Hamblin SJ
The Specs

Hamblin SJ

Year: 2005
Builder: Kent Hamblin
Model: Jim Tozier Signature SJ
Serial Number: 0551
Top: Cedar
Body: Flamed "Fiddleback" Mahogany
Body Binding: Maple
Cutaway: none
Finish: High Gloss
Rosette: Flamed Mahogany/Maple
Bridge: Ebony
Saddle: Tusq
Fretboard: Ebony
Fretboard Binding: Maple
Fretboard Inlay: None
Neck: Mahogany
Nut: Tusq
Headstock: Ebony with Maple H Logo
Tuners: Gotoh 510, 21:1 Ratio
Tuner Buttons: Ebony
Pickup: K&K Pure Western
Case: TKL Hardshell Case

Body Size/Shape: Small Jumbo
Frets: 20
Frets to Body: 14
Nut Width: 1-3/4" (1.75")
Scale Length: 25.7"
Strings: D'Addario EXP19 (.012-.056)

Special Inlay: Jim Tozier signature in Maple on back of headstock; inlay was done by Bill Nichols

The Story:

In 2005, at the peak of my fingerstyle guitar career, I commissioned a pair of custom boutique guitars from luthier Kent Hamblin in Telluride, Colorado. I was introduced to Kent and his guitars by my good friend Wade Thurman, who owned a 2004 cedar/cocobolo Hamblin SJ which was one of the most beautiful sounding guitars I'd ever played.

I ended up buying that guitar from Wade, and it ended up being featured on the cover of my Celtic Guitar Solos songbook. Then I decided to reach out to Kent and have him build a couple of guitars to my specifications.

Both of the guitars would feature a slightly longer-than-normal 25.7" scale length to better accomodate the lowered tunings I used for fingerstyle playing. I also specified that the fretboards wouldn't have any inlays for fret markers, since I used a capo so often and the fret markers could be a distraction.

As another personal touch, both guitars would have my signature inlaid on the back of the headstock, done by my friend and master inlay artist Bill Nichols.

The only difference between the two guitars would be the tonewoods used. Both would use cedar for the top wood (since I preferred the warmth and overtones of cedar tops for fingerstyle playing) but the back and sides would feature two of the classic choices for tonewoods: mahogany and rosewood.

For the mahogany guitar, Kent found a gorgeous and highly unusual piece of flamed "fiddleback" mahogany which had a natural coloration much lighter than most mahogany. It has often been mistaken for maple by guitar enthusiasts due to the golden honey color and the amount of flamed figuring in the wood.

In the late 2000's, I "retired" from being a recording/performing musician, and sold off most of my gear because I wasn't sure at the time I'd want to continue playing. The cocobolo Hamblin went bade to Wade, and my friend Rick Skeens ended up buying both of the custom SJ twins. Sadly, over the next several years both Wade and Rick passed away and the Hamblins made their way into the hands of collectors and fell off my radar.

Fast forward to 2018, and my oldest son, Owen, had quite a surprise for me as a birthday/early Father's Day gift. He made me sit down, then left the room and came back in carrying a guitar case. To my astonishment, I opened the case to find the cedar/mahogany SJ. It had turned up for sale online, and he contacted the seller and made arrangements to reacquire it for me.

As special as this custom "signature" guitar already was to me, it has now become a priceless family heirloom that'll find its way back to Owen someday.

If you're reading this and happen to have any information about either of the other Hamblins' whereabouts, I'd love to know where they ended up. The cocobolo SJ should be fairly easy to identify due to its unique spalted maple rosette (and it can be compared to the picture on the cover of my Celtic Guitar Solos songbook). The rosewood SJ that's the twin of this one will be even easier to identify, since my signature will be inlaid on the back of the headstock.


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