I would like to have more information about the Violap AP guitar (VL2P model) --- What are the woods?

Bunya (Araucaria bidwillii), Queensland Maple (Flindersia brayleyana ... not really a 'maple', which is an 'Acer') or 'Quandong'... Elaeocarpus coorangooloo... all Australian timbers... as you may expect. We choose light, strong, stable and resonant timbers...

What is the scale length ?

632.8 mm or 24.9 inches....

Pickups : I read that there are 2 humbuckers and one Piezzo pickup : can they be used at the same time or separately ? What are the pickup > settings available on the VL2P ? Are the humbuckers custom made ? What are their characteristics ?

The humbuckers, 'Cole Clark' are 17k neck, and 19k bridge (Super, super hot as requested by Mr Harper: Three way selection: either or both.) The Piezo system... 6 under bridge 5 x 10mm cylinders, 3 'on the face'... the top end, after 750Hz can come from the 'Face sensor' or the six 'under bridge' piezo string sensors by use of a slider, .... Again Cole Clark 'Patent Pending'. Please see info under 'accolades and ads' at...

You can run the piezos 'clean' through the board or desk... this is a very 'acoustic sound' and with the 'face sensor' 'in' a more acoustic, 'boxy sound' can be achieved... There is a separate output for the humbuckers, which are super 'hot', allowing one to run into a tube amplifier for electric guitar, an extremely distorted sound, if desired. You can choose a horseshoe pickup, or the 'humbucker options' minus the acoustic piezo system...

Is there other options apart from the pickup configuration ? (colour, wood, finish...)

Finish: 'Generally natural 'satin' or low gloss nitrocellulose'.... Or custom on request.

Does the price include a hard-case ?

Yes, except for the lap steel guitars.

Is there any audio sample files available in order to listen to the instruments voice ?

Fat Lady is on player all other guitars coming soon...

I discover Cole Clark guitars thanks to Ben Harper's Ground on Down sound check video from the Hollywood bowl live DVD. According to the DVD video and the picture on your website, the Violap seems very close to Ben Harper's guitar used for this video. I notice that the fretboard is shorter on Ben Harper's guitar than on your photo ? Is there other differences or changes between the 2 models ?

Yes, very observant of you: Ben requested a longer fingerboard with clearer fret position markers... the one you see and hear on the DVD has the two hot humbuckers but not the 'piezo pickup' option... We made modifications based on what Ben and other players consider will improve the instrument...

In response to a query on a “buzzing” Fat Lady from Sean;

We note with interest the possible problem with mixing desks, where 'earthing' does not occur. It is not a new occurrence for Cole Clark or other manufacturers of guitar preamplifier devices.

To explain:

Most desks or mixing consoles, are not earthed (i.e. they do not run to ground). The manufacturer's expectation is that the mixing equipment will run to ground via an amplifier or similar. The equipment you note in your letter is probably not earthed. Usually it is the last piece of equipment in 'the chain' of equipment which runs to ground, but often if other pieces of equipment are earthed, one may achieve an earthloop, a hum, and so many manufacturers earth only the final piece of equipment in the chain. A hum is 50Hz; low frequency. One remedy is to run 'an earth wire' from the chassis of the desk to the chassis of a piece of equipment that is 'earthed', that is, equipment which has an earth wire which runs to ground (green on a three pin power plug.)

Where audio equipment is connected by 1/4 phone jacks, 'running to ground' occurs via the shielding, sleeve or the outside of the jack assembly... this is the intent of the manufacturer: that is from your desk to an amplifier.

Normally, the preamplifier of the Fat Lady's system is connected to a PA, sound reinforcement equipment, and ultimately an amplifier: in which case there is no problem. If the final earthed piece of equipment (amplifier) is not used, and you monitor with headphones for example, you may hear a 50 cycle(Hz) hum.

Since the Cole Clark pickup system is very sensitive, comprising 9 piezos, and is a relatively high output device, good earthing is essential in order to reduce any possible 'earthing problems'... i.e. the sensing of any 50Hz power supply.

We have plugged your guitar into our EV PA and a couple of amps, as well as tested the earthing: the instrument is quiet and has no problem.

Lap Steel

Common Tunings For Lap Steel Guitar

Care and Maintenance

Relatively Humidity

Timber is more sensitive to variations of humidity than it is to temperature.

And yet prolonged periods of heat increase the vapour pressure in timber, and therefore have a drying effect, forcing free moisture from the timber.

Accordingly storage in a hot car or the window display of a shop during summer periods should be avoided.

Refrigerant type air conditions also tend to remove moisture from the air, and so can be detrimental.

Since guitar tops and backs are ‘crossed braced’ and since longitudinal sections of timber, which comprise braces, do not change in length, given variations in humidity, whereas tops and backs are ‘quarter cuts’ which may increase in dimension by 1 or 2 percent in extreme variations of humidity, there will be movement in extremes of dry and wet conditions. The braces are stable in length, and so as the top expands in humid conditions it convexes against the stable brace length. Conversely soundboards tend to concave or drop as they contract against braces during dry conditions.

That is, in wet conditions soundboards or tops tend to rise, raising the action. In dry conditions soundboards tend to fall, lowering the action. Humidifier devices are available for periods or conditions of excessive dryness. It is recommended that the device be fitted inside the guitar, the guitar then to be stored in a case or other enclosure.

Out side freezing conditions with central heating or desert environments are likely to be ‘excessively dry’.

Given that backs are generally braced at right angles, or are ‘crossed braced’, to the back timber, a back is likely to move a greater amount than a face or top.

This is one reason why the Fat Lady’s soundboard is braced more longitudinally.

Minor splits which maybe the result of extremely dry conditions are to be avoided, and yet, are repairable and in the most part will not compromise the instrument’s performance.

Acoustic guitars are often assembled relatively dry so that the timbers expand against the braces making splitting or cracks less likely.

And yet acoustic guitars produced in extremely dry conditions can convex, in turn raising the action, and may cause some rippling or bulging of the face when exposed to high humidity.

65 plus percent Relative Humidity or ‘RH’, is wet, while below 30 percent RH may be considered dry. 15% RH may be considered ‘desert conditions’, or excessively dry.

Guitars are often produced at what is considered to be average. The question is: ‘what is the average household’, the average of the guitar’s environment?

Generally speaking your guitar is comprised of organic material, and may be best kept in the room in which you are happiest, that is in the absence of you owning and understanding a device which will measure ‘RH’ or relative humidity: Not too hot or wet, or too dry.

Cole Clark Guitar’s manufacturing is centred on 43% Relative Humidity.

Cole Clark does not provide a warrantee against prolonged exposure to extremes of humidity or temperature.

If your guitar’s action is high, it may be that the neck has pulled forward given the compressive force of around 70kg, at concert pitch, exerted by the strings, or that the face has taken on moisture, causing the top or soundboard to convex, which may cause the action height to increase.

A slightly lower and higher saddle in your kit is an advantage. We use and recommend Graphtech BQ 9200 for our six string acoustic guitars.

Finish (Surface Coating) and Finish Care

If your guitar is finished with nitrocellulose lacquer, which is comprised of plant fibre as the suggested by the name:

Modern ‘Nitros’ have been slightly modified with a ‘cross-linker’ so that different to the more exact definition of a lacquer, they do not as easily soften when exposed to some volatile chemicals: A lacquer can be dissolved by thinners.

Many guitar makers have achieved their best results with ‘nitro’. This is possibly for reason that this plant fibre is in keeping with the timber’s surface, is less interrupting of the instrument’s ability to reproduce the kinds of frequencies or responses that you are likely to find aesthetic, pleasing to the ear. In fact some finishes ‘roll off’ or decrease the instrument’s ability to transpose top end. Provided that the amount of roll off is pleasing, then this is not problematic: After all Spruce, Cedar and Bunya are chosen for reason that they have a low ‘janka’ or hardness, therefore rolling off, or filtering top end frequencies so that the result is pleasing.

It is recommended that should you need to clean your nitrocellulose-finished instrument that you do so with a soft cloth, applying sparing amounts of warm, slightly soapy water.

‘Milkiness’ under the surface of nitrocellulose generally indicates the presence of moisture. Leaving a guitar in the case with trapped moisture is often the cause. In many instances drying the instrument by placing it in a warm dry environment is the remedy.

Do not apply silicone-based products as they prevent refinishing.


There is much conjecture and opinion about aging and ‘playing guitars in’.

My view is that the most volatile or changing aspect of a guitar is its surface coating. The surface tension of the instrument is naturally affected by the coating. The initial change is substantial as solvents leave; this change slows over the first few hours, days and then months.

Given the timber’s rigorous drying regiment, where it is exposed to temperatures in excess of 50c for prolong periods and in various forms, I do not take the view that timber aging is a major factor.

As we see, moisture is able to enter and leave over a relatively short period of time, which would seem to be an unsubtle effect. (The inside of an acoustic is unsealed, and to do otherwise inhibit performance.)

Certainly whatever changes occur in timber are far less than the initial changes occurring in finish.

Collings and Martin, as I understand, are finished with nitrocellulose, and achieve a superior acoustic performance to many other instruments, which are finished with urethane and polyester products, even where the specifications and build qualities are comparable.

The phenomenon is best understood by producing unfinished instruments, and or instruments with sparing amounts of, or Tung oil, for instance. The dramatic effect of finish is then understood. Stradivarius placed more than considerable emphasis on finish, type and surface tension.

Becoming comfortable with an instrument, getting the set-up to your liking is of course also important. A good instrument may well stimulate you to play, to be creative, more so if you are comfortable.

On of Cole Clark’s goals is to examine test, and to therefore demystify to the customer’s advantage.

Adjusting the action of your guitar.

The 70 kgs of compressive force exerted by the strings at concert pitch may compress the front of the neck, the fingerboard, moving it forward. (This force is generally noted on string packaging)

At the back, inside of the neck, is a 3/16 of an inch, mild steel ‘truss rod’.

The role of the truss rod is to compensate for the compressive force exerted by the strings at the front of the neck by the truss rod exerting tension at the back of the neck.

How to test this:

If a string, and preferably the ‘D’ string, as it is central, is depressed at the first fret and simultaneously at the 14th, then there should be a gap at the 6th and or 7th fret of not greater than 0.25 mm or 10 thou/ inch.

Slide the appropriate 0.25mm feeler gauge under the string.

This curve is often described as an ‘envelope’.

It is in this curve or envelope in which the string is allowed to effectively oscillate forming the note. The lower the note is fretted or played, the longer the string, the greater the envelope, and therefore the greater the curve in the neck.

And yet many top players prefer a very low action with little or no envelop. In other words, a flat neck which minimises the pressure needed to ‘fret the note’, enhancing the performance.

If the string is struck or plucked hard there will likely be fret buzz or fizz, (the string’s oscillation causing it to hit frets) and yet good players are often able to minimise this given their dexterity, or at least they are able work within it.

The player who prefers to play ‘big’ open chords may prefer more curve or envelope in which the strings are able to oscillate.

As one moves up the neck to the higher notes, the string is effectively shorter, the oscillation less, and so the neck may be flatter or may be said to flatten out. The ideal neck curve may be described as a hyperbolic parabola.

Some months after purchasing the guitar, when the guitar’s timbers have had time to ‘settle in’, especially where the timber at either end of the truss rod has been compressed, the truss rod may need to be tightened.

The truss rod may need to be loosened where the player decides to use light gauge strings, as less compressive force is exerted on the neck by lighter gauge strings.

The string height at the 12th fret is, from the top of the fret to the underside of the string, around 2.5mm on the bass side, as a medium set-up, and 2mm on the treble side. Opinions vary; set-ups vary to suit the instrument and the player. There is no real rule.

Generally however the bass side should be 0.5 higher than the treble side.

A slightly lower and higher saddle in your kit is an advantage. We use and recommend Graphtech BQ -9200 for our six string acoustic guitars.

If in doubt refer to your dealer/ an authorised repair person.

Cole Clarks are provided with what is considered an ‘average action’. It is fully expected that specific settings are the responsibility of the customer.

High action can cause the guitar to be difficult to tune:


Cole Clark uses and recommends Elixir Strings/ Graphtech/ Tusq nuts & saddles

Elixir are, in our view, the clearest longest lasting strings available.

Some comment that Phosphor Bronze strings sound superior or have a ‘warmer’ response: If this is true is only for a very short space of time.

Depending upon conditions, generally meaning the amount of perspiration and contamination to which strings are exposed, Elixir strings may endure for weeks or even months, while Bronze strings become dull in days, or even hours. Again this is dependant on the player, the conditions and the frequency of use.

It is true that Nanoweb strings are more expensive and yet last several times as long as Bronze stings.

Dull strings should be changed.

String breaks

It is common to break G strings.

The G string is tunned relatively high, and has a 10 to 12 thousands of an inch core… similar to the high E, yet under more strain, and so is likely to break more regularly than other strings, but to be followed by the D string.

It is important to have the strings ‘angle over the saddle’, from the bridge pins, in order to provide downward pressure on the saddle.

If the angle is too acute, the string will hinge at one point, and break more quickly. A smooth, rounded top-of-the-saddle or transition will alleviate the problem to some degree.

If the string digs into the saddle, breakages will likely increase.

We advise to keep a few spare saddles, and to check the condition of the saddle for grooves.

A slightly lower and higher saddle in your kit is an advantage. We use and recommend Graphtech BQ –9200 saddles for our six string acoustic guitars.

Also keep extra/ spare G strings…

Consider a softer plectrum.

String are comprised of high tensile steel and will eventually fatigue and will mostly break at the saddle: Change your strings fairly regularly.

Ensure that you remove the string ball end, otherwise it may cause rattles/ extraneous noise.

Your guitar does not stay in tune

Insufficient turns around the capstan / machine head, so that the strings are able to slip. Machine head slips: the screw at the end of the peg can be adjusted to tighten the machine.

The more common cause is that strings ‘ratchet’ though the nut. That is playing, bending, causes the strings to pull through the nut and yet not always return to tune. The nut should have slip. Apply graphite, readily available from a sharpened ‘2B’ pencil, for instance, into the slot so that the string is able to slip with ease. A sure sign that the string is able to ratchet, is that it makes a ‘tic tic’ sound when the string is bent. Unwound strings, (B) is often the greatest offender.

‘Nut Grease’ is available from luthier suppliers: Stewart MacDonald, for instance.,_saddles/Tools_and_supplies:_String_slot_lubricant.html

If the nut is too tight, the problem is exacerbated, and if too lose, some rattle or sibilance can occur. (see set-up)

The string’s ‘ball end’ is not properly positioned, maybe anther cause.


The Fat Lady is made to shake and amplify, and so anything loose will be heard.

  • A worn or badly cut nut, which allows the string to oscillate, can cause sibilance. See your luthier or guitar repairer.
  • A lose truss rod will allow the washer to rattle: Cure: tighten.
  • A lose brace from transit damage.
  • A lose battery or other component in the preamp.
  • In most instances, extraneous noises are from fret buzz: Please see set-up notes.

Pick-ups and preamps

Under the bridge are 6 of 5 x 10mm cylindrical piezo elements.

They are clamped or pressed up under the bridge by the two stainless steel M3 (3mm metric) cap screws at either end of the saddle. These screws do not adjust the action.

They do ‘load the piezos’ under the saddle and achieve good electrical contact with a strip top and bottom, as well as good physical contact under the saddle. Intimate contact is important for the transference of sound.

The loading of these piezos could be referred to as the ‘accelerometer effect’, and to some degree accounts for the success of the instrument’s electronic or amplified performance. (Patented)

There are three other piezos captured in what could be described as a clamping element, which is in turn adhered to the face and or back of the instrument. The latest system comprises the ‘Face Brace Sensor’ (Patent Pending), where the sensor is one of the major braces, the brace the sensor. In this was no extra device is needed and the length of the Brace Sensor monitors or reproduces more of the soundboard.

The instrument’s first slide pot or potentiometer is a volume control.

The third is treble, the forth, mid range frequency control, and the last is bass cut and or boost.

The second is actually two pots wired as one. (‘Dual Gang’ or ‘pan pot’) Moving the slider away from the player increases the volume of top end frequencies from the piezos under the saddle: The crossover point is raised.

Moving the slider towards the player amplifies top end frequencies sensed by the face sensor while reducing volume from similar frequencies from the under bridge and saddle assembly. This functionality is Patent Pending.

In effect top end from the face is swapped for top end from the saddle and visa versa.

The bottom end or lower frequencies are always taken from the saddle.

The crossover or ‘set point’ of this was set at 750Hz, and more recently, in mid 2005, at 350Hz.

This ‘gain structure’ configuration reduces feedback and maintains a clear bottom end response.

An acoustic performance is where the face, sides and back timbers are heard vibrating sympathetically with the strings.

It makes sense to amplify the face and or back of an acoustic guitar to more accurately simulate an acoustic performance.

The ‘blend’, second slider, allows the player to return to, or blend the more typical underbridge piezo sound of the strings at the saddle with signal from the face and or back of the acoustic guitar.

Timbers Used

Cole Clark Guitars - Timbers Used

Cole Clark discovered Bunya as a timber suitable for the production of acoustic guitar soundboards. This was achieved by perusing the table of mechanical properties in ‘Wood in Australia’ by Keith R Bootle and then by building a number of guitars over several years.

In my view it is the ‘bible’ of Australian timber, and the table of mechanical properties is very effective in making timber choices.

The task is simplified.

Quarter cuts is where the angular rings of growth appear as longitudinal lines, where the cut is from the centre of the tree outwards: Where the diameter is said to be ‘cut like a cake’.

Quarter cuts are structurally more stable. Bunya has a shrinkage (from wet to dry) of 2% ‘radial’ or ‘as a quarter cut’ and 4% tangentially, or where it is slab or back-sawn, the opposite to quarter cut. Quarter cut grain exposure is also more even: Acoustic guitars are therefore generally constructed from quarter-sawn wood that is for reason of strength, evenness and stability.

Bunya has a ‘Modulus of elasticity’ (Gpa) of 13, while Sitka Spruce, the more traditional choice for soundboards is 11 (Gpa).

Spruce is 430kg to the cubic metre, while Bunya is 440 to 460.

They are of similar hardness of ‘Janka’ of 2.3 (kN): This is relatively soft. ‘Relative soft’ could be said to ‘roll off’ or reduce the top end response.

Soft and strong timbers are chosen for soundboards.

And so the strength for weight, hardness, or overall structure, as well as stability is the deciding factors.

Naturally colour and appearance are also important.

The following figures provide some indication of the acoustic performance.

Queensland Maple, Flindersia brayleyana: Indigenous to Australia/ Queensland rainforest.
Backs, Sides, Necks

E modulus 8 to 10
Weight 580kg/ cubic metre
Janka 4.7
Radial Stability 3%

Mahogany, Swietenia mahagoni or macrophylla: South America
We generally have a preference for Australian species.
Back & Sides, Necks

E modulus 8.8 to 10
Weight 500 to 800kg/ cubic metre
Janka 3.1-3.8
Radial Stability 1.5%

Blackwood, Acacia melanoxylon: Common to relatively wet regions of Australia
Very similar to Acacia koa, Hawaii
Back & Sides

E modulus: 13
Weight 640kg/ cubic metre
Janka 5.9
Radial stability 1.5%

India Rosewood, Dalbergia latifolia
Back & Sides/ Fingerboard & bridge

E modulus 12
Weight 600kg/ cubic metre
Janka 12
Radial Stability relatively stable figures N/A

Sitka Spruce, Picea sitchensis: North America
Soundboard/ braces

E modulus 11
Weight 430kg/ cubic metre
Janka 2.2–2.3
Radial Stability 2%

Bunya, Araucaria bidwillii: Indigenous/ Southern Queensland/ mostly plantation
Soundboards & braces

E modulus 13
Weight 440-460kg/ cubic metre
Janka 2.2–2.3
Radial Stability 2%

Electric Guitars:

Cole Clark’s preferences for the bodies of electric guitars are for light, strong timbers:

Silver Silkwood, Flindersia acuminata 530kg/cubic metre
Brown Qandong, Elaeocarpus grandis 500kg/ cubic metre: We sometimes use this timber for the back and sides of acoustic guitars.
Queensland Maple


Where can I get Cole Clark merchandise?

Contact us at and we will get you the t-shirt, dvd, strap or other merchandise that you want.