Guitar-Making Philosophy

I became interested in guitar building around the time I turned 50, and spent the next few years building jigs and machinery, mulling design ideas, and learning woodworking and finishing techniques.

After seven years I finally jumped in and built my first guitar, a fretless acoustic bass. Although riddled with mistakes it turned out eminently playable, uniquely beautiful, and louder than any ABG I’ve seen in shops. So I pressed on.

There’s a chance I started too late to reach the level of “master luthier” in the years I have left, but I do believe I can improve, and be able to reliably craft the sort of guitars I would choose to buy. Sure, I want to hone my skills, but what I’m concentrating on is using my engineering brain to create a process - a set of steps that, when followed carefully, produce a consistent result. If I’m not satisfied with the result, or it’s not repeatable, I can tweak the steps or try out new ones until I am happy.

High-end manufacturers like Martin, Taylor and Guild produce excellent instruments with perfectly-optimised evenness of tone. High-end luthiers create exquisitely ornate masterpieces that you can only be played in a climate-controlled studio while wearing a dressing gown.

My aim is to build slightly out-of-the-ordinary guitars with more personality, more mojo, maybe even a little bit of honk. Beautiful but practical: guitars you can gig with. And if they get a scratch or dent, I want you to think “that was a great night” rather than “there goes half my investment”.

Many first-time builders will start with a traditional centre-hole, non-cutaway design. My very first build (indeed all of them so far) have been quite complex:

The reason for this is simple: I wanted to make the kind of guitar I wanted to own. I accepted that there would be difficulties, I gave myself permission to make mistakes, and I wanted to focus on, and develop, an engineering approach: repeatable steps.


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