British Acoustic Guitar Brands

While Britain is well regarded in the world of amplification (Marshall, Vox, Blackstar, and Orange) the acoustic guitar industry is less known, especially when compared to the USA and Japan.

That’s a shame because Britain has some of the most dedicated and passionate artisan-level builders running smaller workshops. Focussing on lower production quantities but with a much higher emphasis on quality and craftsmanship.

With this in mind, today we’ve picked a few of our favorite British Acoustic Guitar brands to discuss and take a look at what makes the guitar and luthiery community in England definitely worth a look.

Top British Acoustic Guitar Brands

  • Brian May Guitars
  • Faith
  • Tanglewood Guitars
  • Atkin Guitars
  • Kinkade Guitars

Each year England holds a number of guitar shows where luthiers from across the country will gather to show off their work to potential buyers, and use the opportunity to network with both other builders and the guitar community. 

So while we can’t go through every single British acoustic guitar brand in this article, we highly recommend you take a look at some British Guitar Shows to discover some gems!

Brian May Guitars

Just in case you didn’t already know, Brian May is the guitarist of the band Queen and was particularly well known for using the same guitar throughout his career. I don’t just mean the same model either, I mean the actual same guitar.

After finding he couldn’t afford a bigger brand name such as Fender or Gibson he decided he wanted to go about building his own, a daunting task for someone so young, but it paid off exceptionally well!

It was known as ‘The Red Special’ which Brian, along with his father, built in the early 1960s. 

To fans of Queen, the guitar was synonymous with the band, standing up to the rigors of touring and recording for 20+ years. And as such, demand for a production version/replica started to grow.

So Brian May Guitars was born, initially just offering a copycat version of the red special that anyone could get their hands on. But over time they expanded their line of instruments to include other models of electric and acoustic guitars.

They are affordable, exceptionally well made, and allow you to get ahold of a little bit of that heritage for yourself. 

Check out Brian May guitars here.

Faith guitars

Faith Guitars

To first understand Faith, we first need to talk about Patrick Eggle.

He’s been building guitars since he was a teenager and is a highly-regarded luthier and authority amongst British guitar builders. He’s built guitars that have been used by players such as Albert Lee, Rory Gallagher, and Toni Iommi.

He founded the company Faith in 2002 along with a small team of dedicated guitar builders. With a focus being put on craftsmanship, high-quality wood and timber choices, and bracing patterns.

The company has also been elected as the UK’s best acoustic guitar (five times now to be exact) because their price to performance is some of the best around.

This is also something worth mentioning, while Faith guitars do have their premium models, they have a fantastic selection of more affordable models which you don’t often get to see from smaller brands. With Andertons, the UK’s biggest guitar retailer, often singing their praise for how they allow unprecedented access to high-quality, British-designed instruments with their more budget-friendly series.

The budget models are manufactured in Indonesia but go through a rigorous QA upon arrival in England, much like how Sterling by Musicman approaches international production.

While not directly tied to Faith guitars, it’s also worth noting that Patrick also builds a few select instruments by himself under his own name. Although these run quite a bit more expensive than the Faith ones!

Check out Faith Guitars here.

Tanglewood Guitars

Tanglewood is one of the British manufacturers that had been able to achieve a good amount of international exposure, with their guitars being distributed in over 40 countries.

They started in 1988 and throughout the years have been able to offer a diversified range of instruments which now include both electric and ukulele, but they are still primarily known for their acoustic guitars.

While the instruments are designed in the UK, much like Faith they outsource the production of their budget models to China in order to keep costs low.

Many Tanglewood guitar players claim that they are every bit as good, if not better than their more expensive counterparts. I own a Tanglewood TW28 myself, and always felt, pound for pound it was one of the best value guitars I’ve owned.

Within the UK they are also very popular as you can find them basically everywhere. Their presence in retail stores has been a big factor in allowing people to discover them as a brand.

Check out Tanglewood Guitars here.

Atkin Guitars

Atkin Guitars Logo

Atkin is another company that started out in the 90s and has steadily, through a consistently high standard of work, been able to grow to where it is now.

That’s not to say they are a massive company. With just 7 employees they only produce a few hundred guitars a year. But being handmade whilst still maintaining that level of quality is no small feat!

They maintain a philosophy of sticking to tried and true production processes, citing Gibson, Martin, and the boutique builders of the ’70s and ’80s as the golden era of guitar building and their main inspiration in terms of quality. But they are also open to modern construction technologies.

For example, using CNC (Computerized Numerical Control routing) in order to cut the fret slots as there’s just no benefit to having that done by hand.

Much like what Jeff Keisel says ‘you don’t want a handmade guitar, you want a computer-made guitar that’s hand-finished.

Check out Atkin Guitars here.

Chapel Guitars

Chapel Guitars Logo

We’ve covered a lot of the popular brand names as well as some smaller teams. Now it’s time to give some credit to a much smaller brand but nevertheless, one that is exceptionally well respected.

Chapel Guitars’ approach is based on ‘feel’. Using terms such as friendly, exciting, and responsive, to describe their instruments, with less emphasis on exotic woods. Chapel produces guitars for the working musician, while still retaining great tone.

There is a beautiful simplicity to their design, e.g. no elaborate inlays, just plain wood with a simple logo on the headstock which gives them their understated premium feel.

They offer a wide range of instruments in various body styles and sizes, so no matter your preference you’re sure to find something appropriate for you.

Check out Chapel Guitars here.

Kinkade

KinKade Guitars Logo

Finally, we have a highly prestigious brand of handmade guitars, built by Jonny Kinkead in Kingstown, Bristol.

Commonly referred to as “Britain’s best-kept secret’, they are extremely high-quality instruments that have a very low production number.

They are probably most well known for the fact that the popular British rock band ‘The Stranglers’ are on their artist roster.

They offer a range of guitar body sizes and various wood options, one of the things they stress is that all the woods they use are of the highest quality. Something that makes these guitars look exceptional is the scratchplate which is usually made from solid wood such as walnut

If you’d like to know more details about Jonny and his guitars the popular YouTube channel ‘That Pedal Show’ did a 20-minute feature interview with him which can be found here.

Special Mentions

Final thoughts

When it comes to guitar brands, you’ll seldom look to Britain for household names like Yamaha which can be easily found by just walking into any music store in the world. But brands like Faith Guitars and Tanglewood punch well above their weight in terms of sheer value for money, and at the higher end, brands such as Kinkade produce exceptional quality, rivaling many of the more iconic acoustic guitar brands in the US.

We hope you have found this look at British Acoustic Guitar Brands informative and highly encourage you to check out the brands listed above if in the market for a new guitar.

If you’re an British guitar manufacturer and wish to be included please get in touch.

Marty

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My name’s Marty. I’ve been into guitars, songwriting, and home recording for over 30 years. Theacousticguitarist.com is my blog where I write about everything I have learned along the way.