Another wonderful Fall is upon us, and I’ve been doing repairs, building an M-45 sunburst and getting married! This guitar is a sort of mashup of late 1930’s to mid 1940’s appointments, with a claro walnut back & sides, old-growth Hemlock top (rings like a bell!), and spanish cedar neck. I am very excited to hear this guitar’s voice! This one is going to a wonderful customer in New York, NY, and I think he will be pleased.
The Lil’ Buckaroo was completed on Day 10, with the combined efforts of myself and Aaron Tacke, and by all accounts it was a success! Here is the details:
Aaron called me from Minneapolis, suggesting we collaborate and build a quick guitar for a friend. We would build a 1937-spec L-OO out of all local walnut and whatever spruce was on hand, build it in about a week, and have it ready to play for the Portland Old Time Music Gathering on January 17th, 2015. We talked briefly about having it be top-bound, black painted, and put a few supplies on order. I don’t think I seriously believed that we could do it (and have any finish on it), but when I returned from a days work at the bike shop to find the top and back joined and sides thicknessed, and brace stock milled, I was thrilled to dive into the build. The only pieces I had prepared ahead of time was a rough walnut neck blank slotted for a two-way truss rod, and a Brazilian Rosewood bridge I had from a previous build. The rest would be made from raw stock.
This weekend I had the pleasure of meeting an exception 1934 Gibson. This one a 14 fret-to-body L-OO model, belonging to John Greven of Greven Guitars.
Power, pop, and a quick decay-great examples of mid-thirties Gibson guitars are wonderful old-time machines. This one is very light, the top looks like a potato chip, and you couldn’t possibly hate it, no matter how hard you tried. Of course, it’s not for sale.
This month I had the pleasure of taking a guitar-centric, weeklong vacation to Philadelphia. I have a good friend who heads the violin restoration department at Vintage Instruments, a longstanding shop that deal in fine violins, guitars, mandolins, and banjos. The owner, Fred Oster, has a vast knowledge of historic instruments, and has done an excellent job gathering an impressive array of classic examples. If you’re interested in a Gibson or Martin guitar made between 1916 and 1960, you could not find a better place to find one. If you’d like to play a Banner-Head Gibson, there are a half-dozen to chose from. If you like a Gibson L-OO, there are a baker’s dozen. If you aren’t in the market, you will soon be after visiting. It felt as though I were stepping back through time, to a place where amazing, golden-era guitars are readily accessible, where you might be able to strum a big E Major on a ’37 D-18, then set it down and try a ’35 D-18, a ’35 Gibson Jumbo, and a ’39 Herringbone. I can tell you, my heart was beating rapidly throughout my visit. The goal of my trip was to soak up as much first-hand experience with pre-WWII American guitars as possible. It was a complete success!
I was able to take lots of notes of early Gibson construction, feel, and finish, and will certainly be creating new instruments that reflect the great old guitars I witnessed at Vintage Instruments.
Made for 2 years, the Jumbo was superceded by the Trojan and Advanced Jumbo. This guitar has 14 frets to the body, mahogany back and sides, 24 3/4″ scale, and three tone bars. It lacks nothing for tone.
With one week of Construction Class to go, I’ve carved the heel, set the neck (a careful adjustment of the dovetail joint considering neck extension height, centerline, and twist), profiled the headstock (complete with a vintage taper), drilled for tuners, and glued the neck in with hot hide glue.
Next up is to glue on the fingerboard, finish carving the neck, fretting, and oodles of sanding. I’ve got a pretty neat headstock inlay in the works, but I’m working out the kinks before I commit to it. I’ll give you a hint: it involves ivoroid sheetstock and is in the classic Gibson style.
This weekend I have the pleasure of attending the 7th Annual Port Wing Donut Fry in upper Wisconsin; it was a blast. Picture, if you can, a town hall built in the 1940’s crammed with children playing, a lengthy talent show, epic potluck, and thousands of delicious donuts being fried in freshly-rendered lard. A very tender Midwestern experience for me.
I also had the pleasure of staying at Sarah and Clancy’s homestead; a beautiful timber-framed solar-powered house. They even had a log cabin sauna. Wow.
And now for the evidence:
And more pizza! These are bacon-goat cheese-beet-arugula-mozarella. Best ever.