Bourgeois Guitars: Company Background and Touchstone Series

Published on 30 May 2024

6 minutes

Are you an acoustic guitar connoisseur? If so, you’ll have most definitely heard of Bourgeois guitars, and know that they are amongst the most highly respected American guitar builders in the business. Bourgeois has a rich heritage that stretches back to the 1970s, and recently, they’ve released a new series of more affordable guitars, the Touchstone range.

Today, I’ll look a little into the background of this brand, and check out just why the Bourgeois Touchstone range is such a big deal.



Who are Bourgeois Guitars?

Bourgeois guitars are from Maine in the United States. The company is headed up by master luthier Dana Bourgeois, who has been building guitars for over 50 years. He and a small team of twenty artisans hand build just 400 guitars a year, working inside a converted cotton mill from the 1850s.

(Pic Courtesy of Bourgeois Guitars)


Part of Dana’s backstory is that he brought his hand-built dreadnought guitars along to Bluegrass legend Tony Rice’s gigs, putting the guitars in his hands and taking onboard the musician’s respectful feedback.

It sounds idyllic, and the guitars that come from this setting have been blowing us away ever since we first took on the brand. Undoubtedly Martin-like in their superficial design (indeed, Bourgeois have actually collaborated with Martin on a certain OM model a few years back), Bourgeois’ vintage inspired OM and dreadnought models are subtly modified for tonal balance, headroom, response and articulation. 

(Pic Courtesy of Bourgeois Guitars)


What Makes Bourgeois Guitars Different?

Bourgeois guitars apply a number of subtle innovations in each build, which helps them to stand apart in a crowded market. These include the following:

  • Tap Tuning: this is Dana Bourgeois’ famous technique for seeking out a guitar top’s optimum resonant frequencies by tapping the timber with his finger after the initial bracing is attached and listening to the sound. The bracing will then be sculpted and modified by hand in accordance with how the wood reacted to each tap. The goal is to enliven the top and allow as much movement/vibration as possible by adjusting the bracing in all the right places.This technique is applied to all body styles and timber choices.

(Pic Courtesy of Bourgeois Guitars) 

  • Torrefaction: many of you will nowadays understand the artificial ageing through heat treatment that is torrefaction, by Bourgeois were early adopters of this procedure. Torrefaction involves subjecting the wood to high temperatures, in an oxygen-free environment. The timber not only dries out, but is also fundamentally changed at a molecular level. For guitarists, this means a better blend of stiffness and movement, and a strident, clear tone that matches Pre-War heirloom instruments. Basically, it’s the sound that everybody wants!
  • Unique bolt-on neck join: This enables the neck to be adjusted or removed without the hassles associated with steaming, drilling or cutting into the instrument.
  • Adirondack Spruce: Bourgeois were significant in the reintroduction of this timber as an instrument tonewood. They use ood-growth examples from Maine, so the wood is responsibly sourced.

The Bourgeois Ranges

The Bourgeois brand features a number of ranges, so let me take the briefest skip through these for an at-a-glance reference:


  • Professional: Pro level guitars ‘built without shortcuts’ in Lewiston, MA. You’ll find all-mahogany models and models with Sitka Spruce tops & Indian Rosewood bodies. Shapes include square and sloped shouldered dreadnoughts, OM models and one called the L-DBO (often referred to as the Blues model), which is larger than a 00, smaller than a 000/OM and has a 25” scale length along with a larger than normal soundhole.
  • Heirloom: The heirloom series is more directly influenced by significant guitar models throughout history; like a reverential nod to the most significant acoustic guitars of the early 20th century. You’ll find some very highly decorated instruments here, with pearl and abalone inlay work and more.
  • Legacy: The Legacy Series is more about Dana Bourgeois’ own preferences in terms of styles, features and decorations. These are highly personalised takes on familiar - and less familiar- guitar designs, with unique features all reimagined by Dana himself.
  • Touchstone: This is the series I’m going to be focusing on today, so I’ll actually extend this part out into its own section…

Bourgeois Touchstone

So, the Touchstone range is where things are a little different. The other ranges are all entirely built in Maine. With these guitars, the tops are handmade and voiced (via the tap-tone techniques discussed earlier), and then sent off to Eastman’s facility in China. Eastman are expert guitar makers in their own right (we love these guitars and stock them too), and so their expertise is built into each Touchstone guitar too. 

(Pic Courtesy of Bourgeois Guitars)


These aren’t Eastman guitars, though: they are built to Bourgeois’ specifics, and to pretty exacting quality levels. As Bourgeois themselves put it:

‘A select group of Eastman’s finest luthiers, carefully trained in Bourgeois’ tonal philosophy and construction methodology integrate the tops into Dana’s designs, bringing each guitar to life.’

There are three variations in spec for the Touchstone range - the Signature, the Country Boy and the Vintage - all of which are available as dreadnoughts or OM models. Before I highlight the differences between these three specs, let me first round up what remains the same throughout:

  • Alaskan Sitka spruce top
  • Adirondack spruce binding
  • Ebony fingerboard
  • 14 fret Mahogany neck
  • High Gloss finish
  • 1 23/32” bone nut
  • 25.5” scale length

And now, here’s what separates each of the models within the Touchstone range…

Country Boy: the simplest in terms of decoration, the Country Boy is made with mahogany for the back & sides.

Vintage: The Vintage carries more decorative elements such as multiple binding on the body, and is made with Indian Rosewood back & sides.

Signature: This has the most decoration (ziricote binding on the body, fretboard & headstock, pearl inlays and a tricolour herringbone border around the top), and also features the torrefied Sitka spruce top.

Incredible Performance

These are some of the loveliest acoustic guitars I’ve had my hands on in quite a while. It’s easy to become quite blase about yet another classic American set of acoustics making their way across the pond, but a quick strum form both a dreadnought and an OM told me that Bourgeois have really zoned in on what makes these instruments tick. Each sounded significantly different, with the dreadnought displaying a considerable amount of low-end in its strident sound. It was never muddy though, and indeed both rang out with natural sustain that really impressed me.

It seems that the whole concept of collaborating with Eastman is a good one. The guitars easily compete with some of the best in the world, and the prices - though not cheap - are closer to the earth than some other boutique brands. 

I invite all acoustic aficionados to have a good long shot of these, particularly the types of player/buyer who’d normally right off anything that’s fully fully made in the US of A. Put it this way: you do you, but if you pass on these guitars, it’s only you who is missing out on some quite lovely experiences.

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I'm a musician and artist originally from the South West coast of Scotland. I studied Visual Arts and Film Studies at...

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