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Autumn of 2003

1973 - 2003 My 30th Anniversary of guitar building.

This season marks 30 years since I built my first guitars. A time for celebration, a bit of reminiscing and reflection.

When I got my first two guitar orders in 73, I had already been building simple folk instruments and dulcimers for a few years. I thought that I was ready to make the jump into the world of guitars, and was looking for some orders. After all, I had read Classical Guitar Construction by Irvin Sloane, explored the insides of a Martin guitar with a mirror, and talked with more experienced Luthiers in Toronto. So being commissioned to build a classical guitar and a 12-string to order was a very exciting prospect. There was a lot of learning as I went along, problem-solving stuff the book didn't tell me about, and inventing special techniques to suit my skills.

I only had a band saw and used just the basic hand tools for every aspect of building. In today's world of power tools and jigs for everything this feels totally archaic and just a bit Luddite. But in the world of violin and classical guitar making, this is the preferred way of working and after all these years I'm finding myself going back to the traditional ways. Not that I ever really left them.

There is enjoyment in working in a quiet environment, in actually hearing a plane or chisel slicing through the wood. Not only does this tell me how sharp the tool is, but also tells me a lot about the quality and characteristic of the wood that I'm working with. That, I think, is what its all about: connecting with your wood! How can I begin to understand the connection of sound and wood when I surround myself with constant the whine of power tools?

You can read more about my approach to building in an article I wrote for Tom Blackshear's Luthier's Showcase forum on fine tuning a guitar.