The photos below provide a broad overview of what's possible with a custom-built Olson guitar. Additional guitar photos are available throughout the site, particular on the Brochure page and in the Guitarist Magazine review. Also, visit the Guitar Appointments page for photos of selected appointments, including several that will be standard on new Olson guitars.
Remember, you can click on most images to view a larger version in a new window.
Four Body Styles
Jim offers three full-sized body styles: SJ (Small Jumbo), Jumbo, and Dreadnaught. Shown here are an SJ (front), two Dreadnaughts and a Jumbo (right) with a variety of woods and finishes.
The most popular Olson model is the SJ with a cedar top and Indian rosewood back and sides; one is shown on the left, and two on the right along with a spruce-top Jumbo (center). First built for Phil Keaggy in the mid-1980s, the popularity of the cedar-top SJ grew further when James Taylor purchased two (one with a cutaway) along with a Dreadnaught. The SJ is also very popular with a Sitka or Engelman spruce top.
Shown here is the 12-fret Parlor guitar. It has a smaller body than a full-sized guitar, with a neck that meets the body at the 12th (rather than 14th) fret. It comes with Schaller mini tuners, a scaled-down headstock, and a fingerstyle-friendly 1.75 inch nut width. The model shown here features a Brazilian rosewood body, Englemann spruce top, Bubinga wood binding, and custom inlay work. Its tone is more "throaty" than that of his full-size models.
Olson guitars come with a five-piece laminated neck, typically with a rosewood center layer, two bordering maple layers, and two outer mahogany layers. The laminated construction gives the neck exceptional strength, even when it is carved thin. The neck and peghead are carved together from a single laminated block. A carved volute adorns the back of the peghead/neck junction; the volute adds a bit of strength (such volutes were used on old Martin guitars built with separate necks and pegheads), but is also present for its aesthetic value. The left image shows a 12-string neck, highlighting the volute. The front of the peghead has an ebony laminate with an "O" inlay standard, shown in the right image. The neck has a metal truss rod that is adjustable at the peghead.
The width and contour of the neck can be freely specified by the customer (but not the scale length). Jim can even use measurements from your current favorite guitar to duplicate its neck geometry.
On non-cutaway guitars, the neck heel has the traditional narrow and pointed shape shown here. On cutaway guitars, the heel is broader but shallower to facilitate reaching the high frets (see cutaway photos below). The neck is attached to the body with a dovetail joint.
Jim stocks a variety of carefully selected tonewoods you can choose from. The most common top woods are cedar, Sitka spruce, Engelman spruce, and Adirondack (red) spruce. Common woods for the back and sides include curly maple and Indian rosewood (left image), old-growth Brazilian rosewood, and curly koa (the right image shows a Jumbo with curly Koa). Other woods are also available, or Jim can work with tonewoods you locate yourself.
Jim offers many optional appointments of his own design; he will also happily work with other artisans to help make your guitar a unique work of art. The guitar shown on the left has an abalone soundhole rosette and abalone top edging. It also features an intricate fretboard inlay that is the work of another master artisan, Larry Robinson of Robinson Custom Inlays, considered by Jim to be one of the world's premiere inlay artists. The headstock shown on the right has a graceful custom inlay in place of the standard "O."
Intricate carvings on the neck heel are another option; this image showcases a shallow neck heel from a cutaway model. Photos of a few more selected appointments appear on the Guitar Appointments page.