Stay in Tune vol #72
By Luthier Patrick Podpadec
I hope that everyone's summer has been going as well as mine has. I also hope that no one has been leaving there guitars or other stringed instruments in the hot cars or sitting out in the direct sunlight. The other day I drove by a garage sale and saw two acoustic guitars sitting in the middle of a very sunny yard. Of course I stopped and looked at them. They were nothing fancy and of course I'm at my guitar limit at the moment ( doesn't stop one from looking though), but when I picked up the one guitar it was so hot that I couldn't set it down on my knee to play it. (It was a black Yamaha guitar). Before I left I told the woman who was running the garage sale that if she didn't put those guitars away soon into the shade that she was either going to be giving them away or bringing them to me and having to pay me to fix them.
Some interesting things have been happening in the shop lately. I have had to reglue the fingerboard onto a stand up bass and refit a new soundpost in it. I’ve also been working on setting the neck on a Martin Shenandoah which has been in my shop far too long. This was a Martin guitar that was built in the 70's in Japan but finished in the U.S.A. They were very well built and also sound very good too. The problem with the neck is that the method of construction from the Martin guitars that were built in the U.S.A. are a little different in the way they are assembled at the factory. The truss rod is cut into the top in such a manner that it makes it hard to reset the neck angle. It has been a lesson in lutherie that I will not soon forget.
Along with the usual setups and nut replacements I have just got in some other beautiful guitars. I'm lucky to have a good friend that is always looking out for interesting guitars. He had gone to an auction last week and was able to pickup an incredible find. He was able to buy a 1928 0028 Martin in excellent shape. The other treasure he was able to purchase was a 1956 ET 150 Gibson Tenor guitar. It looks like it has never been played. It has the same beautiful archtop body and sunburst finish that Gibson's are prized for. It also sports a very cool original P-90 pickup in it and sounds great. All I really have to do to it is change the strings. Wow! It is such a pleasure for me to be able to hold , play and examine these great treasures of the past. These instruments tell a story of the pride of American manufacturing. Back in the day when people would go to work and actually like their jobs. They took pride in their accomplishments. To look at the craftsmanship of these instruments and know that all the hands that touched it were truly all working for the same ultimate quality so that the customer could be as proud of their new instrument as they were in building it. Somehow this “American Pride” in manufacturing doesn't seem to exist as it did back in the 20's to the 60's even to the 70's. I guess when a lot of companies moved to foreign countries to increase their “bottom line” and American workers lost their lively hoods because of this decision it took the wind out of the sails and some of the pride sailed off with it. It is a shame but of course this article is not about the American economy and it's trials and tribulations.
Getting back on track, I am proud to say that when you look around in the right places you can still find some smaller companies right here in America that are producing some of the finest musical products in the market today. Martin and Gibson are still in the front of the pack when it comes to quality and craftsmanship. Many small “boutique “ builders are popping up all over, including yours truly! I have seen a huge increase in guitar builders in the past 10 yrs. With the advent of the small CNC machines that can be bought for home use and the knowledge that can be easily accessed through the internet it has opened the doors for many craftsman that might not have had the “gumption” to try to build something as intricate as a musical instrument. This has also raised the bar on all aspects of the music industry. With more and more highly educated engineers and craftsman getting into the game it produces better designs, more efficient manufacturing procedures, better and newer finishing processes. Although some of the traditional methods of producing instruments will hold out, it is just a matter of time before things will get even better than they were before . I love reading and finding out new ways to set up a routing technique or trying out a new finishing product that produces a better finish or seeing a new curve on a design that no one has thought of before. It helps make my creative juices flow.
I guess after all that I have said , the bottom line is that it still good to be able to learn new things after 50 plus years of being on the planet. I guess you can teach an old dog new tricks after all.
Stay in Tune! and will see ya next week.
Patrick from Wood-n-Strings /Liam Guitars