Thursday, April 26, 2012

Tying up loose strings

Yesterday I said goodbye to 6 weeks of hard work. I packed up my finished guitar with care, padding its neck and headstock with tissue paper, and stuffing 418 crumpled pages from a catalogue, ironically selling packing materials,  into a Martin guitar box to pad the case a little more in transit. And then off it went to New Mexico. I felt very sad yesterday as I walked out of the UPS store, not only because I was $147 poorer, but because with each guitar I make, I tend to associate accompanying memories of my life to each project.

While I worked on this guitar, I had to be there for a friend who's grandmother passed away, and incidentally, it happened the day before the anniversary of my own grandmother's death several years earlier, so my friend's hurt was palpable for me. I spent some time with her family, getting to know them better, even though I have actually known them my whole life, and am so thankful I got to do that as they are all amazing people. More on their incredible talents later. Also while I worked on this guitar, I spent more alone time with my dad than I ever have, being in the shop with just him working on projects together, I had some great times with some visiting New Yorkers, of all people, and took several trips to home improvement stores-and actually enjoyed them.

Another thing happened too. I experienced my first almost-heart attack. Following the completion of one my dad's very first guitars, he sat back on Granny's couch, admiring all of his hard work, then with a loud pop, it cracked up the middle. He hadn't used the correct type of glue, so when the wood contracted and expanded with the humidity, the glue did not allow for such things and he was left with a broken guitar. I can now say I understand that panicked feeling between when you know that happened and there is hope to fix it and the initial loud bang marking something gone awfully wrong.

Because my dad went to play music in Fincastle, VA one afternoon, I was left on my own to string up my guitar. I am glad I was alone when it was time to do this because I think stringing up a guitar for the first time is kind of a personal experience, waiting to see what you've actually produced after so much hard work. I strung 'er up and played a few chords (the only ones I know, and a few that might be chords but I made them up). I was so proud with how loud it was and how I was actually able to make good sounds emerge from the instrument. That means it probably sounds pretty good....

Testing her out for the first time!
Anyway, I was by myself in the shop, and having finished my project I started helping with some of my dad's. Well, I was just sanding away on a beautiful mandolin, minding my own business, when I hear a loud pop from the vicinity of my guitar. I ducked, because it really sounded like some sort of shrapnel was headed my way, and then tentatively looked over at my guiar. Were there any holes in it? What in the world made it make that horrible noise? Had all of my hard work been obliterated with one second of earsplitting cacophony?

I crept over to the bench on which it was laying (you never know if there's something else about to blow up), and started to inspect it for huge cracks, holes, perhaps the neck had broken in two. Nothing. Then I noticed that the saddle, the small ridge of bone that sits on the bridge of the guitar holding up the strings, had shattered under the string weight, producing a perfect U. Panicking, I called my dad's Head General Loafer (and great helper) Don to ask if that is a thing that happens or if I did something wrong. He said to not worry too much about it, just make a new one, that he has heard of it happening, though it is not that common. When I told my dad he was very surprised, saying that is not a typical occurrence at all.

Spencer Strickland came to play with me!
After getting all of that straightened out, shaping a new saddle that accommodates a low action on the fingerboard, who should appear in the lonely shop doorway but my best good friend Spencer Strickland! Having him stop by is always a treat and it was nice to have someone around who can actually play my guitar since I am not much of a picker. After hearing him work his magic, it was amazing to hear how loud and clear the tone was after having only been played that one time. I was satisfied with the weeks of work, some bits coming out well with little effort and others requiring a little more trial and error.

I am glad that all of these memories, among so many others, will be iced with the finishing up of an amazing sounding 0000 Maple guitar. 




5 comments:

  1. Cette guitare est vraiment très belle !!! Bravo !
    Yves SAVARIAUD - France

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  2. Merci Yves! I don't know much French, but I got guitar, very, and pretty. I like all of those words :-)

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  3. I believe Yves says "This guitar is really very beautiful!!! Bravo!"

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  4. Beautiful guitar and it sounds fantastic! Can't wait to hear and see more :)

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