Chris Newman

The all-black guitar

When Chris asked me to build him a guitar, I was shocked, surprised and pleased, though not necessarily in that order! While on tour here in New Zealand, he got the chance to play a few of my guitars and settled on my cutaway TC-style model. We talked about timbers and the like and my wife commented how it would be nice to produce something which might visually complement Maire's black harp on stage.

Net result? Black. And he meant BLACK - machineheads, nut, saddle - if it could be black it was to be.. And I said yes... though it was me who suggested putting Mother of Pearl around the soundhole and the edge of the front. The only other requirement - a full 24 fret ebony fingerboard with Mother of Pearl side position dots.
Of course when the time came to build it, the full implications became apparent. The select flamed Honduras mahogany neck, the AAA grade Indian Rosewood back and sides, the AAA grade Italian Spruce front would all have to be painted... Of course the further on the process went, the more difficult it became to cover up all that lovely wood. I tried hard to persuade him otherwise but Chris was determined. And so black it was to be, which of course got me thinking. The inside had to be painted too. And how can you get nuts and saddles in black? A bit of trawling and presto, Graphtech nuts and saddles. And sourcing Mother of Pearl wasn't a problem, though cutting all the pieces one by one was time-consuming - no laminated shell here, this is solid 1mm thick pearl! And so it took shape.. until finally I sent it off to John Sutherland in Wellington, NZ, a trusty friend who had agreed to custom paint the instrument in metallic black, "with a hint of red". And Black Beauty was born.. Now with the addition of a K&K Pure pickup it has taken its place 'on stage'.

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