Guitar building is such a hands on experience that I develop an attachment to every instrument I build. So much so that they are hard to let go of, I don’t think that will ever change and I don’t want it to. I feel that it is a high honor to be asked to build a guitar that is an outlet for another’s artistic voice and I take it very seriously.
I also take the materials that I am able to use seriously and want to use them with the utmost respect. I try to be as aware as I can about where the materials I’m using comes from and how they are harvested.
At the heart of the sound is the box. The top and back plates vibrate and pump sound out and away from the guitar in the same way that a speaker does, how the top and back plates relate to one another is really the defining characteristic of how the guitar will sound. My absolute favorite part of the building process is carving and tuning the top and back plates, making them musical and getting them sing together. I like to build the sides as stiff as I can get away with so that very little energy is absorbed and lost in them. After I’ve glued the top to the sides, I carve the top and back plates so that they relate to each other musically when tapped. Then after I’ve glued the back on I’ll tap again. I’ll tap again when the guitar is completed. Through out the process I record all these taps and look at them through a spectrum analyzer so I can get an accurate read of what frequencies (notes) they are producing. I log this information along with how much the bridge weighs, what woods I’m using at what thickness, flex, etc. I do this because every aspect of the guitar’s construction affects the end result and I’m continually trying to understand what affects what and why. Even the most revered luthiers will say that they are still learning the whats and the whys, this is what keeps building fresh and exciting. The more I learn the more I keep wanting to know and understand.
I’ve been playing guitar for almost 30 years now and I’ve been lucky to have been a tech on some legendary instruments. Because of this, I’m really conscious about making a comfy guitar to play. I want the neck to shape and taper just right, I want the the transitions between the neck and the body as well as the neck and the headstock feel as natural and seamless as possible. The body, no matter what size ought to feel natural. The goal is that while you are holding the instrument nothing detracts from getting what is in your head out to of the guitar.
I like to end with a hand done French polish shellac finish. Sonically it is a much better way to go than a nitro finish, it also repairs relatively easily. Maybe most important, it is very mild compared to a lot of the toxic alternatives available. It really seems to me that a hand made guitar ought to have a hand done finish.
Every day that I get to go out to my shop and work on a guitar is a good day, I’m enjoying this journey.