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I began this blog in order to share my experiences learning instrument building from my dad, but along with those stories I look forward to sharing my memories of growing up with two busy, musically inclined parents as well as my current experiences stepping out on my own as a female luthier promoting environmental sustainability in her instruments while working to alter gender stereotypes in a male dominated field. If you'd like to use quotes from this blog for interviews or in your own work, please contact me first! (email is henderson.elizabethj@gmail.com)

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Here's to Learning

Today as I was fitting the neck on a ukelele I am making, I realized that I had not asked my dad to check my work on any of the steps involved so far. I drew the pattern onto the wood, and I cut and shaped the braces, I measured and fitted the top and back, and routed the excess wood from the body. This excites me very much because it means I have actually learned how to do these things rather than just gone through the motions while my dad really does them while "showing me".

My good friend Spencer, a gifted instrument builder who has recently become knowledgeable in the astrology arts ;-), says that a Sagittarius (which is what I am, but just on the brink, as my birthday falls on the last day, and anyway, I was supposed to be born in March) has an affinity for learning (yep), focuses on the big picture rather than details (wrong) and has an ability to adapt to new environments (very wrong). No one should take Spencer too seriously though, as he also speaks in onomatopoeia; like LOL and hahahahaha is actually what he is doing when he types conversations to you. Who does that?! It is endearing I guess. But there might be something to the learning part. I love to assimilate new skills and read new things, so it really invigorated me when I found that perhaps I might have gleaned some knowledge from my dad and working in his shop, and no one held my hand through the process. This realization has shown me that this time here has been helpful. And leaving my family in Asheville has been difficult, so it is important to me that I find value in this endeavor.

Bearclaw Sitka Spruce
Speaking of learning, my fourth guitar is just about finished! I have been spraying and then sanding down eight coats of finish over the past few days. I am now waiting for them to dry enough to buff out clean and pretty. So far the bearclaw Sitka Spruce top looks amazing, and the Koa back and sides glisten in the light. I can't wait for everything to come together and get strung up! From listening to the ring of the top when it is tapped on I am anticipating a great sounding guitar. Until then, I am off to Asheville to see my genteman and my puppydog and decorate my house for Christmas.


  1. Gorgeous! I hope you don't mind a couple questions... what kind of neck joint are you using? Also, are you lacquering the joint area, or leaving it bare wood? Keep the posts coming, they are inspiring to us beginner guitar builders!

  2. Ben,

    The neck has a dovetail joint, which is a giant pain to fit perfectly into the body. When I am finishing, I put tape over the joint so the fit doesn't change and glue will stick when it is time to glue in the neck.

  3. Thanks Elle! I just read the latest post, congratulations on completing it! The bearclaw looks amazing, I'm sure it's even better in person.