Monday, December 7, 2015

Thankful

There are so many things in my life for which I am incredibly thankful. One of those things is that my dad has bestowed upon me the knowledge and ability to make beautiful hand crafted guitars that people want so badly they are willing to wait several years for me to make them one. I can't believe that is the case, and because of that each instrument is as unique of each person ordering one. My most recent projects were no different, however, there was a bit of a setback that required me to remember how thankful I am for my dad. Even though he caused it.

A week or so ago I finished two guitars, both 000-18s, in record time. I worked on my own, made no mistakes I had to go back and fix, and didn't feel the need to ask my dad for help or review after completing difficult elements.  Not even when fitting the dovetail joint on the neck into the guitar body which is usually a challenge for me as there is no cheating that angle, no option of covering it with an artistic flourish. All in all, the guitars took 14 days, though had my dad not 'helped' they likely would have taken 12 days.

Seven coats of finish had been sprayed on each guitar body and each neck, everything had been buffed out and sported a glossy sheen. All that left to be done before stringing the guitar was frets, which in hindsight, I should have pressed into the fingerboards before I started the finishing process. The reason I didn't was because I wanted to be sure the fingerboard was at the perfect angle after all was said and done so I waited until I was ready to glue in the neck.

My dad and I work on different schedules. I get out to the shop and start working by about 7:30 am, and work until 6 or 7 in the evening. My dad comes in around noon, and works until 3 am. I walked into the shop that morning, bright eyed and bushy tailed, ready to get on the task of fretting the fingerboard. If I finished that by noon, I knew would likely get these two guitars strung up that evening. I walked over to the table where I had left the necks the night before and stood staring at the table for a few minutes. Have you ever had that feeling where you know what you are supposed to be seeing, but the view just doesn't measure up? Like the first time you see a picture of a Platypus. Something's not quite right. Sitting on the granite table was my shiny neck, cut lengthwise down the entire neck, my peghead veneer clamped to an unfinished neck blank.
Sometimes I think of my dad like Santa because occasionally, when I am having a particularly tough time with something, I will give up for the night and go to bed. When I head back out to the shop in the morning the element that had caused me stress will be sitting there finished. This is what I assumed had happened the night before, only this time I was surprised with coal instead of a present. There was a note. It read, "Sorry about your neck. I was trying to be helpful and put in your frets. The fret squeezer pushed into the truss rod [groove]." I read through it a couple of times while I processed this information and though it made me sad that I had a pretty serious setback on my hands, I was mainly concerned that my dad probably felt really bad about breaking my neck. I knew it had to have been my fault if the groove cracked inward like that. After digging the truss rod out of the old neck it turns out the groove was deeper than where the rod sat which surely caused the neck to crack when pressure from the fret squeezer was applied. Sometimes weird things just happen. One thing I have learned from my dad is that there is not much use to get mad, just start a new one. We had a new neck made in record time and I only ended up losing a day or so anyway. The two guitars turned out sounding clean and bright and looked beautiful. It always warms my heart to see my clients love what I make for them and these two guitars did not disappoint.

Vintage lettering like my dad's #52.





White oak back and sides, Carpathian spruce top

Me and Jim
Me and Emory
Finally, I want to take a little side bar and share how thankful I am for all of the teachers I have had in my life. Well, most anyway. The best part is that they have done so much more than teach me their respective subjects, they have taught me lessons of life in general and, indirectly, how to successfully operate a small business. I remember thinking in math class in high school, as I sat in those small salmon colored desks with the table attached for right handed people thinking, "I am never going to need this information right here, let's get to art class." But every time I fit a neck, cut fret grooves, or glue and shave braces I think of my high school math teachers Laura Roarke and Beth Derringer. They championed for me to succeed in math even though I despised most of it and for their unwavering encouragement I am so thankful. I guess my point with this last thought is that while you might not be able to see it while you're in it, be thankful for the people who teach you things, even if they break your guitar neck and make you start over. There's always a positive lesson in there somewhere.