Muiderman Guitars

By Saufley, Charles | Acoustic Guitar, September 2010 | Go to article overview

Muiderman Guitars


Saufley, Charles, Acoustic Guitar


With an appetite for experimentation and the discipline of a classically trained player, Kevin Muiderman builds remarkably expressive instruments.

With almost ten years of classical guitar training under his belt as a player, North Dakota luthier Kevin Muiderman has a sixth sense for how a great guitar feels and plays. And his long roster of notable clients, including Michael Chapdelaine, John Doyle, and Willy Porter, proves that he's sympathetic to the needs of wildly different guitarists.

Muiderman's exploratory approach to guitar building springs from having an open mind to design evolutions like double tops and hybrid instruments, such as his "guizouki." But it's also based on the belief that guitars are not objects to hang on a wall but tools that help players make music. Accordingly, Muiderman builds both classical and steel-string guitars, and he's even pressing on into other areas of lutherie, including the construction of mandolins.

Classically Inspired Steel-Strings

In addition to his love for music, Muiderman came to guitar building through an enthusiasm for woodworking and an inquisitive nature about the way things work. He also had the advantage of growing up near Holland, Michigan, where he was able to watch luthier Del Langejans build great guitars firsthand.

"He used to build right behind the counter at his shop where I could watch him, and that fascinated me. He also had his guitars in this beautifully lit case. If you were lucky, he'd let you play them, and when I did, I noticed that so many of them sounded better than the stuff off the rack. I really wanted to know why." The experience of playing Langejans's instruments didn't just pique Muiderman's interest in guitar construction, it helped him set a standard of quality to aim for, and, along with an important musical epiphany, it opened his eyes to the world of steet-string guitars.

In the early '90s, Muiderman enrolled at the Leeds Gu/tarmakers school in Massachusetts, where he studied under Ivon Schmukler and Alan Chapman. The choice of schools proved fortuitous - offering Muiderman the opportunity to study both steelstring and classical construction and exposing him to the possibilities of evolutionary construction techniques that inspire him today.

Lattice Bracing and Double Tops

Muiderman's work with Chapman, who only makes classical guitars, proved especially influential. "Chapman introduced me to the techniques Greg Smallman pioneered- which applies the idea of lattice bracing, like that on an airplane wing, and uses braces made with carbon-fiber/ wood laminates to make tops stronger and lighter," Muiderman says. "Alan got me excited about applying a scientific mind-set, building test guitars on which you could try multiple ideas, and the idea that there's always room for improvement in guitar building. His guitars also were an epiphany, sonically speaking. I remember being able to hear them over the band saws and other tools all the way across the i shop at Leeds and being really amazed that you could get that kind of volume out of a classical instrument."

Muiderman set up his shop not long after finishing his work at Leeds. And he set about applying the techniques and spirit of experimentation instilled by Chapman to steel-string construction - his tops with a lattice of 16 interlocking balsa wood braces laminated with carbon fiber. "Graphite lattice bracing works very well on a steelstring," Muiderman says. "On a classical guitar, you get more projection and range out of that bracing configuration. …

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