Instruments & Gear: Fine Lutherie

Huss and Dalton CM Cutaway Standard

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A mid-size flattop that’s perfect for fingerstyle.

by Teja Gerken
June 08, 2020

Founded in 1995, Virginia’s Huss and Dalton Guitar Company is one of the premier small-shop builders of flattop guitars and banjos. Spearheaded by luthiers Jeff Huss and Mark Dalton, the company balances classic instrument blueprints with original designs and ideas, resulting in a distinctive range of models. I recently had a chance to check out a Huss and Dalton CM Cutaway Standard in the Peghead Nation video studio. 


The CM models are some of Huss and Dalton’s most original instruments. Though the body size is similar to a 000/OM (measuring 15¼ inches at the lower bout), it’s considerably deeper, giving it greater internal air volume. Combined with the guitar’s long scale, relatively wide neck, and roomy string spacing at the saddle, this design makes it great for fingerstyle players.


Although myriad custom specs are available, standard CMs come with either mahogany or Indian rosewood back and sides. Our demo guitar was built with rosewood that is on the darker end of the rosewood spectrum. The guitar’s Engelmann spruce top is about as close to white as I’ve seen and features several subtle spots of beautiful bear-claw figure. Flamed-maple binding is used for both the body and the neck and the guitar has an abalone rosette and zigzag backstrip. The ebony fingerboard is plain; the only inlay is an abalone scroll inlay at the 12th fret.


As I suspected, the CM Cutaway Standard is a fabulous fingerstyle guitar. Engelmann tops are known for yielding a quick response and developing complex tone without requiring much of a string attack, and this instrument is no exception. When you add the guitar’s relatively shallow, rounded neck profile and generous string spacing, you get an instrument that’s a joy to play and will be an especially good match for players with a softer touch. And the long scale allows the guitar to keep its balance and clarity with dropped tunings.


Overall, I’d describe the Huss and Dalton CM Cutaway Standard’s general character as OM-like, but with a more fine-tuned dynamic range. With its original design and refined sound, it more than holds its own among the current crop of small-shop, mid-size guitars in this price range. Big kudos to Jeff Huss and Mark Dalton and their team!


SPECS: Concert body. Engelmann spruce top. Indian rosewood back and sides. Mahogany neck. Ebony bridge and fingerboard. 25.4-inch scale. 1¾-inch nut width. 2⁷/₃₂-inch string spacing at saddle. Gold Gotoh Mini tuners. Made in the USA. $4,503.

Category: Instruments & Gear

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