The slope dread is one of the best-sounding models of all time. Add a 12-fret neck and
Mr Eggle’s superlative workmanship, and youve got a humdinger. Review: Jerry Uwins
Over recent years, Patrick James Eggle has been gradually standardising the specs of his custom-built acoustics in pursuit of a more catalogue-based range. At the same time, however, he’s been broadening the choice of models. Last year saw the introduction of a cutaway version of the OM-style Linville, and now his Kanuga slope-shoulder dreadnought – originally launched in 2006 while Patrick was working in America – is offered in a 12-frets-to-body variant alongside the standard 14-fret Kanuga. So Eggle customers now have a choice of three dreadnoughts: the two Kanugas and the square-shoulder, Martin-style Skyland.
Some makers elongate the body when adapting a 14-fret design. Patrick has retained the same body length (510mm), compensating for the 12th-fret neck join by shifting the soundhole and moving the bridge further back towards the centre of the lower bouts, which many regard as the ‘sweet spot’. The scale length is also shortened, from 645mm (25.4") to 632mm (24.9"). Physical and aesthetic balance are excellent, enhancing the slope-shoulder’s built-in elegance.
In fact, this guitar is elegant all over. The close-grained, richly cross-silked sitka spruce top with its paua-shell soundhole rosette and tortie pickguard is beautifully bound in figured myrtlewood with herringbone purfling, and is sunbursted to a rich honey-cum-cherry hue. This is distinctive in itself, because the default ‘burst on most 12-fret dreads is the ubiquitous vintage or tobacco. Some Kanugas might be closer to those darker shades, as Patrick says that the colour will vary, not through any caprice on the part of the guy doing the spraying but simply to lend a degree of individual personality to each instrument. Similarly, Eggle does sometimes ring the changes with body binding woods, although the myrtlewood – which also edges the rosewood back and sides and is used for the endblock decoration – is likely to grace all 12-fret Kanugas… the sunburst ones, at least. There’s also a natural version, where you can save yourself £500, though we reckon the bursted job will tempt most prospective buyers.
Our sample doesn’t have a bottom strap button. However, Patrick will fit one at no extra charge, and you can have one at the heel too if you want. An endpin electro system is an option, and the extra cost simply depends on your choice of system. Just ask.
The cosmetics and detailing reflect the vintage influences that are part and parcel of 12-fret designs. There’s a diamond volute under the nut position and an ebony pyramid bridge with pearl-dotted ivoroid pins. Foremost, though, is the slot headstock, carrying a set of pukka nickel Waverly tuners with ivoroid buttons and faced with a coachlined ebony overlay within which sits the distinctive curlicue Patrick James Eggle logo in mother of pearl. The peghead is indicative of the sheer top-calibre quality of the whole guitar. The demarcation between the gloss lacquering of the face and slots, and the satin finish of the edges and underside is absolutely clean. Sometimes, even on expensive luthier-made instruments, this is an area that can betray shortcomings, but here it’s precision personified.
Where the standard Kanuga is more of a general-purpose dread with a semi-wide 44.5mm neck, the 12-fretter is configured very much as a picker. Nut span becomes 47mm, while string spacing at the bridge is 56mm. You’ll be in no doubt that you’re handling a fingerstyle neck, but the feel isn’t too plank-like thanks to a shallow profile – not a V shape, as on many 12-fretters, but evenly rounded. The neck has a low-gloss patina, the frets are immaculately dressed, and the set-up is low. It’s a fast, instantly accommodating player that feels comfortable rather than daunting, even for a small-handed player. As on other Eggles the neck, fashioned from one-piece mahogany, is secured with a Collings-style bolting system.
The ebony fingerboard is unbound but, as per the headstock’s detailing, a narrow purfling of white fibre and Australian bloodwood is inlaid around the perimeter to give a bound look from face on. Along with the slotted-square pearl position markers the result is very attractive, but if you’re insistent on not wanting to see the frets’ tang ends you can opt to have it fully bound for an extra £200. Me, I wouldn’t bother.
The Kanuga‘s full-depth body promises a beefy sound, and that’s largely what it delivers. The low end is engagingly warm, rich and firm, balanced by smoothly lustrous highs along with an excellent integrated clarity and focus across the strings, and a ready sustain. There is a hint of new-guitar stiffness in the dynamics, but that is far from uncommon on all-solid-wood acoustics, regardless of price. Suffice to say, things are beginning to loosen up after a few days’ playing and the process will continue in that same rewarding direction as the guitar ages.
Patrick Eggle's 12-fret Kanuga is well-timed because these vintage-style dreads are enjoying a surge of popularity within today's retro acoustic craze. It's not hard to see why: they look fab, they're great pickers (as long as you don't mind the restricted up-top access that goes with the 12-fret territory), and they possess the tonal muscle to tackle pretty much anything. The Eggle is a very desirable pro-end contender, built - as are all his instruments - to a faultlessly high standard and simply oozing quality and class. So go on, help kickstart the UK economy. Start saving up now.