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The Advanced Design Features class sounds intriguing. What’s covered in that?
It’s a five-day seminar that focuses on new design features that a growing number of luthiers offer as options and even standard features. The attraction and value of double tops, sound ports, arm rests, and wedge-shaped bodies is clear to most luthiers and players who’ve experienced them, but the theory and the how-to of these new elements isn’t always obvious. Advanced Design Features is an opportunity for experienced builders to bring their work up to speed in this area. Seminar topics include double tops, arm rests, sound ports, access panels, adjustable necks, removable necks, spiral fretboards, laminated rims, rigid linings, compound and scalloped cutaways, elevated fretboards, wedge-shaped bodies, semi-hemispheric fret ends, headless necks, off-center soundholes, removable bridges, double cutaways, synthetic bridge and saddle materials, multiple scales, fanned frets, pinless bridges, alternative body architecture, ventilated, relieved braces, and unibody construction.
LEFT: This small jumbo Ergo Noir has a floating jazz-style pickguard. RIGHT: Fox’s blue Stag Leap electric features a radically shaped, deeply carved swamp ash body with a flamed hard-rock maple neck.
How can people find out more about your classes and guitars?
To learn more about ASL, visit americanschooloflutherie.com and see if any of our classes seem right for you. We always recommend checking out a number of schools, and you’ll find advice on our site for choosing the best fit for you. If you’re interested in exploring having a custom guitar made, you might start by perusing the Ergo Guitars website, ergoguitars.com.
What’s the impetus for your mixture of teaching and building?
Independent lutherie is a lonely business practiced largely in monkish solitude. When I teach, my shop takes on a welcome social dimension. The balance of my time working alone and with others is good for me, and I can adjust the balance as I wish. Over the course of a year, it’s roughly half and half. Lately, I’ve been loading up on the spring and summer classes—when more of my students can leave their day jobs—and leaving more time in the fall and winter for working alone on my own instruments and other projects. My income is about the same whether I’m building for clients or teaching. So these are among the practical attractions of teaching. I also love it—I take it seriously, and I do it pretty well. And I’m sure I’m a better guitar maker than I would be if I didn’t teach the craft. Teaching has me regularly explaining and reviewing my understanding, and that deepens my understanding of things that I would otherwise never think much about. I also learn a tremendous amount from my students, among who are artists, professionals, and entrepreneurs of every sort. That enormous knowledge base passing through my shop is not wasted on me.
What projects are you planning for the next five years or so—either at the school or in your shop?
I’m designing a more affordable guitar that incorporates some of the Ergo’s features, seriously revisiting the electric guitar, and adding a class or two to ASL’s curriculum—including a setup and basic repairs class designed for guitar owners as well as our lutherie students. Jig plans and kits are on the way, too, as well as some instructional videos.
Some builders want to die at their workbench, others want to retire and never use a scraper again. How about yourself?
It’s hard to imagine not building guitars—at least for a long time. I’ve left the craft and come back to it more than once, and I understand its importance to my sanity and balance. On the other hand, the thought of buying a few acres in coastal B.C. and cruising the inland waterways in a stout wooden boat is very appealing. Who knows? Of course, a time will come when I just can’t do it, when I can no longer stand at my workbench or guide a tool accurately, but that time is way yonder. I’ve got far too many ideas and projects still to bring to life.