Jim Olson is one of the most recognizable names in hand-made guitars, especially in Minnesota and the surrounding area. Today I'm taking a look at his latest foray into the art guitar market. This is his "Tiger Guitar," made of Tiger Myrtle and Snakewood. He commissioned world-renowned inlay artist, Larry Robinson to do the tiger-themed inlay, and the pins, nut and saddle are fossilized walrus Ivory. This is definitely a collector's guitar. It will be featured in the hardcover release of my book, Meeting the Makers: Minnesota's Finest Guitar Builders, due out this spring. The book already included photos of the guitar in process, so adding the finished product as a key piece of Jim's repertoire seemed like a natural fit.
The inspiration for this guitar was a very unique and special set of wood from Tasmania, appropriately named "Tiger Myrtle" for its incredible color and figure not unlike that of a Tiger's fur. Featuring a special "sinker" Redwood top and ebony bindings, this guitar represents one of the finest pieces Jim has ever made. A Brazilian rosette with New Zealand Paua shell center ring and top edge create a dramatic contrast against the dark sinker redwood. Peghead back is also Tiger Myrtle with ebony binding. The neck heel cap is inset with Tiger Myrtle and bound with ebony. Fossilized walrus Ivory nut, saddle, and bridge pins. Given the "Collector Series" designation, this guitar's serial number is #1313 representing the 1,313th guitar Jim has made. Comes with a Deluxe Calton flight case. Priced at $45,000.
(Taken From Jim's Website).
So, how does it play? How does it sound? Honestly, Jim had another Tiger Myrtle guitar - identical besides the jumbo gold frets and all the inlay - which sounded and played better. The jumbo frets made the "Tiger" a bit awkward in hand, and the price tag made playing it a little nerve wracking. Don't get me wrong, this is still a James A. Olson guitar. It does play quite well and sound great, but it's designed to be a collector's guitar. A player would likely enjoy one of his "cheaper" models more. However, for the collector - the inlay is stunning, and all of the pieces fit into the theme to create an incredible art piece that is sure to be well worthwhile for the right investor.
Fossilized Walrus Ivory Saddle & Pins
James A. Olson Hard at Work
"Tiger" Audio Samples: