14 fret OM Wedge Moon & Stars (2024-014)

Moon & Stars Yellow Birch Wedge OM, elevated fingerboard, adjustable action

  • A 4mm allen key adjusts the action to accommodate different playing styles, string weights and humidity changes.

The design of this guitar, meant to become my standard OM model, features three important elements: a wedge shaped body, an elevated fingerboard and an adjustable action neck.  The combination of these elements originates from the client’s initial requests to have a guitar with a really fast action due to developing arthritis.  I spent a long time deeply thinking about how to make the easiest playing guitar that I could.

Acoustic guitars are fundamentally live objects that change relative to how they are used, treated and played.  The wood is very susceptible to changes in humidity, string weight/tension and tunings, all altering the shape of the top and neck.  Among the major differences between handmade custom boutique guitars like this one compared to a major manufacturer is in the lightness of the build.  Luthiers spend a lot of time shaping and bracing the top in order to find the richest sound that wood can produce.  So, better sound=lighter build=more response=more effected by changes in humidity.  Many of us players live in environments that vary wildly through the seasons and both heating and cooling drastically change indoor humidity levels.  If one does not climate control their guitar storage, these changes dramatically impact guitar action through the seasons.  Adjusting the nut, saddle and truss rod will only get you so far, but are also often not easy to make back and forth.  An adjustable action neck is my answer to the playability problem.

The fitness of the player’s hand, different playing styles and even different songs may all benefit from different actions.  Now, with this neck design, a simple partial turn of a key allows a player to adjust the action on the fly to suit their needs.  A properly humidified home might mean never needing to adjust the action, but, really, who ever does that perfectly?

The elevated fingerboard is an opportunity to increase access to the upper frets without going to a cut away.  I have stayed away from cut aways generally because I adore the hour glass shape of the guitar.  I’ve never really liked the aesthetics of the cut away.  In the case of the adjustable action, the elevation of the fingerboard allows for the free movement of the neck closer or further from the strings.  At the very top of the guitar, the neck is inset into the body so that the adjustment of the neck angle doesn’t look odd — the changes all happen inside the pocket.

The wedge shape, as seen from the bottom of the guitar on its back, comes from my desire to create a more playable guitar from the shoulder point of view.  After years of playing a jumbo size, I have found the ergonomics haven’t been kind to my shoulder.  In this guitar, the treble side of the body is deeper, while the bass side is shallower.  The internal air volume is the same, keeping its sound as it should.  But, now, the guitar is more comfortable to play.  Another advantage is that the fingerboard is slightly canted toward the player making the frets more visible to the eye. That’s something that I really like, because, well, I am not a rock god, so I need to look at my hands sometimes.

Some luthiers have been beveling the bass side of the guitar to make the instrument more comfortable to play, but I think their objective is just to soften the edge that your arm rests on.  I don’t think that shape change enhances the shoulder ergonomics, though it might make a standard guitar more comfortable.  I have tried the bevel, but I just didn’t like how it looked and I’ve never personally found the edge of the guitar uncomfortable.

Also, this is another yellow birch guitar.  Saved from the firewood pile!  This wood creates a really nice, well-balanced sound with great resonance.  Sounds great finger-picked but has surprising volume when strummed.

From the photos, perhaps you might make out on the neck heel cap a subtle wood-burned image of an Australian shepherd, the client’s dog.

In the client’s words after playing this guitar for a couple of weeks:

It is part… of our family. It plays like I’ve always had it. Interestingly, it allows itself to be intuitive. Sounds weird, but it seems to provide a varying range of support for my voice. It may be that its musical range adapts to the sounds I make. It’s ridiculously easy to play on top of that. And it is solid. There is a lot left for me to discover… I absolutely love it. — Nancy M.

Moon & Stars Yellow Birch Wedge OM, elevated fingerboard, adjustable action
14 fret OM
24.9″ scale
1.75″ nut
Italian Spruce top
NH Yellow Birch back & sides
Indian Rosewood fingerboard
Granadillo bridge & binding
Walnut burl rosette, headstock & end wedge
Blue Paua Ablalone rosette & purfling
Mother of Pearl inlay
Carbon fiber reinforced neck
Gotoh 510 tuning machines
LR Baggs Lyric electronic pick up
Bone nut & saddle
Bone bridge pins
Star shaped sound port
Ergonomic Wedge shaped body
Elevated fingerboard
Adjustable action neck