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1981 Benedetto 16 Oval Custom, Leo Kottke
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Serial#: 6881. Clearwater, FL label, hand signed by the builder.
Body size at lower bout: 16" Body Depth: 3" Scale length: 24/3/4" Nut: 1 3/4" Neck Depth, 1st/10th frets: .86/.95 String spacing at bridge: 2 3/16"
Materials: Solid bookmatched handcarved tap-tuned spruce top with soundhole rosette; handcarved tiger flame maple back, sides, and neck; inlaid ebony fingerboard; pearl headstock logo; 7-ply body binding; 5-ply neck and headstock binding; solid bone nut.
Hardware: Gold Grover Imperial tuners; inlaid Macassar ebony tailpiece; solid ebony finger rest; compensated adjustable ebony bridge with inlaid base. Kent Armstrong Handwound JS floating humbucking pickup with soundhole mounted volume control, endpin jack.
Notes: Fingerstyle legend Leo Kottke is known for his inventive guitar compositions, as well as an eye for fine guitars, including custom made instruments from Bozo, Olson, and Hoffman, as well as his popular Kottke Signature 12 string from Taylor Guitars. But a Benedetto?
Yep, as the taciturn Minnesotan might say. Commissioned by Leo in 1981, this custom instrument was designed as an archtop for the fingerstyle player, with an oval soundhole, echoing the classic Gibson L-4 of the teens and 20's. Hand crafted by Bob in his Clearwater, FL workshop, this unique model is built with a tap-tuned X-braced soundboard, which enhances bass response and sustain over typical f-hole models.
Styled after the fashion of Bob's renowned Fratello model, the full-depth body shows superbly bookmatched tiger flame maple in the back, sides, and neck, with a hand graduated spruce soundboard of exceptionally fine grain. With its generous 1 3/4" nut and string spacing, this comfy 16" guitar performs as brilliantly with a pick as it does with the fingers, and is a remarkably versatile instrument for any number of styles.
The guitar has been maintained in superb condition, without pick, buckle, thumb or fingerboard wear, and is free of even the typical finish checking one might expect in an instrument of its vintage. A single finish crack near the back cutaway has been professionally touched up with a bit of spot lacquer: it does not extend through to the interior, and the instrument shows few signs of age otherwise. The tap-tuned soundboard is meticulously graduated, lending the voice a brilliant clarity, transmitted faithfully to the amp through the floating Armstrong JS pickup, whose 12 adjustable poles allow for precise balance with either nickel or bronze strings. The gentle D profile neck sits easily in the hand, with smooth low action over a fresh high-precision setup, and a thumbwheel volume control discreetly tucked inside the soundhole.
A rare product of Benedetto's days as a solo luthier, this lively performer comes complete with its certificate of provenance in its original hardshell case. When two original minds meet, the magic happens. One only, call now.
Update: Former Tampa Bay photographer Bruce Borich very kindly shared with us the photo below of Bob in his shop, with this very guitar pictured in the upper rack, right above his shoulder. Thanks, Bruce!
Setup: This instrument is strung with medium gauge bronze wound strings. The guitar will accommodate lighter or heavier gauge strings, according to preference. String action is set at 4/64" to 5/64" at the 12th fret, with moderate relief for acoustic playing with medium strings. The action may be lowered or raised to your requirements with the adjustable bridge.