What I Can Offer You, The Musician
Every musician is different, and their instruments should be tailored to fit their musical requirements. A fingerpicker needs a different guitar than a flat picker. Someone who plays for their own enjoyment at home needs a different guitar than someone who has to be heard among a band full of other instruments.
The process of commissioning a guitar starts with a lengthy interview. It’s a collaboration between the musician and the builder. I want to find out exactly what guitar will be right for you.
I bend my guitars’ sides freehand, and I don’t use assembly molds. This allows me the freedom to make nearly any shape and size. I have many choices of shapes, sizes and cutaway designs.
I’ve been a professional artist for thirty years. I pay attention to shape, proportion and the fairness of a curved line. There are many possibilities for ornamentation on a guitar, including the binding and purfling, fingerboard and headstock inlays, soundhole rosette, back stripe, end graft and heel cap.
I enjoy doing inlay work. In the 1970’s I did many elaborate fingerboard and headstock inlays that involved hundreds of intricately cut and fitted pieces of mother of pearl, abalone, semi-precious stone and various metals. Unfortunately, most of my photos from that time were lost. Today, many different kinds of shell are available, as well as reconstituted stone and stained glass. These materials have greatly expanded the color palette. Add engraving, and the only limit is our imagination.
My new discovery for inlay is glass! I have long felt constrained by the limited palette available for inlay material. Recently I discovered that I can work stained glass with diamond tools in the same way that I work with the shell materials. This is very exciting to me. I can now “paint” with the glass, creating shading and a three dimensional effect. Glass also has a luminosity that is superior to shell or reconstituted stone. Glass is available transparent or opaque, and in hundreds of colors and patterns, including mirrored and dichroic.
“Shiva” – 1978
“Spawning Sockeye” – 2010
“Tracy’s Totems” – 2012
“Salmon Spawning” – 2012
“Tracy’s Spring” – 2012
Back Bevel – Built For Comfort
Premium Quality Materials
Most of my tonewoods were hand selected and resawn by me in the 1970’s. They have been quietly aging for nearly forty years.
For soundboards I have a very nice selection of Sitka spruce.
For backs and sides I have East Indian rosewood, and a South American rosewood that is often called Amazon rosewood. It is similar to Brazilian rosewood, very hard, with a brilliant tap tone. Its color is a warmer brown than the Indian rosewood, which tends toward a purplish brown. I also have curly and birdseye Eastern (hard) maple. I recently acquired some spectacularly figured sapele pommele, bubinga pommele, pau rosa and two large koa planks that I will be resawing into backs and sides soon. I like to resaw my own guitar sets, as it allows a perfect match between the back and the sides.
I have also acquired a magnificent Sitka spruce log right here in my own neighborhood that I have been resawing into guitar tops. Some of these are now ready to be used. I made a cello from this spruce and the sound is wonderful.
My fingerboards are West African ebony. Necks are made of Honduran mahogany, rosewood or bubinga. I use sterling silver or mother of pearl for the fingerboard side markers. My binding and purfling are hardwoods. Abalone, mother-of-pearl, glass or sterling silver are available for purfling.
I finish with clear, gloss lacquer.
For tuning machines I can use Schaller M6, Gotoh 510 or Waverly. I provide a high quality hardshell case with every instrument.
Method of Work
I have a small shop, and I work alone. Although I have basic shop machines – table saw, band saw, resaw bandsaw, joiner, drill press, s and small planer – I prefer to do things by hand, without power tools. There are no computer controlled machines in my shop. I also have a minimum of jigs.
I bend sides over a pipe heated with a propane torch, working the wood until it matches a line drawn on the workbench. I shape my necks and radius fingerboards by hand using planes, knives and patternmakers’ rasps. I hand scrape all surfaces before sanding, then polishing the finish without power tools. I like having a direct connection with the working surface, without the separation and loss of sensitivity that occurs when using a power tool. Also, nothing can ruin a good piece of work faster than a machine. All of this hand work takes time. But in the end, is anyone going to care how many hours I saved by using machines or jigs? All that really matters is that the work is done right.
I also try to avoid manufactured parts. I’m not interested in guitarmaking as an exercise in assembling pre-made parts. I like to take raw materials, from the log, if possible, and turn them into finely crafted, artistic instruments. I resaw nearly all of the wood that goes into my guitars. I hand cut all of my inlay material. I don’t use pre-cut strips or abalam. My goal is to make each guitar unique and beautiful, be fun to play and have a magnificent singing voice.