“My father and I started Cardinal Instruments with the idea that there are many local woods here in Austin that would make great guitars,” enthuses luthier Sam Evans. “We build instruments from mesquite, pecan, persimmon, Texas ebony, loblolly pine, antique pine, cypress, bois d’arc, and eastern red cedar, in addition to Texas walnut, cherry, and ash. And while we certainly aren’t the first ones to think this way, we hand-build each instrument and feel we have a unique approach.” Besides being a lifelong guitarist, Evans earned a BS in biology that shed light on potential woods for instrument use, and his father is a former NASA engineer who specialized in vibration analysis and was carpenter before that. “Our body shapes are based on quantitative aspects of string vibration as well as the beauty of early 20th century American stringed-instrument design such as late-’20s Kay Kraft models,” says Evans. “And for our finishes we’ve adapted some low- VOC varnishes based on centuries-old violin varnish recipes. Varnish is labor intensive, but the results are like nothing else.” Evans also winds his own pickups and custom voices them to match the characteristics of each instrument. “I developed a hybrid that combines elements from the old Dano lipstick, the Tele bridge pickup, and a P-90,” he says. “We love them, but for less-adventurous players we also offer a selection of aftermarket models.”
This Cardinal Zenith was constructed from 100-year-old cypress. It features a ziricote neck and fretboard, along with Cardinal neck and Lollar Imperial bridge pickups.