The lutherie practiced by our Builder's Reserve team is, by design, meant to stretch the outer limits of what we can do at Taylor. Our BR-VIII guitar showcases a perfect example of such master craftsmanship, even though it's not easy to spot: a contoured cutaway that flows cleanly into the tapered profile of the neck heel. If you look at a traditional Taylor cutaway from the back, you'll see that the end of the cutaway meets the other side panel at a 90-degree angle, with a capped edge that runs perpendicular between the guitar's top and back. Because of the way our heel tapers from the top to the heel cap below, an extra corner is left between the heel and the end of the cutaway. Taylor luthier Andy Powers wanted to essentially delete that corner by shaping the cutaway differently, giving it a compound curve that flows into the line of the heel.
"When some players pick this up, they won't see the strap button right there in the heel, and when they play it, they'll realize that the high portion of the fretboard is a lot more effortless to access than ever because your hand or wrist isn't bumping into the guitar anymore," Andy says.
Another reason that someone might not notice the contour, Andy says, is because it looks "right."
"When you look at the guitar from the back, from the sides, from any angle, aesthetically, all the lines flow into each other," he explains. "It just looks right as a piece of sculpture. It has this appealing gracefulness."
For the tonewood pairing, the design team selected sets of beautiful flamed Claro walnut for the back and sides, with a cedar top braced with Adirondack spruce. They chose a GS body.
"It's a guitar with a really big personality," Andy says. "It gives you the warm, woody, rich sound of a cedar top, while walnut has a nice transparency — it's uniform and evenly responsive. It's really clear, yet with a rich overtone complement from the cedar top. Alternate tunings sound great, and it's one of my favorite combinations for a fingerstyle guitar."
The appointments follow an organic, all-wood aesthetic, featuring rosewood binding with maple purfling. The fretboard and headstock inlays are a custom "Nouveau Bouquet" design that was inspired at the end of one of Andy's ocean paddleboarding sessions.
"I was sitting on the board afterwards, floating and bobbing in the kelp bed, watching the kelp leaves twist and sway in the bit of surf that was there, and it really caught my attention," he recalls. "So I came back to the shop, sketched it out, and it turned into this inlay. I think of it as kelp with a Nouveau twist."
The inlay woods selected were white European maple with accents of myrtle for a subtle color shading. The rosette features delicately cut rosewood and European maple concentric rings sandwiched between wood purflings.
The guitar was paired with an ES-Amp™ that features more of the shimmering figured walnut, treated with a satin finish. Andy wanted the wood to be the aesthetic focus, so he kept the design simple, opting for traditional dovetailed corners.
The BR-VIII pairing was sold to dealers exclusively as a matched guitar/amp set. A total of 30 were made.