barn

 

Background


A few years ago I was in the market for a new guitar and, like many of you, was very particular about what I was looking for. Although I love many factory guitars and still own a few, no factories made what I wanted. I started doing some research and discovered custom luthiery.

Having worked in the 80s as a carpenter, I decided to build the guitar I wanted myself. While that guitar certainly had some flaws I was amazed at how much I liked it. What's more, I was amazed at how much my friends liked it.

I had been in the airline industry since the 80s working as a pilot for a major airline based near my home in Pennsylvania. In early 2005 I learned I would be furloughed for the third time and a business was born.

 

My barn, which houses my shop, was built around 1815 and rebuilt completely in 1999. In the summer of 2005 I began to upgrade the shop and outfit it with the specialty tools needed for luthiery. My shop is temperature and humidity controlled which allows for a stable environment, a necessary ingredient for working with guitars.

I'm fond of traditional guitars but I'm not a purist. I'll use whatever technology seems to be the best for a given task. I use yellow glue, epoxy, and super glues, each being suited for certain tasks. I own a dozen hand planes but I use power tools when I can to improve quality and consistency.

My design philosphy is fairly simple:

  • I build guitars that I would like to own myself. I believe you have to be passionate about what you're producing or you end up building widgets, the focus on making money rather than guitars. And if you're bored, it shows.
  • The guitar is an extremely complex system that produces sound according to the laws of physics. If I've made a design decision it's often based on that theory, but aesthetics play an important role, too. Pretty guitars call out to you!
  • Playability is an extremely important yet often overlooked facet of guitar building, one which most factories cannot afford to optimize. The absolute maximization of playability is one of my most important goals.

As an example, I use a bolt-on neck system. I can do a neck reset in an hour or two without removing frets, steaming the dovetail, adding shims to recreate a new dovetail, hammering in a new fret, leveling that fret, etc. This allows me to adjust the action on one of my guitars easily if the wood has settled or shifted (and all wood guitars move) and have it back to the musician quickly at a fraction of the cost of a dovetail neck reset. Some may argue that there is a difference acoustically between the two systems but, according to physics, there just isn't. Antonio Stradivari attached his necks using glue and nails, not trusting glue alone.

I do my own finishing which gives me control over a very important component of the guitar. I use traditional nitrocellulose lacquer and apply 6 to 8 coats to the top and 10 to 12 coats to the rest of the guitar. The guitar is then sanded and buffed to a high-gloss finish.

 

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