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Built to Sound

Dan Koentopp: Chicago Manual of Style

By Published: January 19, 2010

Currently, the DK Custom Guitars model lineup consists of both acoustic and electric instruments. The Amati model was Koentopp's first and has a 17" archtop body design and a 25" scale. It has a 3" body depth with a spruce top and maple back and sides. The bracing is either an X-style or parallel depending on the customer's sound needs. Also built as an archtop with a spruce top and maple back and sides, The Chicagoan comes in two styles: the standard f-hole type archtop or the oval holed archtop. The standard version comes with more modern looking f-holes than the classic look of the Amati ones, while the oval hole version has a hint of the Selmer look to it. Both versions share the 17" graduated body in a 25" scale, with the Venetian cutaway as an option.

The Blue Line is Koentopp's latest model in production and is designed and priced to be more of what he describes as "a working man's guitar." It has a smaller body (16") and reduced depth (2.75") with thicker plates that help reduce any potential feedback. It is a 22 fret, 24.75" scale and outfitted with a Kent Armstrong floating pickup, which is also an option on both The Amati and The Blue Line models. Koentopp is also building a true Classical style guitar based the design of famed builder, Antonio de Torres. "I'm building it with laminated sides because I want it to be more of a drum. So the sides have to be real stable," Koentopp says. Never afraid to incorporate innovations, he is using a set neck joint instead of the traditional Spanish heel. "Normally, the neck on a Classical guitar is tilted a little forward," he explains. "But there are issues with that over the life time of the guitar, so I'm doing it this way and including a slight taper in the body to make up the difference." Also in development is a new electric line that he is still perfecting. "I am in the process of designing a new guitar line called the Evolution Series, which is a new, forward approach in guitar design," Koentopp explains.

"I love what I'm doing right now. I love not being rushed in the process," Koentopp says describing his current shop. On the future of DK Custom Guitars, he stresses his desire to maintain quality and the relationship he builds with customers. "My biggest concern is losing the relationships I have with the people I'm building for," he says. "I like spending this much attention and time on a single instrument.

The saddest thing is to have to sell one," Koentopp says half-jestingly. But you can sense that he truly grows attached to each instrument as he marshals them through the stages of development. And it's understandable given the amount of thought, technique and creativity he invests in each instrument. "He may be a guy at the start of his career, but he's an old soul," Thomas Cray muses. "He's an artist as well as a builder." And while it's true that DK Custom Guitars share a tone and feel bred of unsurpassed craftsmanship, they are also all stunningly beautiful.

Photo Credits

Courtesy of Dan Koentopp

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