About me

My photo
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)

Monday, December 17, 2012


I worry that because I haven't written for a long, long time that the pressure to tell you something awesome has increased exponentially.  Well, let's see how it goes, shall we? 

I've been thinking a lot about traditions lately, as the holiday season has arrived, Thanksgiving has come and gone, and Christmas is looming. Most of the time I dislike this time of year, because it requires a lot of running about, and fitting a lot of family visits into an already stressful schedule, but there are those certain obligatory events that have been built into each year that keep me excitedly looking forward. 

One of those events is Thanksgiving dinner at my dad's house. Every year, my dad deep fries a turkey. Now, I know that sounds a little unhealthy and maybe insane, but he loves to do it, and everyone loves to eat it. It really is quite good, if you can just overlook the method. Thanksgiving morning, I hear the rumble of the Thunderbird, and look out the window in time to see my dad pulling it cautiously from its cozy spot in the garage, its shiny red coat still pristine from when it was last driven around the block. Which was probably in June when he removes it for his annual music festival. Anyway, the reason he took it out on Thanksgiving, as he does every year, is because the turkey fryer is located in the room to the rear of the garage. Splattered with grease stains from years of deep frying, we all worry a little bit that the place won't get blown sky high. My dad always says, "Well, I figure it would take more time to get the thing started than I would have to get it out of the garage in time if the turkey fryer blows up." 

Typically there's another fellow or two who helps out with the turkey. This year, it was just my immediate family for dinner, which is incredibly rare, so Nick and I were drafted to help with the turkey frying. Well, Nick was drafted, I mostly just stood there throwing sticks for Harper and practicing the 'stop, drop, and roll' in my head. We seasoned the turkey with a significant amount of salt and rigged it up using a scary looking metal apparatus that would probably be equally suited for an S&M ritual, then slowly lowered Mr. Turkey into the scalding oil. You have to monitor the temperature of the oil while the turkey is frying away, so we searched for something with which to entertain ourselves that could take place only several feet from the garage. We settled for some target practice with an old pump action rifle. Nick wants you to know that it is a Winchester 1906 Pump Action 22. (All I cared about is that it didn't knock me down or make significant noise when I shot it.) The neat thing about Rugby is that when you order pizza at the sketchy gas station down the road, it comes in a camouflaged box complete with targets printed on the back. We passed the hour or so of cooking time by practicing our aim, while doing our part to recycle our pizza boxes. My aim is pretty bad by the way. Oh well. 

Another amazing holiday tradition in my family is watching three, now four, Christmas themed movies. (Until this year, my dad had never seen A Christmas Story! He loved it, by the way) My dad's favorites are Home Alone and National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation, respectively, and watching him watch those movies is probably my favorite thing. I am not sure from where his love of slapstick comedy stems, but suffice it to say he can't get enough of the likes of Kevin McCallister or Clark W. Griswold. I recall him taking me to see Home Alone 2 in theaters and my dad laughed so hard he could barely breathe when Harry gets a facefull of tools as he attempts to enter Kevin's booby trapped house. This year, as most, my cousins Lauren and Leah stopped by to watch with us. It just isn't Christmastime without Kevin, Harry, and Marv.

Traditions like these remind me how fortunate I am to have such a great family, but I am looking forward to building new traditions with the family I have made with Harper and Nick. Of course, I miss my Granny and her Christmas tree that spent each Christmas in the old metal bathtub until it was replanted in the front yard in January, and the giant bulbous colored lights that adorned it, and how much better her dinners tasted than anyone else's, but hopefully I can take those memories and create similar ones for my new family. I am excited for my mom to come visit our house for fancy Christmas dinner, hopefully one Granny would approve of, and I am looking forward to spending time with Nick's family as well and incorporating their traditions into ours too.

As far as guitar building goes, I'm working on carrying on that family tradition as well, but with a few twists of my own. I have been working on ukuleles as of late, but about to start two new guitars. I cut all the inlay for one of them today. Spencer Strickland and I commiserated on our long last names. Every time inlay day comes around I wish Herb Key was my dad...

Anyway, last week I finished up a sweet tenor ukulele (made of Walnut and Spruce from White Top Mountain) with a tooth inlaid in gold that had actually been flattened from gold fillings. The dentist who removed the teeth and sent the flattened gold to the shop ordered a ukulele that matched the guitar I built for him last year. There aren't any gold teeth in the guitar, but since cutting out my whole name in mini to fit on a ukulele headstock would illicit significant use of profanity, I opted to try something a little moe unique...and better for my conscience. It turned out pretty well if I do say so myself. What do you think? 

Close up of the tooth

Doc playing the guitar I modeled uke #9 on.
Walnut back, with herring bone binding.


  1. great writing as usual. Thanks again for everything. I hope you and Nick have a blessed Christmas. You certainly have been a blessing to me. I will cherish your instruments as long as I live or 20,000 dollars,just kidding, I will let my children fight over them.
    MEERY CHRISTMAS and Happy Birthday!!!

  2. Ha, thanks so much Jim! I am so glad to know you! If anyone offers you $20,00 for one of my guitars I sure wouldn't hold it against you if you took em up on it!! I hope you have a great holiday as well :-) See you soon!

  3. Hope you have the best Christmas possible.
    Did you receive the cd photos I sent to & Ashville of #8 guitar?

  4. Thanks Sherry you too! I did get the pictures, thanks for those as well. It really means a lot to me when people enjoy my instruments as much as you do!!

  5. This comment has been removed by the author.

  6. Hello!

    You're doin great work! How long have you been building? i'm a builder too and looking for a apprenticeship but unfortunately the market is small here in Sweden, and therefore not that a many luthiers. Thinking about heading over to your side of the world for a couple of months to pursue my dream. You guys got a spot open? i'll sleep on the shop floor and i'll be glad to help out with the boring tasks around the shop :)

    Check out my build thread if you want: http://theunofficialmartinguitarforum.yuku.com/reply/1530624/3-and-4#reply-1530624

    Kind regards,

    Per Marklund

  7. Thanks for your note! I am glad you are building in Sweden and learning as you go like my dad did! Please stop by and and visit the shop while you are in the US. My dad is always happy to answer questions from builders and provide input on their wok. There is not much of an opportunity to stay though, as Rugby is a really small place with not much in the way of housing, and my dad's shop is constantly bombarded with requests to come apprentice. He just doesn't have the room. The reason I am able to apprentice with my dad, is because he is my dad, and I stay in my childhood room when I am there. He hates to have to turn folks away, but his shop just isn't a space that is equipped for a lot of people to work for extended periods of time.

    There is a guitar building class at a school here in western North Carolina called Penland School of Crafts that my dad teaches at periodically. That is likely the best opportunity to learn from him as he is there solely for that purpose, and not trying to get his own work done at the same time as he would if you were to show up at his shop. If I ever get good enough I plan to teach his techniques to interested folks, but it will be a while till I can do that! ha.

    Good luck, and let us know if you plan to take a trip to the US anytime soon! I would suggest timing it around my dad's music festival as it is a great place to meet likeminded folks and guitar enthusiasts while listening to amazing music. Hope to meet you there!

  8. Oh, and the festival is always the 3rd Saturday in June!