Fall Update

I’ve had a busy Fall, with helping run the bike shop and improving my shop, playing lots square dances and getting really into Red Allen and Frank Wakefield’s Kitchen Tapes.  Two guitars are nearing the home stretch, and my shop has been vastly improved with a thickness sander, increased bench space, storage, and a new sharpening station that I am very pleased with.  I don’t have pictures of everything that has been getting done, but I’ll post what I do have now and try to be quick about showing all of the other cool stuff.

I am currently building a J-35/Roy Smeck 12-fret dred and a little O-18 I’ve taken to calling the Ranch Hand.  The Smeck is Adirondack spruce throughout, built in the Kalamazoo fashion (though cleaner, I should hope), while the Ranch Hand is sitka, with reclaimed back and sides, and a lovely aromatic spanish cedar neck.  Next up will be a pair of F-5 mandolins and a J-35 14-fret guitar.


Meanwhile, I have a lovely visit to Lopez Island in the San Juans, and made some new friends at Kestrel Tool.  They craft the finest traditional American carving tools I’ve ever seen.  I’ve put in my order, so we’ll see the knife they make me in the not-to-distant future.


Kestrel Tool

New Build, Old Build Update


Adirondack Spruce Soundboard, before thicknessing and jointing.

Adirondack Spruce Soundboard, before thicknessing and jointing.

I’ve begun on the first Portland-made Miller guitar! It’ll be Adirondack Spruce top and bracing, with Claro Walnut neck, back and sides. The fingerboard and bridge will be a very Brazilian-esque Palisander Rosewood, and the headstock will be very 1930s: black lacquered rather than veneered, tapered, and possibly with a stenciled logo. It’ll be very close to 1937 specs, with fresh hot hide glue, a through-saddle, and celluloid galore. Stay tuned!

This past weekend, Joanna and I performed and taught at the Olympia Old Time Festival. Plenty of fun, music, and guitar-geeking was achieved. You can check us out at http://www.facebook.com/coupe.duet

Here is the Coupe Duet playing at a local breakfast joint.  I am playing the Miller F5, and Joanna is playing an awesome x-braced Harmony conversion.

Here is the Coupe Duet playing at a local breakfast joint. I am playing the Miller F5, and Joanna is playing an awesome x-braced Harmony conversion.

Because the spruce has beautifully ambered, I figured that I would post some updated photos of the Roy Smeck Dreadnought. I’ve received a commission to build another one this spring; this will be a (late 20s) hand-rubbed sunburst with maple back and sides. Exciting!P1100965P1100975P1100977

Philly Trip Recap

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.





Dreadnought meets it’s forebears

Dreadnought meets it's forebears

As I’m doing vintage guitar research at Vintage Instruments in Philadelphia, PA, I was able to do a little side-by-side comparison between my Dreadnought and some excellent examples of pre-war Gibson Jumbos.

Look forward to more photos from this amazing field trip!

Left to right: 1937 Gibson Roy Smeck Stage De Luxe, C. Miller Dreadnought, 1941 Gibson J35.

Build Complete, Bluegrass, and SNOW.

ivoroid cut by hand

ivoroid cut by hand











P1090275So, after 7 weeks of building, the dreadnought is together, fretted, inlayed, carved, and jsut about ready to be sprayed with lacquer. Unfortunately, we must first complete a finishing class before we will all cut loose in the spray booth. That means 7 weeks of practice sanding, color-matching, sunbursting, grain-filling, spraying, more sanding, etc. We’ll also have a Repairs Class, where we practice routing for pickups and necks in electric guitar bodies, make oodles of guitar nuts, and squeeze in some self-directed repair work. This will all of course be scrutinized by our stringent taskmaster, so I will be sanding my fingers to the bone! I’m pumped!

This past weekend the Minnesota Bluegrass and Old Time Music Association had it’s winter wingding at a big hotel just west of Minneapolis. A bunch of us old time musicians made our way out there, danced our hineys off, and played tunes to boot. I had a great time, hung out and played tunes with some great folks like Chirps Smith, Bill Peterson, and Clancy from Port Wing Donut Fame, not to mention the awesome Twin Cities crowd. I even got in some bluegrass and honky tonk while I was at it!

Next week is SPRING BREAK, and I’ll be living it up Midwest Style, going to a square dancing festival, skiing, hot tubbing, visiting luthiers (and saunas) from Northwest Minnesota clear down to Madison Wisconsin. Whee!