Tuesday, July 2, 2013

The Goat Man

There is a fellow named Frank who lives nearby. He likes to stop in the shop periodically to check on his guitar order and remind my dad that he is still patiently waiting by offering him fresh eggs, mason jars of honey, and goat's milk feta cheese from his farm. Frank is a goat farmer. Aside from the occasional bit of straw stuck to his boot or the shoulder of his fleece, you would have trouble telling Frank that is a goat farmer, as he is very knowledgeable about many things, most of them having nothing at all to do with goats.

When he first ordered a guitar from me, I didn't quite know what to make of him, but I gladly accepted the goat's milk feta and honey. He is obviously very smart and I was a little curious as to how this fellow, who prefers Arc'Teryx to Carhart, came to be a goat farmer in the rural North Carolina mountains in the first place. Turns out, he hasn't been a goat farmer for that long, as several years ago he was the president of the Chicago Transit Authority, he was besties with then Mayor of Chicago, Richard Daly, and his wife ran many political campaigns, even working with Hilary Clinton. Frank was even nice enough to ask Hilary to sign the picture of her shaking hands with my dad when he received a National Heritage Award and we all tromped up to Washington to rub elbows with the political elite. In all honesty, I was too short at the time to reach any elbows of note so I mostly just hung around the food table.

Anyway, this post is being written to tell you about the guitar I made for Frank. The neat thing about him, other than leaving a high-powered political position in Chicago in order to become a goat farmer in the mountains, is that he was very interested in having an instrument that I would enjoy building, and encouraged the use of sustainable materials and whatever else I might want to do. His guitar is the third of mine that has been constructed with oak, and I ended up using a beautifully curly piece that I got from my new friend Dean, who lives up in Haysi, VA. If you missed that post about Electric Hardwoods, go read it. You will learn about Dean.

The only downside to that set of wood is that it smelled a little....how do I put this delicately? Like turkey poop. How do I know what that smells like? Well, it just happens to be my dog harper's favorite poop to roll in, not that she is particularly picky, but she seems especially proud of herself when she trots over to me covered in streaks of the smelliest feces you can imagine. That's how I know. My dad and Herb speculate that the wood was reclaimed from the side of an outhouse or something, but from wherever it came, the stench in it's wake was pretty rough. Especially when it was sprayed with water, which happens during several steps in the guitar making process. I hoped fervently that the six or seven layers of catalyzed varnish I would eventually spray on it would quell the odor. Several folks pointed out that it was a fitting smell for a goat farmer as it didn't stray far from what feta cheese smells like. Frank claimed not to notice the smell much, so that was lucky. The smell did diminish as I worked down the wood and sealed its pores with wood filler and varnish, so crisis averted. Mostly.

It is always exciting to be asked to do new things; different sizes of guitars I have never done before, or an ambitious inlay, or a new type of wood. This guitar was just about the opposite of that 12 fred D I was working on alongside it, but it provided just as many new skills as the bigger guitar. Frank asked me for a left handed 00 guitar. I loved the small size (no dropping!), and was excited to learn the differences between making a left handed and right handed guitar. Turns out, there isn't much, except for the two bottom braces on the top of the guitar were opposite sides, and obviously the strings and the bridge were opposite as well. It ended up being easier than my dad predicted for me to remember and carry out such tasks, maybe because I am left handed and it made more sense to me, or perhaps because I am still so new at the building process that I haven't adopted a specific muscle memory for the craft. Either way, it was really fun. Bring on some more exciting builds like this one!

Tree headstock inlay. 

Frank testing her out! Also, Frank's niece Gretchen made the pickguard when she visited from Vermont! 

Showing off the back wood.

He asked for an acorn to be inlaid on the heel cap so everyone will know it is made of oak! 

Lovely match to the sides. Koa binding and end piece.

Koa rosette and binding. 

I can play just as many chords on this thing as a regular! Maybe I am ambidextrous. Or should be playing left handed... 




No comments:

Post a Comment