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Crafters of Tennessee
I just simply love the sound of the Dobro. I like the old pre-war style sounds from people like Oswald and Josh Graves, and of course all of the stuff that dad had done throughout the years. I was really intrigued when dad started doing a lot of the stuff with John Hartford, Norman Blake and Vassar Clements with the Aereo-Plain band. I fell in love with those sounds, and it kind of steered my building towards a lot of the old, original stuff. I had an engineering background and wanted to gain as much knowledge of what was actually producing these types of sound. So, ultimately in those days, we designed and built our own coverplates, our own cones, our own spiders. And I still do that today.
So would you consider your designs to be more traditional?
We’re still of the old school; we still do the old parallelogram soundwells. You know, the resophonic world has gotten a lot of great builders involved, and there are a lot of ideas around the acoustic side, about what makes those instruments sound and do what they do. They’ve come up with the baffle system and the soundpost, and all these different variations throughout the years, but it’s kind of funny, because we did the baffle systems back in the seventies, 15 years before a lot of these builders even thought of building instruments. We did soundposts, we did soundwells, we did no soundwells, we did parallelogram soundwells—we’ve experimented throughout the years. I love the old parallelogram soundwells and their tonal qualities. We’ve experimented, and we offer different depths and waist dimensions and all of that, but a lot of those types of things are built on custom orders.
Can you tell me a little bit about your operations in Tennessee?
We have a 3000 square foot shop located on Lebanon Pike in Nashville, and we just have three people. I like the little, small atmosphere—I’ve had as many as 25 people working for me, and that drove me into five bypasses. [laughs] Plus, we build for a lot of high-end musicians, and they like that oneon- one type of service.
Yeah, I do a lot of the building, and my son Travis works for me now, and I taught him all of the CNC stuff. Also Jerry Laliberte, who has worked for me for about 15 years. We do everything in house. We have the big, square boards and huge logs of lumber, and we go from that, machining it all the way down. We do every bit of the woodworking, the pearl inlay, all of it.
Tell us about the tonewoods you’re using on your resophonics.
I’ve been pretty fortunate to have acquired over 35 years a large stock of old-growth Brazilian rosewood, so I do quite a few of them out of Brazilian. I also do a lot of the matched crotch walnut and burl walnut, but my standards are curly maple and mahogany. We also do some out of Indian rosewood, so we have a pretty rounded availability of wood types.
How does a walnut guitar differ in sound from a rosewood or mahogany model?
Well, walnut is kind of in-between. It has a little more softness to it, tonally, but it has a great response as far as the projection. The tonal qualities are very balanced, and walnut is an excellent choice for resophonics. A lot of people don’t end up getting walnut resos, but I think it’s a very underrated wood in the guitar market. We have a lot of resources for getting walnut in this country, and it makes for an absolute cannon of a guitar.
I also saw you offer some guitars with 24k-gold plating; do you like adding that kind of ornamentation to your instruments?
I do. I don’t like it when it gets too wild, even though I’ve done some extremely wild ones [laughs]. Just to give you an example, we did a metal body back in the nineties, and it was all engraved, and then we came back and set 6000 rhinestones into the engraving. So, it gets pretty intricate, but there’s a huge difference between being fancy and being gaudy. What we do is themes—we develop the artwork, the pearl and the engraving so it all flows together.
If there’s a resophonic player looking at your guitars and comparing them to other high-end builders, why should they buy a Crafters?
Well, I think there are two or three reasons that I would relate to, and one of them is the longetivity of what we’re doing. We’re here 40 years later. We’re still building, and a lot of instrument companies and independent builders have not been out there that long. Who knows if they’re going to be around two years, five years, ten years from now? I think being able to stand behind what you’ve done for 30 or 40 years is a big part of ordering something, because you know the people are still there, still doing it and have been for years.
I think the quality of what we’re doing rates right up there with anybody that’s out there, on the high-end side. I don’t think the competition has the knowledge of doing what we’re doing and what we’ve accomplished. We’ve built for many, many artists: 480 artists have bought instruments from us throughout all these years, from John Fogerty to Garth Brooks.
Hit page 4 for the third of our Resonator Builders, Rayco Resophonics...