A 12-fret dreadnought built with stunning koa.
by Teja Gerken
January 27, 2020
Luthier Michael Millard began building guitars in his New York City apartment in 1970, and before long, he found himself working for Gurian Guitars. Soon after, he was ready to set out on his own, first working by himself, and later adding a team of builders to help craft his meticulously constructed Froggy Bottom guitars. Now celebrating its 50th anniversary, the company can rightfully claim to be one of a handful of trailblazers who set the stage for what has become a golden age of individually made custom guitars, and we recently had a chance to check out a Froggy Bottom S-12 LTD Koa in the Peghead Nation video studio.
A special edition of Froggy Bottom’s S-12 model, the S-12 LTD Koa is a 12-fret dreadnought inspired by Gibson’s legendary Roy Smeck model. Like all Froggy Bottoms, however, the guitar is no mere copy, but a highly original take on the 12-fret, slope-shoulder dreadnought. Though vintage Roy Smecks were originally built for lap-style playing, the S-12 is built for standard playing and includes a very comfortable, contemporary feeling neck. While standard S-12’s have a solid peghead, our demo S-12 LTD Koa had a slotted peghead with three-on-a-strip Waverly tuning machines. S-12s are available in a variety of wood choices, but our guitar had stunningly figured koa back and sides and a beautiful European spruce top with a sunburst finish. Appointments included abalone purfling, rosette, and back strip; maple body binding; and pearl position markers in the ebony fingerboard. The guitar’s craftsmanship was superb, with the highest level of fit and finish throughout.
The S-12 LTD Koa was an incredibly impressive guitar to play. Lightly built 12-fret dreadnoughts have long been secret weapons for fingerstylists looking for a powerful guitar, and the Froggy Bottom delivered lush, warm tones along with a fast response and rich overtones. The guitar’s confident character also extended to playing with a pick, and especially when strummed, it had a huge voice.
Without a doubt, the Froggy Bottom S-12 LTD Koa is a special guitar that represents the top level of contemporary custom guitars. Froggy Bottom has managed to make the classic design their own, and the result is nothing short of spectacular.
SPECS: 12-fret, slope-shoulder dreadnought. Solid European spruce top with X-bracing. Solid figured koa back and sides. Mahogany neck with slotted peghead. Ebony fingerboard and bridge. 25-inch scale. 1¾-inch nut width. Three-on-a-strip Waverly tuning machines. Made in the USA. $14,665 (standard models with mahogany or Indian rosewood back and sides start at $7,595). froggybottomguitars.com
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