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PostPosted: Wed Oct 04, 2017 8:17 am 
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Cocobolo
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Joined: Fri Feb 24, 2017 8:43 am
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I was discussing, this morning with my beautiful wife, some of the stories I've read about or listened to on podcasts (shout out to "Luthier on Luthier") about how some luthiers to build instruments for other people....
Some worked in factories early on and split off earlier, some went to "luthier schools", and some grew naturally into it from another form of wood working...
So, if I may ask, what is your story?
I'd love to hear it. You can post it here... or message me if you'd rather keep it quieter.
Thank you.
Brandon in Georgia


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PostPosted: Wed Oct 04, 2017 9:48 am 
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First name: colin
Last Name: north
Country: Scotland.
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Luthier, guess that rules me out duh

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PostPosted: Wed Oct 04, 2017 10:33 am 
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Koa
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Joined: Thu Nov 04, 2010 1:46 pm
Posts: 907
First name: Freeman
Last Name: Keller
Focus: Build
Status: Amateur
I have too high a respect for the true luthiers in the world to call myself one - I'm still a Luthier-in-Training. However it has been a fascinating and wonderful journey - frustrating and rewarding at the same time. I continue to be impressed and humbled by the help from the many people on forums like this, the GAL and so many other wonderful people.


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PostPosted: Wed Oct 04, 2017 1:38 pm 
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First name: Don
Last Name: Parker
City: Charleston
State: West Virginia
Zip/Postal Code: 25314
Country: USA
Focus: Build
Status: Amateur
Very well, where do I begin? My father was a relentlessly self-improving boulangerie owner from Belgium with low grade narcolepsy and a penchant for buggery. My mother was a fifteen year old French prostitute named Chloe with webbed feet. My father would womanize, he would drink, he would make outrageous claims like he invented the question mark. Some times he would accuse chestnuts of being lazy, the sort of general malaise that only the genius possess and the insane lament. My childhood was typical, summers in Rangoon, luge lessons. In the spring we'd make meat helmets. When I was insolent I was placed in a burlap bag and beaten with reeds, pretty standard really. At the age of 12 I received my first scribe. At the age of fourteen, a Zoroastrian named Vilma ritualistically shaved my testicles. There really is nothing like a shorn scrotum, it's breathtaking, I suggest you try it.

Actually, I just wanted a decent acoustic guitar, and I was too cheap to pay for it, so I built one using the Cumpiano/Natelson book. I kept on going, because I really liked the process of making the guitars and getting better at it as I go. I won't call myself a luthier. I'm a hobbyist acoustic guitar builder.



These users thanked the author doncaparker for the post (total 3): SteveCourtright (Fri Oct 06, 2017 1:41 pm) • John Lewis (Thu Oct 05, 2017 6:47 am) • Hesh (Wed Oct 04, 2017 4:03 pm)
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PostPosted: Wed Oct 04, 2017 1:43 pm 
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Koa
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LOL That was good Don. You probably should take up a blog somewhere with stuff like that. I've heard folks make millions from them.


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PostPosted: Wed Oct 04, 2017 1:45 pm 
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Koa
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Joined: Thu Feb 12, 2009 10:27 pm
Posts: 1927
Location: South Carolina
First name: John
Last Name: Cox
Focus: Build
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I suppose I am not the person you are after either.... Hobby tinkerer... I have averaged about 1/year.. No where close to "luthier" in real life...

I think "School" - as in fish, not as in Institution sums up where most of us shake out... In that regard - I fall into "Cumpiano school" for whatever that means for someone who uses his book but has only shared a very few emails with the fellow... That's my go-to book and I find That as far as my actual real life building is concerned - My actual actions reflect much of his philosophy so far as I understand it...

That's not to say that I intellectually agree - but that is not necessary. The reality is that the best measure of what you "Believe" is really what you do... Not what you say...


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PostPosted: Wed Oct 04, 2017 1:55 pm 
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Glen H wrote:
LOL That was good Don. You probably should take up a blog somewhere with stuff like that. I've heard folks make millions from them.


I can't take credit for that, Glen. It was the genius of Mike Myers. That was Dr. Evil's backstory from Austin Powers; it came out in a monologue by Dr. Evil, during group father/son therapy, led by the late Carrie Fisher.


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PostPosted: Wed Oct 04, 2017 1:58 pm 
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Koa
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Ah yea I got it now that you mention it. Ol dr evil. LOL
I guess you won't make millions after all, except as a luthier I mean.


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PostPosted: Wed Oct 04, 2017 2:12 pm 
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First name: Don
Last Name: Parker
City: Charleston
State: West Virginia
Zip/Postal Code: 25314
Country: USA
Focus: Build
Status: Amateur
I think I'm more likely to make millions as a blogger.


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PostPosted: Wed Oct 04, 2017 4:05 pm 
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Old Growth Brazilian Rosewood
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Joined: Fri Nov 02, 2007 9:49 am
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Location: Ann Arbor, Michigan
First name: Hesh
Last Name: Breakstone
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Didn't Luthiers nail something on a door, marry a nun, have lots of kids and break away from the Catholic Church?

Maybe I got that wrong but indulge me please......


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PostPosted: Wed Oct 04, 2017 5:27 pm 
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First name: Don
Last Name: Parker
City: Charleston
State: West Virginia
Zip/Postal Code: 25314
Country: USA
Focus: Build
Status: Amateur
Hesh obviously watched the Martin Luther PBS special a few weeks back.


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PostPosted: Wed Oct 04, 2017 6:32 pm 
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Koa
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First name: Brad
Last Name: Combs
Focus: Build
Status: Amateur
Man, this thing drove straight into the ditch!

Brandon, retitle this to say "How did you get started building guitars?"


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PostPosted: Wed Oct 04, 2017 7:02 pm 
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Koa
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My name is Brad and I am a LUTHIER!!!!!

It all started 44 years ago when I was 14 years old.........

The guy I took guitar lessons from noticed that the bridge on my prize Gi#son acoustic was lifting.

He said he would repair it for $5.00 and I could watch him do it!

So we went into his mothers basement and he proceeded to wrestle the bridge off my guitar with a 1/2" wood chisel.
Needless to say there were a few serious dents in the top,but at least the bridge was secure......

I visited him once and he was building his first guitar. He had been up for 2 days straight and I stayed up with him for the 3rd day finishing the guitar. It was AMAZING! it actually worked. He used a coffee can and a propane torch to bend the sides-they were kind of burnt....

I was hooked.....

So that started my "Apprenticeship".

For the next 4 years-7 days a week I worked with him in his mothers basement- I only went to school 1/2 a day

We built guitars.repaired guitars and restored antiques......

we still used the coffee can to bend sides.

Made museum pieces-they all collapsed-my first 4 guitars

The only power tool we had was a 10" Sears radial arm saw. No bandsaw

Learned how to sharpen a scraper and a chisel. Swept the floors-answered the phone.

We were working in a vacuum-The only book s were Irving Sloans and David Russel Youngs

So here I am now 100 instruments later- over $100,000. invested in tools and wood.

And LOVIN' IT!!!.....

The old story-How do you get to Carnegie Hall-Practice!

As Edison said" there is no substitute for hard work"

At my day job I think about all my next moves-rehearsing the steps in my head, so at this point when I get in the shop, I can just go-go. no more thinking-just doing........

Used to spend 200 hours on every guitar Now I am at around 60 for a basic model.

Lately I have been working on my efficiency. I am doing a batch of 12 guitars-The Dirty Dozen...



These users thanked the author Brad Goodman for the post (total 2): pat macaluso (Wed Oct 04, 2017 9:41 pm) • bcombs510 (Wed Oct 04, 2017 7:24 pm)
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PostPosted: Wed Oct 04, 2017 7:49 pm 
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Brazilian Rosewood
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"Hesh obviously watched the Martin Luther PBS special a few weeks back."

Some of the best Luthiers are named Martin....


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PostPosted: Wed Oct 04, 2017 9:38 pm 
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bcombs510 wrote:
Man, this thing drove straight into the ditch!

Brandon, retitle this to say "How did you get started building guitars?"


Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk
I was thinking the same thing.



These users thanked the author pat macaluso for the post: dbbrantley (Wed Oct 25, 2017 2:35 am)
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PostPosted: Wed Oct 04, 2017 10:00 pm 
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Brazilian Rosewood
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Joined: Fri Dec 14, 2007 3:21 pm
Posts: 2466
Location: Alexandria MN
One of my kids built a Martin kit while in grad school around 1997. It turned out great. I was amazed. I had bought David Russel Young's book a few years before and it looked too hard. He had Cumpiano which I liked a lot more.

Built four kits, got hooked, took the Fox course in 2004, retired, and tried to make it a second career.

Got hooked up with a boutique guitar store, The Podium, in Minneapolis, became friends with a great repair person Marty Reynolds, owners Jeff Molde and Jim Tordoff, long time employee and well known Twin Cities jazz guitarist David Roos, and store staff and players like Lonnie Knight with 30+ years of industry and gigging experience. They brought me along with truthful critiques that were invaluable in the evolution of my instruments.

After 74 builds I am still loving it. Hate to admit it but I am enjoying repairs as much as building.

The Podium closed it's doors a few months ago after about 56 years of operation so I am exploring new options for marketing my stuff. I will miss the social aspect of the store as much as the loss of a great wall. My favorite part of the trip? Hands down, the wonderful people I have met many of whom have become good friends.

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PostPosted: Wed Oct 04, 2017 10:23 pm 
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Koa
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Joined: Mon Nov 24, 2008 12:17 pm
Posts: 665
City: Escondido
State: CA
Zip/Postal Code: 92029
Country: USA
Focus: Build
Status: Semi-pro
Fifteen years ago I heard that our local community college had a course on building an acoustic guitar. I assumed all community colleges had similar programs! I had no idea how rare and special the woodworking program here is.

Anyhoo, I had my prized Martin D-18 that I bought with my first real paycheck as an attorney. I didn't want anyone touching it so I decided I would take the class and build a guitar that could be my beater/loaner. Funny thing happened... it turned out better than my Martin!

Not the fit and finish. Like golf, you drive for show and putt for dough. Making a guitar that plays and sounds great is relatively easy. Making it play and sound great AND be flawless... not so much.

But if the first one was better than my Martin, how good would the second one be? And the third? What if I tweaked the design to match my needs as a player? Could I make something better?

Now I help teach that class at Palomar College. I also have a hobby business of making carbon fiber archtops, most nylon string. It is a tiny market, but two or three seem to go out the door every year. I don't make a living off of it, but it is a self-paying hobby that ends up every year with a fun little purse that pays the family airfare for a vacation or multiplies my down payment on a car.



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PostPosted: Wed Oct 04, 2017 11:12 pm 
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First name: Brian
Last Name: McDonald
City: Okanagan Centre
State: British Columbia
Zip/Postal Code: V4V2H6
Country: Canada
Focus: Build
Status: Amateur
I just sent in my 70 bucks, and boom, a few weeks later I'm a luthier, and I got a certificate to prove it.
But seriously, I had a thought one day that if I built a guitar for myself, maybe I could stick with lessons and the practice it takes to play. Turns out building is way more fun than practice, and they make a
heck of a gift.

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PostPosted: Wed Oct 04, 2017 11:21 pm 
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Old Growth Brazilian Rosewood
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Location: Ann Arbor, Michigan
First name: Hesh
Last Name: Breakstone
Country: United States
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doncaparker wrote:
Hesh obviously watched the Martin Luther PBS special a few weeks back.


Actually I studied Martin Luther over two semesters in college way back in the day.... I was fascinated with him on a personal level. These were electives.

OK to be more on topic.

Started as a builder of a Stew-Mac dr*ad kit because my friend and Doc told me to get a hobby or die of hypertension. I was stationed in Palo Alto and my companies representative to this "new fangled vaporware economy with stock valuations of 32 times earnings that would never, never amount to anything...." I worked for the largest brick and mortar company in human history and was affectionately known as my CEO's "d*mn bleeding heart from the People's Republic of Ann Arbor...."

So I bought this kit and found that in order to build it in the kitchen of my Residence Inn in Sunnyvale I had to make repeated trips to the local Home Depot for a band saw, spindle sander, belt sander, etc. I spent months of my life in this hotel and asked the manager if he minded if I made saw dust in my room? He replied that if I had any idea what most people did to hotel rooms such as leaving used condoms draped over lamp shades.... etc. (true story) I would know that I was a pleasure to have as a guest. Maybe I should have rethought my approach and guitar building was not the best use of the suite? Anyway he offered to bring me a large cart for my stuff to be stored on when I made my frequent trips across the pond to Asia and the other way to the east coast and Europe. I would stay a month in this hotel, they would store my work in progress and tools and put it all in my new room when I returned.

The first one turned out sounding good enough that I was hooked. It looked like hell...... and likely had every mistake in the book.

So I built another and another and another until my current unfinished one that will likely never get finished is number 55. I lost interest over time and it really hit close to home when Dave Collins once did the math in front of me illustrating for me what I was making building guitars. With my way of building guitars, each one unique, each one with pretty high-end woods, custom cases, Waverly tuners, even BRW custom turned 3 degree unslotted bridge pins with no detail not addressed Dave showed me that even though my stuff sold at once off the rack I was only making less than one dollar an hour...... Not sure why but this hit close to home to me and again I started to get bored AND feel like I had a cold every time I sanded mahogany....

Then along came Rick Turner to the OLF. Rick minced no words and told us all here that we weren't sh** if we did not learn repair. He advocated learning repair before learning to build. Rick said that if we didn't we are only making "model airplane kits" and "GLOs" or "guitar like objects..."

I didn't like Rick's delivery but his message stuck with me. In 2007 I met Rick and found him to be one of the greatest people that I have ever met in the Lutherie world AND beyond. What was once adversarial on my part morphed into great respect for this living legend of a Luthier, Rick Turner. I remember stepping aside from his table at Healsburg because he had a prospect browsing his many guitars on display. Rick asked me what I was doing. I told him I was getting out of the way because he had a prospect. He told me that he was talking to me and that's what he wanted to do as he ignored the prospective client.

I was impressed!

As I began doing repairs and thinking about the economics of building I was getting $3,000 to $the 5,000 a guitar for my stuff off the rack with no effort made to advertise, attend shows, pay for forum presence, etc. I built what I wanted and considered the very idea of commissions not unlike getting herpes..... I thought it to be selling futures and fraught with misunderstandings in expectations for all involved. As I did repairs I simply hung my latest creation in my shop and invariably one after another repair clients asked to try the thing, asked to bring over the wife, asked me if I accept checks, next. Around 44 guitars were sold this way nearly as fast as they were produced. Other guitars where given as gifts to friends and not so much friends sadly..... You win some you lose some you live and learn.... I miss Serge!

All the while Dave Collins was letting me apprentice with him for three years as I learned the repair side of the business.

Being trained by my formal boss, the world's most famous CEO... I knew a few things about business from Six Sigma, Lean manufacturing, JIT inventory, and was engaged in acquiring Fortune 50 corporations for my employer. We "assimilated" our conquests but never dawned the Borg gear preferring to look like human beings even if acting like one was not always standard fare. We live and learn again....

Dave taught me a lot of things and still does to this very day. We are partners in Ann Arbor Guitars finishing out our fifth year in our "vintage" location that once serviced instruments for John Lennon, Eric Clapton and a host of other A listers if you want to Google "Herb David Guitar Studio." We average about 1,100 serviced instruments annually with our minimum service being a full set-up making the 1,100 number all goodly amounts of service for every instrument and not simple truss rod tweaks. The business is well north of six figures annually with NO RETAIL, we do not sell anything and only do repair work these days making our revenue numbers all from Lutherie labor.

As is often the case with any organization which, by definition is a group of people, more than one with a common interest and goal.... both Dave and I brought different things to the business table.

I saw him and so too did even ten years ago many of his top tier Luthier peers as one of the top Luthiers on the planet. Dave saw me as someone who could shed some light on how to run a business since I was trained to run corporations.... I demystified issues such as "revenue recognition..." and reconfirmed for Dave that state taxing authorities can go drink paddy water......

These days this is my retirement gig. I work the business four days a week and love every minute of it. Never before have I looked forward to going to work so very much even though I generally loved my jobs most of my life no matter if it was working on the prototype YF-22, learning about locomotives or trying for a year and a half to purchase another $20B corporation and measuring if their corporate culture could be assimilated to ours....

I once sat next to the man who played Data on Star Trek for five hours and met Robert Picardo too. They both signed pictures for my 70 year old at that time Mom for her 70th birthday because I told them that she loved them both on the shows..... I've compared private jet sizes with the star of the TV show Magnum and won as my corporation sent a gleaming white 737 with our logo on the tail to pick me up from the VIP lounge at SFO on Christmas Eve after we won a deal and negotiation worth nearly a billion dollars after having a member of my team die of a heart attack during the negotiation and in the conference room. He was my friend. This totally changed my life forever and I had to tell his wife how he died....

None of it was ever worth it again for me and never will be.

But Lutherie pulled me forward and through it all. Tomorrow I have a client meeting me 1/2 an hour early so that we meet his work schedule and I will be setting up his new guitar. Guess that's today in five minutes....

Doing repair work by the way is WAY more profitable than building since I successfully did both now. It's also WAY more fun for at least me with a bit of ADHD and being an impatient sort too. You also get to meet A-list performers and also help a little developmentally disabled girl who wants to play guitar and you can help make that happen for her.

This is it for me too. This is how I want to spend the rest of my days and I am having a LOT of fun being a professional Luthier now in my 13th year after hanging up the Coach brief case an frequent flyer cards. Perhaps five more years and then it's off to the farm for me where I want to smoke pot, watch movies, exercise, fish, travel a bit but not much I traveled all my life all over the world and grew to hate it.

Many thanks to Dave Collins and Rick Turner. Many thanks to my friend Lance Kragenbrink too because without the OLF I would not have met Rick or Dave.

Lastly there are no formal qualification for calling oneself a Luthier. There are countless self proclaimed Luthiers who may not know jack about building or repair or, or, or..... No one seems to care who calls themselves what ever they want to call themselves. Certainly not me, I'm too busy having fun.

I can tell you though as one who has logged thousands of hours working next to other Luthiers some of these folks are at times called more than Luthier as in our repair capacity we have to right the wrongs of someone breathing their own air who doesn't get out much...... You cannot believe how poorly many instruments are built......

Or, in other words Luthiers may at times suffer from too much solitude and not exchanging ideas and methods with others enough. Poor practices abound even for major brands certainly in the commercial world. I just doubled my set-up prices for Rickenbacker 12's because they totally suck and every time I have to do one I want to throw it out the third floor window.... But I digress.

That's my story from thousands going out the door to build that Stew-Mac kit in a Residence Inn to thousands coming in the door and having to pay accountants these days to keep us on the straight and narrow. All the while it's been fun, interesting and rewarding.

I'm 61 next week and these days after billing $500 - $600 a day in Ann Arbor in the shop I come home and switch on my Fender Super Sonic, Dunlap Jimi Hendrix Fuzz Face and now Univibe pedal, pick up my American Strat with Jimi Hendrix Woodstock strap and play away. I can't get enough. Wish I had met Jimi but I have clients who have met him and they are fun to talk with.

I began loving guitars at nine years old and if I get my way will be cremated with one. Hopefully not an Ov*tion......


Last edited by Hesh on Thu Oct 05, 2017 5:29 am, edited 1 time in total.

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PostPosted: Thu Oct 05, 2017 2:16 am 
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Brazilian Rosewood
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Geez Hesh I hope it's not the black top one. I loved that guitar.

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PostPosted: Thu Oct 05, 2017 4:13 am 
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Old Growth Brazilian Rosewood
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Bobc wrote:
Geez Hesh I hope it's not the black top one. I loved that guitar.


Yeah those are cool, by the way there are five Black Tigers out there now.... but I still have the original prototype.

My favorite guitar that I built is an L-OO but with just FP shellac on it. It weighs 2.9 lbs and sounds like a dream to me. It's top has a belly and you can see the braces telegraphing through. This was my mule if you recall years back, ten years now that I built to test various tops. The tenth top stayed on her and that's how she is today. Great guitar, very responsive and fun to play.

Hope you are doing great Bob!


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PostPosted: Thu Oct 05, 2017 8:29 am 
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Brazilian Rosewood
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You might say that Hesh has... Seeena the light ah! And became a born again Luthier :D



These users thanked the author jfmckenna for the post: Hesh (Thu Oct 05, 2017 12:43 pm)
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PostPosted: Thu Oct 05, 2017 10:21 am 
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First name: colin
Last Name: north
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I'll bite. Sorry if I sounded a bit flippant earlier.
Played/messed with guitars since my teens (now retired)
Fixed up my own and friends (mainly set-up)
Marriage/kids/work etc. intervened, then as my daughters went into further education, took a 2 week guitar building course after 18 months research into the subject.
Came home, bought and fitted out (insulation/vapour-proofing) large garden shed, ordered basic machinery locally (UK) and some luthier stuff fro SM, bought wood and more tools as I went along.
Made lots of mistakes, learned from them. Made more, and with the help of this great forum, rectified them, and am getting a bit more ambitious now.
Started doing refrets/setup and small repairs about 3 years ago, when people liked my work enough to order a few guitars from me.
Just sold a spec build OM/wedge/fanfret/cutaway to the first player who tried it.
I was intending keeping it but he made me an offer I couldn't refuse. (Like how much do you want for it - $XXXX - is that all?)
That's the story so far.

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PostPosted: Thu Oct 05, 2017 2:11 pm 
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Brazilian Rosewood
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Joined: Mon Mar 06, 2006 10:10 pm
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First name: Mike/Mikey/Michael/hey you!
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Status: Professional
[quote="Hesh"]Didn't Luthiers nail something on a door, marry a nun, have lots of kids and break away from the Catholic Church?


Only Martin ones! ;)

Mike

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PostPosted: Thu Oct 05, 2017 4:16 pm 
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Old Growth Brazilian Rosewood
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Joined: Fri Nov 02, 2007 9:49 am
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Location: Ann Arbor, Michigan
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Mike Collins wrote:
Hesh wrote:
Didn't Luthiers nail something on a door, marry a nun, have lots of kids and break away from the Catholic Church?


Only Martin ones! ;)

Mike


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