In the handmade tradition. One at a time. Just for you.
A Short History
Years ago, in 1996, when my oldest son was only eleven, I searched for and found him his first guitar. That
black Fender Stratocaster and Amp was the coolest present he'd ever received. In the process of that
transaction, my own love of the guitar surfaced. Music was something I'd loved from the days when I played
cello in elementary and Jr. high school.
My interest waned when my family moved to Arkansas and there was no public school orchestra. But after
getting that guitar for my boy, I just kept thinking about it. My wife and my brother-in-law both played guitar.
And I fixed my wife's guitar some thirty years ago after an accident. She still has that little guitar, a Vox
Serenader. Yep it's plywood, but has made lots of music and soothed lonely hearts.
Then it happened, a friend named Marty, playing a Martin D-35 kit he'd put together, gave me the idea to build
one myself. By that time I owned many guitars, Martins, Taylors, and garage-saler guitars that almost always
needed fixing. My kit from Martin was started in July of 1999, a Herringbone D-28. It has beautiful brownish
Rosewood back and sides and a Sitka spruce top. The body's together but it's still not finished here in
September of 2002. Shortly though, twelve guitars will come to life in my little shop in Russellville, Arkansas.
Over the past two summers, my shop was constructed, also a barn to store local woods in is finished, and after
leaving my teaching position, it's time to build guitars. When you decide to do something like start a guitar
building venture, you get all kinds of encouragement. "It'll never work." "You'll starve." "I hope you like to
eat beans." "You can always fall back on....." But you know what? I don't care what those folks say. It was my
decision, tempered with quiet acceptance from my wife. What will they say when I make it?
Someone once said, "A man can succeed at anything for which he has unlimited enthusiasm." Well, keep
checking back as this short history gets a little longer, because inside of me is the will and enthusiasm to create
some of the most fantastic acoustic instruments any artist or craftsman has ever produced. The guitar building
community is encouraging and very helpful. I'd like to thank three people in particular. Frank Ford, Charlie
Hoffman, and Jim Olson. I'd also like to thank one great guitar player who inspires me.
Frank Ford is a wonderful guitar mechanic guru (other words for a Master Luthier). He is co-owner of
Gryphon Stringed Instruments in Palo Alto California along with Richard Johnston. He comes from a guitar
building background which serves him well in understanding and relating to the boutique guitar builder and
guitar factories alike. He builds and maintains a website called www.frets.com. Frets.com is there to educate
and encourage players and luthiers alike, in caring for and fixing their instruments. Or to give them enough
knowledge to leave that work to experienced masters like himself. Thanks Frank for answering my many
Charlie Hoffman is a luthier, second to none. He owns Charles A. Hoffman Handmade Guitars in Minneapolis,
Minnesota. Charlie, too, has answered many questions. He builds some of the finest looking guitars on the
planet. By sharing his construction methods on his website he apprentices newcomers to the art of building an
acoustic guitar, including me. You may visit him on the web and see his work for yourself at
www.hoffmanguitars.com. Master Luthier, Charlie Hoffman, thanks for sharing. I hope to meet you some day
James Olson in Circle Pines, Minnesota, arguably, is the best luthier on planet Earth, I don't know that for
sure but I suspect it. His work is truly inspirational. Charlie Hoffman and Jim are friends and share or borrow
ideas from each other. They've worked and lived in the same area for years. James built a guitar for Phil
Keaggy that I got to examine in order to build a model like it.
Tom Loredo's love of Jim's work moved him to put Jim on the web at www.olsonguitars.com. Jim Olson is
celebrating 29 years as a luthier here in 2006. He is teaming up with James Taylor in producing a signature
Olson which they both will sign. Jim is a great example of what someone with a vision and inspiration can
accomplish. He stands as a role model for anyone wanting to build acoustic instruments. Hat's off to you Jim
and I also hope to meet you some day soon.
Hearing Phil Keaggy play his Olson SJ Cedar top cutaway for hours in a flurry of guitarobatics and
JamManamania, well, I thought I'd died and gone to heaven. The sheer talent Phil possesses blows me
away. And Phil, what a wonderful person. He sings songs about his children, his wife, his dad, his Lord. What
an unexalted talent in such a humble package. This guy rates up there with the saints, and he plays guitar
too. "No he doesn't play guitar, he incorporates the guitar into his artful expression of music and explosion of
personal values exalting others while smiling inside at how much fun he's having while we get to go along for
the ride." Run-on sentences are acceptable when talking about........Phil Keaggy. Go Phil.
Thank you too, you people who share a love of the guitar. You wouldn't be here reading this story if you didn't.
Thank you very much. Oh yeah, and, "Thank you, Lord" 'cause you make it all happen and give us a reason
to be thankful and to carry on.
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