The Ribbecke Guitar Company Introduces: The Legacy Trio

By Andrew Catania

It’s September already and we are getting closer to the Santa Barbara Acoustic Instruments Celebration, held from September 29 to October 2! The Ribbecke Guitar Company is making an appearance to introduce their unique Legacy Trio limited series! It includes three customized beautiful acoustic models made out of a special and rare Honduran quilted mahogany discovered in 1965, known as “The Tree” among the luthiers and other wood experts.

Who is Tom Ribbecke?

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Tom Ribbecke is an experienced luthier specializing in building and repairing guitars and basses since 1974. He has established himself in the San Francisco bay area and has been recognized for his top quality work. Since 1984 Tom dedicates himself exclusively to the Commission building proving himself a better artisan with each new instrument. In 2003, along with his good friend and renowned bass player Bobby Vega, they both created the Halfling Design¸ which is a unique approach that blends the steel-string, classical and archtop guitars into a model that enhances the bass response, feedback suppression and offers the required versatility that every contemporary guitarist is looking for.

After more than three decades crafting high-end instruments for private commissioned works, he decided to no longer accept these jobs in order to produce his “Masterpiece Series”, meant to be the maximum expression of his artistic experience gathered from all the years in the industry. In Tom Ribbecke’s own words: “each instrument will be unique and differentiated by label, material and thematic detail. They will be individual and uncompromised”. This series will give the opportunity to craft one-of-a-kind models to anyone who wants to experience the best that Ribbecke’s Guitar Company has to offer!

Trio AT front

The Tree

 In this article we cover a special limited series of guitars that are made using wood from “The Tree.”

“The Tree” is a rare mahogany specimen which was found around 1965 in Honduras.  In the jungle of Chicibul, a party of loggers tried to bring him down and failed, leaving more than 100 feet of a rare figured type of wood for about 18 years! By 1971 Robert Novak heard from other Honduran loggers about a giant mahogany tree that was lying stuck in a ravine. He moved all resources available to transport it to his own mill, he opted for sawing it and shipping it to America. Buyers were heavily interested in this rare tree, technically known as “blistered” or “quilted”.

The Tree became an instant legend, and it turned out to be one of the most exclusive types of wood required for instrument makers. Quilted mahogany from The Tree has only been been available since 1981. Initially much of the wood was made into furniture but master luthiers such as Tom Ribbecke, Harvey Leach, Michael Greenfield, Tom Bedell and companies such as Martin, Taylor, Santa Cruz and Froggy Bottom recognized the importance of this wood and the spiritual sound it produced and began to make instruments out of it. Now, most of the tables and other furniture that were made of it are highly prized and are being sought out in order to be turned into instruments. Even Slash himself owns a special model made by Reuben Forsland!

This exclusivity makes instruments made from The Tree one of the most expensive in the market. This is one of the occasions when we say that the price is right. The sound quality from these instruments is remarkable!

The Ribbecke’s Legacy Trio

Trio headstocks

This exclusive guitar series made by Tom Ribbecke himself means a step forward.  In the search of the perfect balance between acoustic and electric guitars few artists will have the privilege to play them. Even when there are many instruments made with pieces from The Tree, the Ribbecke’s Legacy Trio are the first guitars made with a single piece of carved quilted mahogany. Composing single-piece back and top of these guitars, making Tom Ribbecke a pioneer.

Here are some of the specifications disclosed so far:

·         Single piece tortoise shell pattern carved backs from The Tree

·         Inlay work done by Larry Robinson and microscrimshaw work done by Bob Hergert

·         The Bass has a custom EMG rare earth magnetic pickup and preamp made by Rob Turner

·         The Archtop has an original custom built Bartolini pickup

·         The Acoustic has an LR Baggs Lyric mic pickup

There was approximately 12,000 board feet cut from The Tree. Of this approximately 1/3 had the most desirable “Tortoise shell” pattern. 1/3 had the “sausage curl” pattern and the remaining 1/3 had the “blister pattern”. Think of this in terms of Cut Clarity Carrot for diamonds.

As far as rarity, only 4,000 board feet of this material with this pattern exists. Almost certainly not much of the Tortoise shell pattern is left. So this goes beyond rare. Too extremely “once in a lifetime” rare.

Trio AT Top 3:4 close

Beautifully designed guitars that were commissioned in 2012 took 4 years in the building just to bring the world one of the most unique guitar sounds that we will ever hear! Here’s a video from Ribbecke’s Guitar YouTube channel.

Pay special attention to the enhanced bass sounds and the natural resonance!

The Ribbecke’s Legacy Trio Debut

Trio B top side

The Legacy Trio will have its first exposure to the public at the Santa Barbara Acoustic Instrument Celebration. This appearance will serve a noble cause to be part of the building movement to see ‘How Music Helps People Heal.’ The funds raised from the sale of the instruments will be used towards this beautiful end.

This event will be a golden opportunity to see Tom’s contribution to the modern lutherie. It will serve as an inspiration for legions of dedicated luthiers and musicians.

For more information on Tom Ribbecke, please visit: ribbecke.com

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