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2011 Rick Micheletti Rigid Rim

By Teja Gerken

2011 Rick Micheletti Rigid Rim

Two things top the wish list of many guitarists looking for a contemporary instrument: playing comfort and acoustic volume. Looking at custom guitars built over the past decade, you could conclude that luthiers are giving attention to both areas but that steel-string makers have focused on ergonomics, while nylon-string builders have concentrated on increasing the power and dynamic range of their instruments. Designs such as wedge-shaped bodies and arm-rest bevels are now common on boutique steel-string guitars, while double tops, lattice bracing, and other turbo-charging construction details are mostly seen on high-performance classicals. But some luthiers are starting to merge these two worlds. One example is Northern California luthier Rick Micheletti’s patent-pending Rigid Rim guitar (

Like many classical builders who followed in the footsteps of Australian luthier Greg Smallman, who uses extremely stiff and rigid sides and backs as a platform for a high-performance top, Micheletti designed his latest steel-string around a rigid frame, rather than connecting the top, back, and sides with traditional kerfing. Laminated from strips of Indian rosewood, the resulting rim is extremely stiff, similar to a speaker cabinet, with the top taking the role of the moving membrane. As a bonus, the thickness of the rim allowed Micheletti to round the edges of the top and back, which essentially puts a bevel around the entire body.

The guitar pictured here is the prototype of Micheletti’s design. It has a Western red cedar top, Oregon myrtle back and sides, and a five-piece Oregon myrtle and Indian rosewood neck (with a scale length of 25.4 inches). The guitar is X-braced, with two additional lightweight X-patterns taking the place of traditional tone bars in the lower bout. A side port provides an acoustic monitor for the player.

It’s immediately evident when playing this prototype guitar that Micheletti’s application of the rigid rim concept was successful. The instrument has power, a quick response, and is comfortable to hold.

Photos courtesy Rick Micheletti

This article also appears in Acoustic Guitar, December 2011