Overseen by none other than master guitar builder Patrick James Eggle, Faith Guitars are slowly but surely making their irrepressible mark on the world. Featuring sleek, pristine designs and world-class lutherie, Faith Guitars were able to claim and hold the title of ‘UK’s Best Acoustic Guitar’ for five consecutive years – no simple feat indeed. While Eggle’s personal guitar brand was booming in the ‘90s, a chance encounter at a popular music exposition led him on an entirely new venture.
“When I was at Summer NAMM in Nashville, 2002, I was approached by Brian Cleary (one of the managing directors of Barnes and Mullins) to design some flat top acoustics for Faith Guitars – which was then a newly formed brand. I accepted, but a few months after that, my visa ran out, and so I came back to the UK. Shortly after, they invited me to move into the Barnes and Mullins building to work – so now, he’s my landlord as well,” Eggle laughs.
Alex Mew, marketing director of Barnes and Mullins, was a big advocate for Faith Guitars’ partnership with Eggle. “The idea behind Faith was to build high quality all solid guitars at reasonable prices,” Mew says.
“We always wanted to continue working with the workshop in Indonesia, and we’re still working with them today. Essentially, we already made some good guitars, but we knew they could be better. There’s only so much you can do when you don’t physically understand the very base structure. Patrick was someone who knew down to the finest details of how guitars were built from scratch, and even when making seemingly small changes they made enormous differences. You know - this is nice, but it could be nicer?”
Once the partnership was set in stone, Eggle immediately began his tenure with Faith Guitars as its new lead designer, utilising his extensive knowledge to reform almost everything from the ground up, bar the headstock shape and guitar model names.
The design philosophy behind the new range of instruments was pure simplicity and humility; placing heavy emphasis on the fundamentals of a great-sounding and highly playable guitar, rather than fancy inlays and over-the-top finishes. The guitars themselves exude confidence through sheer elementary aesthetics alone, relying on the wood’s natural grain pattern to speak for itself. One of Eggle’s major contributions to the new line of guitars was his bountiful experience with diverse lacquer finishes, and the nuanced ways it finely sculpted sound output in particular. “I can probably pass a blindfold test with two instruments built of the same quality but finished differently,” Eggle says.
“If you have too much lacquer on a guitar, it’ll be heavy, which will affect the response time of the instrument. It’ll affect how quickly the energy of the strings can push energy into the guitar and get that momentum going, dampening the instrument. With our guitars, we ensure the lacquer is as thin as we can get it; we use urethane to allow it to breathe and still remain flexible. The finish moves with the instrument and doesn’t inhibit the sound. Acoustic guitars with almost no finish sound extremely alive, and a lot of people like that.”
One of such guitars was voted by the public as the UK’s best acoustic guitar of 2013 – the Naked Venus Cut/Electro. The entire body of the instrument is finished in two-stage satin and is utterly devoid of any cosmetics. With such a thin finish, the solid tonewood body is almost entirely unrestricted in its resonance, amplifying its natural tonal qualities.
“The Naked Series was essentially taken from the Natural Series,” Mew says.
“We stripped down the Natural Series to its very core, using a very understated look as its starting point. Because of the tonewood’s high quality, the raw instrument as a whole is incredibly beautiful, without any cosmetic embellishments at all.”
“Yeah, that’s the thing,” Eggle adds.
“If the guitar is right – if it’s designed right, feels right, and sounds right, you don’t need to do anything else. It already looks great, so everything else is unnecessary. That’s the main philosophy behind Faith. We always concentrate on the fundamentals, rather than the fancy inlays and crazy finishes. What we’ve always strived for is to build guitars that sound good and look great. And of course, for the right price.”
It goes without saying that Faith Guitars heavily pride themselves on both the quality and workmanship of their instruments. Each guitar is constructed in a family-run workshop in West Java, Indonesia, staffed by woodworking graduates and highly trained luthiers. Every single component is meticulously crafted, shaped, and set by hand, using a marriage of modern and traditional techniques to achieve results of the highest calibre. After construction, each guitar is carefully set up to Eggle’s specifications, ensuring they perform at their very best right out of their case.
Faith Guitars places significant attention on both quality and sustainability of the timber used in their instruments, making sure each merchant source they deal with is FSC certified. Engelmann spruce, cedar and maple are procured from North America and Europe, while mahogany, rosewood and Trembesi are sourced locally in Indonesia. While not exactly a household name in luthiery, Trembesi – an exotic tonewood indigenous to Indonesia – is the unique star in its eponymously named series. The recent addition to the Faith Guitars lineup was conceived from an accidental yet fruitful discovery by Eggle and his team on a business trip overseas.
“We were in Indonesia visiting the workshop, and there was this beautiful table in our hotel. We looked at it and thought it looked just lovely. So, we asked the team at the workshop what kind of wood it was, and it turned out to be Trembesi. Then I said ‘cool – can we make guitars out of it? Could we sample one?’ And that’s where it all started, really. Visually and sonically, it’s closer to Koa or Australian Blackwood. It’s warm and has good mids, but still remains crisp as well,” Eggle says.
With such outstanding performance in the UK in a relatively short period of time, things are only looking up for Faith Guitars in the global scene. The company plans to announce a few new models later this year, including a baritone constructed with spruce and rosewood, and a cedar and rosewood nylon string guitar aimed at non-classical guitar players.
Head to Faith Guitars to find out more.