Volume # - 86 The Art of Lutherie

Written by Patrick Podpadec on . Posted in Northcoast Voice

Stay in Tune vol #86

By Luthier Patrick Podpadec

I have said this before, but I feel that I have to say it again. I want to thank all of the people that make my life and lively hood possible. The people that read my articles in the “Voice”, all of the musicians that I get to meet and fix their instruments, my wife and son who put up with me everyday, and the countless others that give me support and confidence to carry on with a profession that will never make it on the Forbes 500 fastest growing industries. Even though there are a few companies, Gibson and Martin, that have done quite well in producing instruments, for the most part over the past 100 yrs it has been a very specialized profession. The number of professional luthiers has actually seemed to have increased a bit over the past 10 yrs with the onset of CNC technology that has invaded the “home wood shop”. For the most part it has become affordable to many craftsman. I think that it has given many woodworkers the confidence to try projects that they may otherwise would may not have tried. Not to say that is bad because many have gone onto build beautiful projects, and instruments too. There are many talented luthiers out there using CNC technology and I don't mean to show any disrespect to anyone that uses CNC's . It has given the woodworker/ handyman capabilities that were very difficult to achieve without yrs of woodworking skills. It still takes some creative ideas and also the knowledge of how to produce some sort of computer automated drawing (CAD) ( which I know is a good skill too) to produce many wood pieces such as bridges, guitar necks, solid body designs,etc. Although this new technology is readily affordable, I have not started using it (at least not right now). I still think it's easier to grab a piece of wood and physically manipulate it (with a sander, router, file,chisel,sandpaper) into the shape that I have in my mind than to connect X-1.572 with Y-.750 or however they do it and then have a machine do it for me. Some how it takes the fun out of it for me.

I do understand that it makes “economical sense” to use this type of technology in today's manufacturing process. When your trying to produce 500 instruments a day exactly the same ( or as close as possible) with out any mishaps or possible employee injuries. Even in China, with their enormous labor pool, they have turned to automated manufacturing. When it comes to building musical instrument's it is my belief that a machine does not have the ability to inject the love that it takes to produce the instrument's “Soul” . What exactly is “Soul” you ask?

It is that undeniable tone that you get when you connect the energy that has been stored in the wood after many years of the tree's growth and the love and skill of the luthier's hands with some magical sort of “alchemy”. This inner action produces notes and tones that many mass produced instruments just don't have. That may not make sense to many of you, but if you have ever been lucky enough to play a guitar that has that “soul” or seen a picture from an artist's pen or heard a song from a musicians fingers and voice, or took in a really nice sunset one night you might begin to understand what I mean. It is that “thing” that you can only feel when real love has been injected into it. Somehow that magic seems to be lost in today's fast pace “gotta have it done yesterday's” or “If I make 1000 of them in a day I can make more money” mentality.

I don't want to sound too “old fashion” because I do like learning new things (including new technologies) I just wonder why we ( not all, but most humans) are in such a hurry to go wherever it is we're going. So many of the mass produced things ( including many musical instruments) that we feel we can't live without ends up in the garbage in a week or two anyway. Maybe we should take the time it takes to carefully build things ( even relationships) with some more love. It has been said that if you are not doing something that you actually love or care about, you probably shouldn't be doing it or if you are doing something for the wrong reasons, such as greed for more money or some sort of other ill gained reason it will come back to haunt you. I know that whenever I try to hurry a project along somehow I oversee something and I end up regretting it. For instance if I don't completely sand a piece of wood with all of the proper grits of paper and I miss a scratch or two, and then put on a lacquer finish, it will stick out like a sore thumb. I will then have to go back and redo all of what I should have done before I was in such a hurry. Go figure!

Being in a hurry never was one of my strong suites . I would much rather proceed with caution and diligence and enjoy the ride while I'm on it. This way of thinking seems to create better musical instruments in my opinion. Many times through the process of building something you learn as much from what “not to do” as from “what to do”. People say that you learn from your mistakes so that must make me a pretty smart guy.

I am having a lot of fun with my current project of building a guitar that will be auctioned off at the Riverside Music Festival in Cambridge P.A. that will be held April 19-21 this year. Please check out the progress on my website at liamguitars.com. Well, it's time to get back to doing what it is I do! Thanks again for doing what it is you do.

Keep Smiling!

Patrick from Liam Guitars / Wood-n-Strings