Stay in Tune vol#108
By Luthier Patrick Podpadec
It always amazes me how you can be somewhere doing something that has nothing to do with guitars and then suddenly meet someone and end up talking about instruments. Last week I was working at a construction job and sat down to take a short break . I started talking to the electrician whom I've been working with and around for several weeks. Somehow the subject turned to music. I had mention that I repair and build instruments at home in my shop and he said, "Dude!, I've been playing guitar for about 30yrs now, I've got a Taylor , an old Strat, etc" . He then started naming many of the people that I've been in close contact since I've been building guitars and it ends up that we have many mutual friends. How cool is that? It seems that where ever you go you can meet people who have a very dedicated love for music. You never know when your gonna meet a new musician. It seems to happen to me all the time. I'm sure that it has to do with me being specially interested in music and instruments, but it still always surprises me when I meet someone after talking with them for a couple of weeks and not knowing they also share the same love for music as I do.
I don't know how to explain it, but suddenly after knowing that my electrician friend, now "music friend" has the same love or connection to music as I do, I feel that we understand each other better. We never had a problem talking before this, and I have always thought he was a good guy from the beginning, but now we seem to have this "international" communication level that we can enjoy as being two musicians. I guess that may happen with many different occupations through the world , but it seems to be more enjoyable through music. It's like a language that can be spoken to anyone. I don't get the same feeling or connection when I meet another painter, drywaller. carpenter etc... It's just doesn't feel the same. The only reason we had to stop talking about our mutual music connections is we both realized that we had to get back to work (damn it!).
I 'm very lucky to meet these new musicians because it reassures me of my commitment to lutherie. My interest in building and repairing instruments for the musical community is alive and well! I know that I will never have a shortage of work to do because all of the many, many players that keep popping up where ever I go.
Speaking of the work I have to do . I have to tell you about some of the latest repairs that have walked into the shop. I was lucky enough to have a very old Gibson mandolin come in for a top crack repair. It wasn't as easy as I thought it was going to be. My first attempt at aligning the crack up was not quite up to my satisfaction. This required me to have to steam open my glue joint and realign the crack . That is a very tricky procedure to say the least. It is very important that which ever technique that you decide to use on your gluing procedures, that you dry run the situation as many times as it takes to insure that everything goes to plan. In my first attempt the joint slipped a little out of alignment and I could not tell because of the way that I had my clamps arranged. ( Just to clarify, the 2cd attempt was very successful).
I have found out through the years that mistakes can still happen but knowing how to fix them is what makes a good craftsman. I had a few normal set up procedures that went smooth last week, but occasionally I get in a guitar that may not be worth too much and has more wrong with it than is easily or inexpensively fixable. I try to do what I can to try to get it back into some sort of manageable playability without completely rebuilding the instrument. I can always get it to play much better, but sometimes it may not be as good as I would like it . When this sort of thing happens I can work with the customer so that the price reflects the work done and not to give any false impressions that the instrument will be perfect when I'm done.
I also got a guitar in last week that was built by another local luthier . The gentleman that built the guitar only built a few of them but did a surprisingly good job for only having built that many. I always like to see the work of other craftsman, especially local ones. My job was to refinish the top and replace the pickguard. This kind of work doesn't reflect badly on any craftsman. A guitar can always be refinished or have a pickguard replaced. I judge the work by how well it plays and the overall construction of the instrument. If any one out there has built any stringed instrument I would love to invite you to my shop and please let me see it. Do not be intimidated by the work because we all know that the more you do the better it gets. I'll even be glad to show you my (not very good !) first attempt at guitar building. I enjoy talking or discussing different construction methods and often learn new things just through the whole "show and tell" process. I encourage anyone with the desire to build things to go for it! It doesn't matter how bizarre it may be. There is always a learning process that occurs and that to me is what it's all about! Well I have to go back in the shop now and "learn" a few new things. So please "Stay in Tune" and will catch ya next week.
Patrick from LiamGuitars