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Christian Koehn

With an open mind and curiousity I follow new knowledge and trends in classical guitar making. I am fascinated by the evolution of this instrument, which is only 150 years young. As a guitar maker I want to face the challenge of extending and refining existing achievements in this craft. I also want to contribute in the recognition of the guitar as a contemporary concert instrument.

Biography

Christian Koehn

I was born in Berlin on the 1st of January 1976 and grew up in this wonderful and unconventional city. When I was 12 years old my parents gave me a classical guitar and, quickly, I was fascinated by its sound and its simple yet perfect shape.

During my studies in agriculture I spent a lot of time in libraries. That is where a copy of Roy Courtnall's „Making Master Guitars“ fell into my hands. This was a very inspiring moment in my life.

In my one-room student apartment I made my first guitar. Looking back, it wasn't particularily beautiful, but it sounded better than any guitar I could afford at that time.

I contacted Roy Courtnall and, shortly after, was on my way to England to study with him at Newark College. So I learned how to make classical guitars in the traditional way. During my studies I was also instructed by Tony Johnson, Malachy Brady and James Lister. I also visited Paul Fischer's and Gary Southwell's workshops.

In 2006 I graduated from International Guitar Making School (Newark College). I received a diploma with distinction and was awarded the Ashley Mark Publishing Prize (Classical Guitar Magazine UK) for being the best in my graduation class. After that I took the opportunity to acquire a deeper knowledge in the art of restoration and repair at Newark School of Violin Making. There I met my wife, the violin maker Thilde van Norel. In 2007 we moved to Berlin. We have two children and share a workshop in Kreuzberg.

After all this experience I still have this one desire: To build the next guitar – and to make it even better.

Workshop

I have worked as a self-employed guitar maker since 2007. My workshop is in the heart of Berlin, in the beautiful district of Kreuzberg. Here I work with my wife, the violin maker Thilde van Norel.

Each instrument is handmade in the traditional way. Like the forefather of traditional guitar making, Antonio de Torres, I use a Solera (a special profiled workboard).

All the tonewood I use is well matured, of highest quality and has been stored in my workshop for several years. For each instrument I craft decoration like rosettes or ornamental headstock carvings individually by hand. The use of traditional tools is an important aspect in my work.

I prefer to french polish the surface of the instrument with shellac. Traditional violin varnishes (oil-and spirit varnish) and also oiled surfaces (e.g. for the neck) are optional.

REPAIRS AND RESTORATION

My waiting list for restoration and repairs is full. Therefore, unfortunately, I will not take any orders for repair and restoration work for the time being. However, for instruments that are rare or of high value, I might make an exception. In any case I will glady recommend a competent colleague.

Ordering

Christian Koehn

If you want to order an instrument, we will determine all your wishes and expectations for your new guitar in a detailed conversation.

The waiting period is approximatly 12 to 18 months. Feel free to contact me personally for current prices.

Payment
I charge a 10% deposit of the full price with the order. I request another 10% (30% with custom models) when I start building your instrument. The remainder is payable with the handing over of the finished guitar, in cash or via bank transfer in advance.

Delivery
I will keep you up to date with the development of the project and endeavour to deliver by the agreed date. However, it may happen that I will have to postpone the delivery. I will contact you in time to arrange a pick-up date at my workshop. Shipping, e.g. through FedEx, is possible but not included and requires receipt of the full payment.

Return Policy
It is very important to me that each customer is absolutely satisfied with the instrument. Therefore I offer a two week trial period during which you can test your guitar extensively. If it doesn't satisfy your expectations, you can return the guitar and I will refund the cost less the original deposit. Custom models cannot be returned.

Education

Unfortunately, I do not have the capacity for apprentices or interns in my workshop. Sometimes I don't even find the time to respond appropriately to all the requests. Therefore I advise everyone, who considers becoming a guitar maker, to get an insight at the subject in advance, take a look at reference books, maybe make a first guitar as a leisure project. After that you will have a better understanding of what it really means to build an instrument. You should also be aware that this process, with all its facets, will have to be repeated many times.

Only then you should start looking for a suitable apprenticeship. Most guitar makers don't take any apprentices. Instrument making schools are a good alternative. There you can learn the craft in an inspiring atmosphere and in close dialogue with many other motivated people.

Literature:
Roy Courtnall: Making Master Guitars, Robert Hale, London 1993
John S. Bogdanovich: Classical Guitar Making, Sterling Publishing, New York 2007
William R. Cumpiano, Jonathan D. Natelson: Guitarmaking – Tradition and Technology, Chronicle Books, San Francisco 1994
Christof Hanusch: Weißgerber — Gitarren von Richard Jacob, Verein der Freunde und Förderer des Musikinstrumenten-Museums Markneukirchen e.V., 2010
José L. Romanillos: Antonio De Torres: Guitar Maker — His Life and Work, Bold Strummer Ltd, 1997

Instrument Making Schools::
Newark College – International Guitar Making School, Newark, Nottinghamshire, UK
Staatliche Berufsschule und Berufsfachschule Mittenwald
Westsächsische Hochschule Zwickau, Studiengang Musikinstrumentenbau, Markneukirchen