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The Diamond Jubilee

by M. Dean Steiding

“Visually stunning with a great sound, designed and built by master luthier Bruce Kunkel, The Diamond Jubilee is as precious as its name suggests.”

Bruce Kunkel began perfecting his craftsmanship in art, music and woodworking at an early age. Today, he is bringing together his prodigious talents in all of these areas to produce hand made stringed instruments that are unequaled in quality, beauty, design and tone. Each of these elements is pushed to the highest possible standard, and each depends on and contributes to the others, resulting in a playing and listening experience that is unlike any I have ever known. At every turn there is something else to appreciate and enjoy; visual, aural, tactile. The Kunkel guitar is a symphony for the senses.

The very first thing you notice when you open the custom plush lined hard shell case for the first time is its overall beauty. The nearly bone colored Adirondack spruce top is polished to a high gloss. The mini-jumbo shape appears perfectly proportioned as a frame surrounding the heart shaped sound hole. The top, too, is framed in abalone with an outer white binding, and there is also an abalone inlay about the sound hole. The bound ebony fingerboard and ebony armrest, combined with the solid black pickguard, give the guitar an elegantly dressed up look. The fingerboard is inlaid with white and gold mother of pearl in a delicate diamond floral pattern which is completely hand engraved.

Now, pick the guitar up and the magic continues. As you move the guitar in the light, all the colors of the rainbow leap from the abalone and mother of pearl inlays. The guitar looks as if it might begin to play itself! The book-matched bubinga sides are gently tapered from the belly to the neck to accommodate the subtle arches built into the front and back. The back, also of book-matched bubinga has a shimmering irridescent quality unique to bubinga and enhanced by the high gloss finish. Your eyes are drawn to yet another unusual feature of the Kunkel. The center seam is inlaid with a colorful strip of abalone. Follow this center line to the heel of the neck, which is capped with more bubinga, and inlaid in abalone with the second of three hearts. But there is barely time to admire this lovely detail, as your eyes move immediately to the intricate carving that adorns the heel of the neck.

Again we see the diamond floral pattern at the center, surrounded by trailing vines. The relief of the carving is finished flush to the normal neck surface to provide comfort in playing. Within the white binding of the fingerboard, the fret positions are marked with reflective dots of green abalone. Finally, we examine the headstock. Capped with a veneer of the same book-matched bubinga, the headstock is tapered to facilitate placing the tuners such that all of the strings will have a straight pull through the nut. At the top, the headstock is flared and capped with a banner of pearl inlay bearing the maker’s name. Beneath the banner is the Kunkel coat of arms; a stately lion standing in profile with it’s forearms outstretched. And between the lion’s paws, is the third heart, also of abalone, and chosen especially for its reddish hue.

In addition to all of these special visual features of the Diamond Jubilee, you will notice that every joint, every curve, surface and seam is perfectly aligned and finished.

This guitar is so beautiful to look at, that you must deliberately remind yourself that it is also a great instrument to be played. When you finally sit down to play it, the instrument settles in across your lap and you immediately notice how comfortable it is to hold. It is perfectly balanced, and does not try to slide away, or require any effort to keep in proper position.

The contour of the neck, the arch of the fingerboard and the action are as comfortable as any I have ever tried. Put a pick to the strings, and the rewards continue. The tone is sweet and very evenly balanced. Almost immediately, I found that I was adapting my touch to complement the nuances of this guitar’s response. Within a day, I began to feel like the guitar belonged in my hands and was built just for me. With a flat pick, fingerpicks or just your bare fingers, the Kunkel delivers a tone that is exactly what you would expect from an instrument designed and built with such artistry.

All of this would be enough for any player seeking that once in a lifetime great instrument, but the Kunkel doesn’t stop there. We can also plug it in, thanks to the state of the art B-Band under saddle transducer. A standard ¼ inch phone jack in the end pin permits direct connection to an external amplifier. The sound from this pickup is hands down the best and most natural I have ever heard.

Let me be among the first to say that the Kunkel 16 inch Diamond Jubilee guitar will go down in history as a masterpiece, built by a true master. I consider it my extraordinary good fortune to have been able to acquire one of these wonderful instruments, and will cherish every moment I have to draw music from its heart and mine.

M. Dean Steiding, 17-November-2003

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