Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Guitar Building is a Real Learning Experience

I've learned so much since embarking on this
guitar building journey in 2010.

It started with browsing through a magazine on a lazy day, wondering what I would do next.

I'd renovated our newly acquired 69-year-old home, so that project was rapidly winding down.

Don't get me wrong, I have never been short on hobbies (distractions), but I do get bored occasionally doing the same thing.

My hotrod building days were over. I gave the '55 Chevy to my son Jay, and the '27 Model T Ford pickup to son Joe. All the specialty tools and unusual parts were sold quickly in a 'gear head' yard sale.  Lying under a rig wrenching on it isn't for an old guy, especially not this old guy.  I didn't realize I belonged to such a rabid group, but hotrod fanatics don't hesitate to load up the goodies and geegaws.  The first guy to show up bought $1200 bucks worth of Muncie tranny parts, and it got better as the day rolled on.

Painting duck decoys is a lot of fun, but after while I ran out of carved species blanks, and I do not like to duplicate original artwork.  So, I moved on to flatwork to hang on the wall . . . for a while.

Sixty years of pinstriping cars, motorcycles, jackets and old milk cans had produced some really interesting adventures, and I met a lot of cool rod & custom builders, too.  I still keep my hand limber, 'cause I never know when a guitar creation will need a little paint slung at it.

Yup, it's been a real learning experience, this new guitar building adventure.

After reading the short blurb about the wonder of creating playable guitars from cigar boxes, I was hooked. I had to research this. I like doing artsy-fartsy stuff and I like music, so off I went to the electronic library - Google.  What I discovered was incredible and the creative examples I discovered on CigarBoxNation, CigarBoxGuitarsAustralia, and HandmadeMusicClubhouse stimulated in me a desire to proceed.

Off I went to visit my local cigar officianodo, Suzy Soprano, the owner of City News.  Oh, ya, she had just the ticket, an empty Arturo Fuente Hemingway cigar box. Oh, man, I'm in business! The box hinges were on the wrong side for this to work, but that was soon fixed.  I won't bore you with details here, just search this site for the first guitar I built and you're there.

I've just finished number 100 . . . five years later.  It's not a CBG (cigar box guitar), it's a full size dreadnought acoustic.

Yes, as I said, I get bored. I could never have worked in a factory pumping out the same thing every day, which is why I move around in the hobby to find a niche that works for me at the time.

 So, what have I learned, really?

I've learned that I can build a very nice looking and great sounding guitar.  As my son says, "It's art with strings" . . , which is the way I want it.

It's not been easy, I've taught myself through a lot of reading and doing. Early on, basic shop tools were all that was required to make a CBG.  Building solid body six-string guitars took a little more skill and acquired knowledge.  But, building full size acoustic guitars is a whole 'nother deal. The tools required to build a dreadnought are a major consideration -- buy or build.  I chose to build everything I could.  Not because I couldn't buy them, but because I wanted the satisfaction of creating my guitars from the ground up.  There's a little bit of me in every guitar I build. There are are posts on this site which show the tools I've made, so I won't bore you with further details.

I've learned some things about myself, as well.  I want my guitars to be individual one-of-a-kind creations. I want the wood to look like finely finished furniture, not like a slick piece of plastic dropped from a mold like a hundred others churned out of a mass-production facility in a day. I want the wood grain to show and the oil finish to have the aroma of a hand produced piece. I want the shape of the headstock to match the end of the fretboard and bridge, which all should match the natural contour of the body. I don't want to hide small imperfections that on close examination disclose that the guitar was hand made. And, most important to me is that each of my creations sound rich, have great resonance, and long sustain, and that they bring a smile to the face of the player.

I'm a guitar builder.  I'm not a luthier,  I've not earned that designation, but perhaps if I can maintain good health, continued interest, and the passion continues, I'll ascend to that lofty perch.  But, if I don't, it's OK, because I know it's all relative.  I appreciate and I'm inspired by the encouragement I receive from the people who own and play guitars I've created.  And, because of their support, I'll continue to enjoy what has become such a great and rewarding avocation.  Thanks you.

1 comment:

  1. You have said in perfect words how I feel. I have spent 32 years as a chef/owner, consulting businesses and fixing failing companies. I needed to slow my like down. I also get bored quickly and have a number of hobbies. I enjoy making these instruments and watching the joy that comes when a client plays your art work and their kids want to play. I am making a cigar box violin for a client and her daughter and I can not wait to hear them play them for the public