Jeff Huss and Mark Dalton have been building high quality guitars (and more recently, banjos) in their old-school Huss & Dalton shop in Staunton, VA since 1995. Both fingerstyle and flatpicking guitarists have treasured these fine instruments, which count such stellar artists as Paul Simon, Albert Lee, James Alan Shelton and Mary Chapin Carpenter among their owners.
But Jeff and Mark have recently started work on a number of guitars that are truly historic, in the most literal sense of the word. Through a happy set of circumstances, they have obtained wood from a tulip poplar planted by Thomas Jefferson in 1807 at his home in Monticello. The tree lived just over 200 years and grew to a circumference of 22 feet before it was taken down in 2008 when disease threatened its stability.
When the tree was removed, the Thomas Jefferson Foundation had the wood milled and Betsy Baten, a Monticello tour guide, contacted Huss & Dalton to see if they were interested in using any of the wood for guitars.Though Jefferson himself played the violin, his wife Martha and her daughters and granddaughters were all guitarists.
Jeff and Mark had never used poplar for H&D, but once the guys saw some of the highly-figured boards from this historic tree, they were convinced.
Through an agreement with the Jefferson Foundation, 30% of the proceeds from the sale of the approximately 5 instruments they expect to build will return to the Foundation. The likely price for these special guitars will be between $10,000 and $15,000.
Huss & Dalton promise to chronicle the construction of these historic guitars on their web site, with photos and and specs as building continues.