Aesthetically, Dammann Instruments' seeks to highlight the natural materials used. Our designs feature clean lines, balanced proportions, and pleasing curves that complement the tonal balance and clarity of the instrument. Standard back and side options include locally grown and harvested hardwoods: Cherry, Walnut, Locust, and Osage Orange with tasteful appointments in exotic or domestic hardwoods, figured shell, and gold or black plated hardware. For our mandocellos and guitars, a number of rosette options are available that feature burls, spalted wood, abalone and pearl, and multiple lined purfling.
Almost every rosette we use is different in design. Here are some recent examples:
There are more examples in our instrument sections.
Capped with a hand-inlaid headplate veneer and crafted from quality timber, the headstock of a Dammann instrument is structurally strong. Our design extends a continuous carbon-fiber reinforcement 1.5" into the headstock, dramatically strengthening the traditional weak point of the truss-rod access route. An additional hardwood backplate veneer contributes strength and beauty to the neck. With further customization, such as matching hardwood binding and purfling around the headstock edge, accenting crescent inlays, and custom headplate selection, we can craft a headstock with more custom options than some makers offer in their entire instruments!
Read what our player's think about our instruments here.
Neck Profiles and Construction
Using a combination of tone wood choices and bracing variations, any number of tonal characteristics can be achieved. A variety of neck profiles are available. We also offer a range of spacings and widths for both the bridge and the nut to fit personal preferences.
All of our neck stock is prepared from quarter sawn blanks of seasoned material for strength and stability. We are particularly fond of walnut and cherry necks and often create laminate necks using locust in the center with cherry or walnut surrounding the locust. Each neck is further enhanced by the installation of two 1/8" x 3/8" carbon-fiber/epoxy bars running from the headstock to the end of the fingerboard. Renown for their high strength, low weight, and dimensional stability, these reinforcements are key to enabling a fast, precise playing surface. The bars ensure that the neck shaft will remain straight for years down the road and prevent dead spots and unwanted neck resonance. In addition to the bars, we utilize double-acting, torque-driven truss rods for more precise control and reliable operation than traditional compression rods.
Quarter sawn pieces come out of the band saw mill
Lumber re-sawn and placed in our kiln for drying
Rough neck with component parts
Osage orange back
Locust back and sides
Back, Side, and Neck Woods
Local, and Proud of It
From the very beginning Ralph Dammann has committed to using as many local materials (and people) as possible for his business - even his workshop was built from materials recycled from a local railway station!
Quarter Sawing a Walnut Log
Whenever possible and practical, the woods we use are harvested locally. For years we have been collecting "orphaned" trees that have been cut down or have blown over in storms. In many cases, we have rescued lumber that was scheduled to become firewood and turned it into prized instrument wood. We saw our logs in a quarter sawn manner to make them ideally suited for instrument construction. With our lumber kiln, we are able to dry and season the lumber to our own specifications. Once dried, we cut and select pieces for grain orientation and beauty. Salvaged Cherry, Osage Orange, Locust, and Walnut have all been used to make extraordinary instruments in our shop. We have recently begun to saw walnut stump wood into guitar backs for extraordinary figure and beauty.
Cherry generally contributes a dry, clear sound with the direct character of Maple. Like Maple, Cherry requires some time to come into its own tonally, but once it does the overtones broaden out to create a sound that is both warm and direct, but also rich in overtones with age. Because of its strength and stability, we often use cherry to make necks in our instruments.
Fingerboards and Necks in Progress
Known as an extremely durable fencepost wood, Osage Orange is a surprisingly great tonewood. Sharing many mechanical and tonal characteristics with imported Honduran or Brazilian Rosewoods, Osage Orange offers power and wide-ranging response. Lemon yellow when freshly cut, exposure to sunlight turns the wood to a warm brownish hue with time. Osage Orange looks and sounds as good, if not better, than the various rosewoods currently available.
With a grain and a shimmer similar to Osage Orange, our locally-cut Locust offers a lighter array of shades, ranging from a pale wheat color to darker golden yellow. Tonally Locust offers an interesting blend between rosewood and mahogany. It shares a snappy response and note definition with mahogany and the power, resonance, and overtones common to rosewood. We often use locust laminate pieces in the center of our necks to add still more rigidity and strength.
Walnut is the darkest of the local woods we use. It ranges in color from light to dark brown. As a tone wood, it is similar to mahogany in presence and bass response. Despite being a hard tone wood, walnut is lightweight, making it a good choice for our solid body electric basses and neck blanks.
What we can't source locally, we order from suppliers who share our enthusiasm for sustainability and quality.
Bearclaw Sitka Spruce Top
For soundboards we utilize primarily domestic species of Spruce or Western Red Cedar. Sitka spruce is our preferred top for it's balanced tonal qualities, offering ample volume and strong fundamental tone with controlled overtones. With no clear deficiencies, Sitka responds well to different bracing and voicing schemes and also blends nicely with all back and side combinations. For more overtones and a quicker response we'll turn to Engelmann spruce, which shines when played with a lighter touch and excels in open tunings. Red Cedar offers a distinctly different tone than the Spruces with a broader, warmer, sweeter sound with plenty of overtones. As the lightest of the tonewoods it also provides a quick response with a light touch which is even further magnified when used in our double-top soundboards.
We have explored many pickups for our Five Course Mandocello. We recommend the Baggs Imax for SP models and the Seymour Duncan active humbucker with microphone model SA-6 Mag Mic for standard sound hole models. Our recent instruments are furnished with our shop made piezo pick-ups. They produce, in our opinion as good a sound as we have been able find. However many pickups we have tried sound super on these instruments, but the string power is well balanced with both of these options. Whether you pick one of our recommendations or have something else in mind, we can install any pickup you request. Hand-wound shop pickups are also available.
Dammann Basses feature a variety of pickup options. Through commercially available pickups or our own custom handwound pickup options, we can create the sound you are looking for in our instruments.
Pickups in a standard mandocello custom model, SP model and acoustic guitar:
All instruments come with a hard-shell case.
There are many more custom options contact us.
to discuss them.