If you have spent any time studying their website or model designations, you’ve probably noticed the distinctive title “Traditional Models” available from Huss & Dalton. This special designation is currently reserved for just four guitars, two each Dreadnoughts and Orchestra Models, separate from the many other fine instruments offered in their catalog.
We answer a number of inquiries as to the reason for these two design differences, and how they might equate to players’ needs. Relax – these two seemingly opposing designs have been around for years. Here’s how it works…
Most all modern acoustic guitar designs feature two standard components, the X bracing pattern, and a radiused top. The “radiused top” refers to a large radius being cut or shaped into the top-facing side of the X brace itself. All Huss & Dalton guitar sound boards begin life with a 26’ radius carved into the back side of the X brace (even their Traditional models).
When glued onto the top, the otherwise flat sound board conforms to the brace, creating a saucer shaped dome at the center of the X, between the sound hole and the bridge locations. Imagine this curved top now joining up with the sides, where it is glued to the kerfing. The "kerfing" is the serrated wood sections that snake along the outer edges of the top & back joints, where they are joined to the sides.
Kerfing is glued into place onto the inside edges of the sides (top and back). Before gluing the top into place, on a radiused top the kerfing is also radiused to match the angle of the dome shaped top, to form a good joint. The top edges of the body, with kerfing glued in place, are first “sized” in a 25’ radiused sanding dish – (Note: the back side is also radiused, using a 16’ arc to meet the angle built in to conform to the back bracing). When a radiused top is glued & clamped onto the radiused sides, the kerfing acts like a shallow angled roof truss, accepting & perfectly mating with the top radius.
Huss & Dalton has named four Traditional guitars as their flat top models, the TOM-M Mahogany OM, TOM-R Rosewood OM, TDM Mahogany Dreadnought, and their infamous TDR Rosewood Dreadnought. Like their non-traditional models, the Traditional series also begins with a 25’ radiused X brace, though the side kerfing is sanded to a 90 degree angle. When the top is glued & clamped into place, the outer rim of the sound board is flat, though the very center of the X brace retains some radius.
As you can imagine, the “flat top” method of construction creates a tighter top at the outer edges of the sound board. Under the stress of 150 pounds string tension, the fully radiused top joint of their non-traditional models is looser at the rim – slightly more responsive.
How does it sound? The flat top Traditional models are designed to offer a tone more akin to a vintage Martin, slightly more bass response & a bit less mid-range, yet louder with increased power & projection for a player with the appropriate string attack. A bit less balanced tonally than it’s radiused top brethren, their Traditional models are a favorite amongst serious Bluegrass fans at all skill levels.
This is a good time to mention, the radiused top “D” models (non-flat-top D-RH, DM, & DS) also have a slightly larger sound hole, which assists in a more balanced note reference, where the bass, mid-range, and trebles offer closer to equal in volume when strummed with a single plectrum stroke. Also an interesting side note, whether the side kerfing is radiused or not, Huss & Dalton utilizes the same scalloped X bracing pattern on both series.
Which one is right for you, will depend upon your tonal reference & expectation. For recording preference, you may find the modestly enhanced mid-range response of their radiused top models more appealing.