Tulsas on Deck

The reception of my Dantzig line Tulsa model has been very satisfying for me. It is a way to offer my designs in a more timely fashion for those who do not desire a one-off guitar. Today, I am laying out the inlays on some rosewood and ebony fingerboards. The Tulsa model comes adorned with basic pearl dot markers, but can be optioned with a number of my “signature” inlay patterns.

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I still lay the inlays out by hand and rout the pockets out manually. Not quite as quick as the CNC methods that we used at Hamer, but it’s something that I enjoy.

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These fingerboards have the “full claw” which entails 70 separate pieces of mother of pearl and abalone per board.

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The examples above feature the “Claw” inlay at the 12th fret only, but can be had with the full claw treatment as well.

Also available are Chevron and T-Bird inlays, for those who desire a slightly less intricate pattern.

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This is the three piece T-Bird inlay, shown at the 12th fret. The Chevron inlay is a single part without the center piece—the simplest of my large patterns. Many customers have opted for a 12th fret inlay only, but you can order any combination.

Back in the Saddle

It has been a busy few months—lots of research, writing and following up on things, and not as much building guitars as I would like. That’s not to say that my shop has been idle. Space is always at a premium, and if there’s one thing I’ve learned—no matter how much you have, you’ll fill it up. So, in order to make things a little easier on myself (and my clients) I’ve been streamlining the shop. If you follow my posts on Facebook you’ll know that I’ve gotten the Hell’s Half Acre build back on the bench, and it feels good.

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The tobacco sunburst is appropriately named for this cowpoke guitar, and it turned out really nice. I’m back in my paint room, which has been upgraded, and am now putting on clear coats of nitro.

Lately, I’ve been infatuated with three things: French polish, old violins, and the patina of age on vintage guitars. I’ve been working on a way to stylistically blend these influences into a thin nitrocellulose guitar finish.

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Here is a test panel compared to an original 1964 Precision Bass. I’m not trying to match the color here, just the sheen. It is a combination of additives in the lacquer, and a hand polishing technique using a wool pad and lots of elbow grease. It’s not as easy as buffing a high gloss, or spraying a satin paint, but I think the results are great. This process gives the guitar more of a real musical instrument vibe, and less of a “production/factory” look. After all, I don’t make toasters or automobiles—I don’t think of guitars as appliances.

Then and Now, Short Form

Here is a template that I made in the early 1980s. It has been used to start the process on thousands of instruments. It hangs in my shop to remind me of my journey and all of the wonderful people I have met along the way. At the lower right hand corner is a current color sample block for a client’s guitar order.

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I’ve never done this for the money, but I like to be paid for my time and expertise. I didn’t start building guitars because I wanted to be rich, or even to be a businessman. I just wanted to make cool shit. I figured that if I satisfied myself, maybe there would be a few people like me who might want one of my guitars. So far, it has worked out way better than I’d ever hoped.

Winning

I guess I missed the memo. Forgive me because I’m just a little “slow” if you catch my drift. Now I smell what’s cookin’ and it’s the last fragment of my stupid optimism about art and the expression of the human condition. Because now I realize that rather than being humbled by of our tiny place in this immeasurable universe, life and art are really about winning. I used to believe that life was not a zero sum game and that the world held so much bounty and beauty that there was enough for everyone if they’d just take the time to look skyward and breathe nature’s divine air. I guess I’m an idiot.

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Training to win. The author in school circa 1965

I recently read a post from Esquire about how a rapper went home from SXSW early, because he “won”(their words) and it got me thinking—make that seething—about how everything in life now has to be a competition. Especially in this country. It’s the biggest, baddest, boldest, richest, righteous; most-popular-takes-the-prize mentality that surrounds us all. And it has always been this way. I was just a fool to think otherwise. Top forty, Billboard charts, top grossing movie, highest price paid for a painting and auction results on the morning news. What is American Idol if not a competition? Duh.

Even education is now about winning. Screw the arts—too hard to quantify. Our English and literature classes are now dumbed down to serve as training for corporate report writing. Learning is no longer the point; it’s all about positioning oneself for future employment. Imagine the fraud generated by all or nothing winning attitudes about the end game above all else. Creativity is given much lip service, but in the end it’s conformity that gets rewarded.

Still, I have optimism. Creative souls have always slipped through the cracks. In fact, I think the more robot-like the world becomes, the more misfits will rise to the challenge. Writing, filming, playing music, building and carving—not because of the money, not because of the fame, but because it has always been this way. That’s the creative person’s way of winning.