it because you can point a mic almost anywhere on the body and get great sound.

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