Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Too Long

Too Long
      So what's it been?  Like a year since I've updated this blog?  Sorry about that. Life....   You know. It's certainly not like I've been inactive or anything.  How about I pick up where I left off so long ago?  (That ought to give me at least a few weeks' blogs-worth!)
     Here's a bunch of pics of one of the three guitars I was working on all last year:
      These are the three tops for the guitars. They're all in different stages of bracing. Mostly this is to show the structure of the top. It's what keeps the guitar from blowing up when you put strings on it.
    This is the body of the finished guitar. Pretty!
     So, thanks for bearing with me on my little sabbatical.  I'll attempt to get better in the coming year regarding these posts...  You know how that goes.  And thanks for stopping by.  Always good to see traffic on the blog! 

Friday, May 16, 2014



Had an interesting chat with my first officer on the way out to San Diego today. He's a recovering Mormon. Wanted to talk about politics and God. I wasn't sure where he was coming from, so I introduced him to Crossing the Gore. That opened the conversation right up.

But that's not really the story I want to tell today. I think I want to talk about God too.

I should start with my dream, since that's where it started for me. About a million years ago, when I was in my early 20's, I had a dream that I died. That was around the time the book 'Life After Life' came out, so, of course, I dreamed of the dark tunnel with the brilliant light at the end. Here's an important detail: The light wasn't brilliant like the sun. It was brilliant like the essence of love. Like the light was perfect love.

Because I was clearly the new guy there, the light started the conversation. The light welcomed me; an amazing, safe, warm feeling. It said that I could join it, if I wanted to. So I look a little closer and I see the the light isn't just a big ball of light, but a seething mass of many independent lights, flitting in, out, and all around the thing. Then I look at me and discover that - I'll be damned - I'm a little light too! There's some other stuff that happens in the dream, but this is the crux of it.

Now, at that period of my life, I was a self-centered, upwardly mobile, American boy. Naturally I viewed the experience as a young man would. I was aware that this dream would shape who I was to become, but I took it only at face value. Here I am, a million years later, and I have a somewhat more nuanced take on the whole thing.

Knowing what I knew, and basing my interpretation on what I knew, I determined that those little lights were human souls, and that the light was made up of humanity. I'm old now, and I have a slightly different take. That light is made up of everything. Living things, dead things, animate things, inanimate things, planets, stars, atoms, everything.

If that light is made up of everything, that means that everything is a part of everything - completely interconnected. Yeah, this isn't exactly groundbreaking thought, but it ties the concept to an image that makes it make sense (at least to me...). I'm not talking dogma here, or trying to promote religion. Rather, I'm providing a connection between the basic tenets of all religions: Treat me with respect and dignity, not because I am me, but because I am you.

I'm gonna take an oddball turn in the conversation and start talking about the devil for a minute. Lucifer was the most beautiful and faithful of God's angels. Then he and God had their famous falling-out, and Lucifer got punished. What was Lucifer's punishment? Do you know? I'll make this easy on you. Lucifer's punishment was to be removed from the presence of God. That was it. Seems pretty benign, doesn't it? I mean, how tough could that be? Just to be removed from God's presence?

Here's the thing: God's presence was the only the Lucifer ever cared about. Ever wanted. That's how powerful that big, wonderful ball of light and love is; that the worst punishment the most beautiful and faithful angel could receive is to be removed from the light and the love. All of a sudden, what seemed to be a benign punishment becomes the worst punishment imaginable.

So who is God? Is he the bearded, vengeful, Jewish grandfather of the old testament? Is he the round-bellied Buddha reclining beneath the Bodhi tree? Is he an orange-robed Krishna handing out leaflets in the airport? Perhaps he is the fair-skinned son of a carpenter, treading the hills of the western Mediterranean?

We already know the answer. The answer is yes. God is all of those things. God is all of those things and more. God is the unity and love that those images embody without the limitations they are constrained by. God is Yahweh and Allah and Buddha and the Krishna and Jesus of Nazareth. God is you. God is me. God is that rock over there, and the houseplant and the houseboat and the housekeeper. God is the sky, and the ground, and the birds and the worms. God is what we live, who we love, who we know and what we don't know. God is light, pure and beautiful. God is love, unsullied and honest. We can never know God, but we can approach that which is God in the first cry of our own baby. In the touch of a lover. In the breathtaking vista of a mountain pass on a clear day. In the wonder of the aurora borealis in the night sky. In the magic of a child holding your hand, just because you are there.

God is the carbon atom in your left hand that was created in the supernova of a star that died sixteen billion years ago. That atom retains the vestiges of a memory of life in that star, and it brings it to your left hand. Your left hand remembers its former
life and will give those memories to its atomic recipients after your death. You are me. Literally. God is you. God is us. God is all things, remembers all things. Gives all things to everything, has been and will be all things. God is that atom in your left hand. God is your left hand. God was that star. You were that star. You ARE that star. You were God. You ARE God. As am I. As I am you.

So the test will be on Thursday. This lecture will be covered as well as the Bible, the Q'ran, the four Vedas of Hindu, and the Buddhavacana. Study hard, pray a little, and grades will be out as soon as the Good Lord can take a look at your essays.

Friday, February 28, 2014



       Picking up where we left off so very long ago, here's the continued evolution of guitar #D-014. After cutting the back to shape, I inlaid a decorative backstrip. Here it is laying flat on top of the body:

      Next up comes the bracing. In this photo, I've rough-carved three of the braces, and I'm gluing the fourth in place. The mold I'm gluing them in is dish shaped--just like the sandpaper-covered one in the background. Gluing the shaped brace into a concave mold leaves the back arched and curved.

       The ID plate:

      Tough day at work. West winds caused a backup on the west runway. 45 minute sit that day, just waiting to takeoff. (Sometimes I have to earn a living in between guitar building projects...)

      Here are the back braces, all installed and shaped. I paint the inside pieces of the guitar with shellac to discourage movement due to moisture. You can see where I've gone back around the edge with a scraper to clean it up for a positive glue contact with the guitar body.

      Sound box all glued up and ready for sanding:

      Here's the sound box as of this morning. It has been sanded and polished to a fine sheen. Yesterday I applied the first of three coats of epoxy filler. Today I'll knock it down with #0000 steel wool and apply the next two coats. Then, it's off to build the Striped Ebony soundbox, and then the Bubinga sound box.  Then I can concentrate on the heart and soul of these guitars: The top.

      Thanks for checking in! I'll have more photos as I progress....

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Good days

Good days

      It has been a good couple of days. I'm fianlly back in the shop and doing more guitar work. Here's a few pics:


      This one show's the necks in different stages of completion. The far one has the airplane inlay, and is about as carved as I can make it at present. The middle one has the airplane and the 'ears', and the last one has yet to be worked on.

      This one shows the other end of the necks in progress.  The far one is the most progressed, the near on the least. If you blow up the pic, you can see the markings for my cuts.

      Now we're getting into some stuff: As you can see, I've thinned out the body materials and bent the sides. I'll show you what the wood blocks are in a few pictures.

      Here's the African Blackwood guitar. I've never worked with it, so I have to go on what I've heard. What I've heard is that this wood rings like glass. That could be really cool, or really irritating. So I decided to take the ring down a notch, and line the inside with Spanish Cedar veneer. I've done this before, and have been very pleased with the resulting sound. (Right Jim?)

      Here I'm trimming the ends of the sides flush with the mold. (This one's the Striped Ebony--incredibly pretty!)

      Here's the layout with the blocks in place.

      Clamp city!  I'm clamping the lining to the edge of the side. It strengthens the side and gives me a nice wide surface to glue the top and back to.

      This is actually a pretty decent shot. It shows the bottom block being glued in place. Rather than try to edge-glue two very thin pieces of wood together, the block is used as a gluing surface as well as a structural re-inforcement (something to land on when you drop the guitar...).

      So that's where I'm at as of now. Hopefully I'll have more pics of my progress soon!

Monday, January 6, 2014



Last week another Colorado teen died of a gunshot wound to the head.  She was killed by an angry boy who was incapable of dealing with disappointment--one of the most basic of human feelings.  What's worse is that she had nothing to do with him or his disappointment.  She simply had the bad luck to be the first one he saw when he entered the school.

Claire Davis was the latest in a string of innocent victims of a legal gun shooting.  Yeah, legal. Nope, it wasn't the legal gun that pulled the trigger.  It was the kid whose parents allowed acting out as appropriate behavior. It was the kid who'd been coached by his community that purchasing a shotgun was not only okay, but a necessary rite of passage.

So let’s just tally up the damage just in our pretty little state, shall we?  The birthplace of school shootings, the mother of all legally-purchased-gun-massacres: Columbine high school.  Body count:  Fourteen, students and one teacher.  Twenty-four students injured.  Number of legally purchased guns involved: 2 shotguns (modified by the shooters), one 9mm rifle and one 9mm handgun.  Next up, Aurora's Batman theater premier.  Number of legally purchased guns involved: One 12 gauge shotgun, one semi-automatic rifle and one 40 caliber handgun.  Body count: Twelve killed, seventy injured.  

And now Claire and Karl. And yes, people, this shooter was a victim too. His community taught him that murdering his classmates is an acceptable means of self-expression, but only if he blows his own head off when he's bored and tired at the end of his rampage. This is an entertainment-driven world, after all. Be sure to rob us of any sense of justice, so we won't have to suffer through another trial.

Okay, so who's responsible for these legally-purchased gun murders?  Premeditated murders?  Yes, Mr. LaPierre, nobody is responsible.  Certainly not the weapon manufacturers.  Certainly not the gun club owners.  Not the supportive community who teaches the youngsters to take out their frustration on other people's lives.  Yeah, we're all clean.  Nobody's responsible.  Whew!

The important thing is safe.  Our Second Amendment rights are safe.  To be honest, that’s more important than the life of any child.  Those Second Amendment rights are more important than security, or sanity or family or any other ridiculous concept. . “From my cold, dead hands.”  Oh yeah.

So what's a community to do?  How can we stop the carnage (but only the carnage in Colorado.  Carnage in other people's states is TOTALLY okay) without ceding one single Second Amendment gain from the past two decades?  Step one: Refuse, REFUSE to acknowledge that the ease of legal gun purchase is the root of the problem.  Because it isn't.  Right?  Step two: Who cares?  Step one just covered it all.  End of discussion.  Right?

Wednesday, January 1, 2014


Happy New Year to one and all! Sorry, I've been busy with the holidays and have neglected my blogging duties. But I've at least been busy with guitar making. Let me show you what I've been doing.
On the left is a basic neck blank. Nothing more than a block of wood. I have some dressing to do to make it into a neck blank. Right next to it is a dressed neck blank with the shallow cut that makes the headstock.
Up top in this photo I have a glued-up headstock with a veneer (the veneer is not just to make it pretty--it makes the joint stronger). The one below that shows the headstock shaping. Starting to look like what a guitar neck's supposed to look like.
Here is a big glue-up process. I put cherry 'ears' on the outside of the headstock--just a decoration.
I haven't yet gotten to this step, but this neck has the blocks in place for the neck-heel glue-up. Once that chunk's all glued together, I can carve the heel. Next, I'll flip it over and glue a fingerboard to the face of the neck. Some final trimming and carving, and I'll have a completed neck.
I've got six necks going right now. Four steel string necks, and two nylon string (they're different). Three of the steel string necks will be used with the wood I showed you pictures of a couple of months ago.
When I get started on those bodies, I'll take some more pictures and post 'em for you. Then you can see some more of the whole process of hand-building a guitar.
Have a great 2014!

Tuesday, December 10, 2013



Here's a story I wrote a couple of years ago. I've probably posted it once, but since it's December again, I'll put it up again. Happy reading!

I wait on the porch overlooking the lake.  This place is ridiculous—a freaking palace.  The December sun reflects off Taupo, into my eyes and burning my face.  I’ve never gotten used to the upside-down Christmases here.

I check my watch again.  Only 1:15.  They said they’d be here by 1:30.  A dull drone overhead causes me to look up.  Shading my eyes against the bright glare, I see the jump plane twisting lazy circles; struggling against the warm air currents with its heavy load of adventurers.

“Better that they don’t see that right away,” I think.  Another glance at my watch.

“Why do you always do that?” she used to say.  “Americans!  Always have to know what time it is!”

Six years ago I followed her here.  We were horribly mismatched.  I’m from Buffalo, for Christ’s sake!  December to me is hanging around in snow up to your neck until April comes, to turn it all into ugly brown piles along the sides of the road.  What the hell was I thinking?

Now I’m almost one of them.  Okay, not really.  But I have adopted a bit of the accent.  Now I say ‘seeks’ instead of ‘six.’

I check my watch again. 

These people have some money.  She wants to be close to Huka Falls.  She says it’s a powerful place.  If you fall in, I suppose.  He’s all business.  That’s why I picked Three Mile Bay.  The whole city looks up at these homes:  Where the ‘rich people’ live.

Wish I’d brought my sunglasses—they’re just down in the car.  I squint instead, and look out over the lake. 

She left before the first Christmas.  Her friends tell me she’s always had a thing for the Maori boys.  Whatever.  “Why don’t you leave?” they’d all ask.  “You’re not from here.  What’s holding you back?”  Wish I had an answer.

  It’s certainly not this real estate job.  Don’t get me wrong; I’m not complaining.  Kiwis seem to like buying expensive houses from an American.  God only knows why. 

These two are like the others—blasted off to Sydney the minute they figured out that’s where New Zealand’s money was going.  Now they want to have a ‘little place’ in Taupo to come home to once a year.  Bloody wasteful, if you ask me.

1:26.  Come on, people!  I see the glint from what looks like a silver Mercedes swinging around the end of the bay.  Finally.

The girl I’m seeing in Wairakei says I can’t get over the ex-.  That’s why I stay here.  Whatever. 

I look across the sparking ripples on the lake, feel the easy December breeze ruffling my hair.  I think about my brother watching the Sabres playing whoever they’re playing this week.

The silver Mercedes pulls up into the drive.  They shut off the motor, but don’t get out right away.  I knew they wouldn’t.  This place is killer.  They can’t believe the view.  Now all I’ve got to do is convince them they can afford it.

“Merry Christmas!” I holler down from the porch.  “You already look like you belong here!”

‘Here.’  The word echoes in my mind.  Now if I could figure out where I belong.

Saturday, December 7, 2013


I wrote this on November 17th.  Took me this long to make the video.  Sorry!

Well, it's finally happened. I wasn't sure myself that it would, but it has. Twin number two is finished. Here's why it took so long.

I suck at finishing. Which is to say, I suck at applying finish to completed guitars. I've tried everything. Spraying, brushing, wiping, water-based, oil-based, varnish...everything. And the one lesson that keeps coming back to me is that I am no good at it.

I had this genius idea that automotive clear coat would make a great, and easy finish for this guitar. I got out my compressor and spray gun, and sprayed the snot out of that guitar. Some of it took really nice. Some parts looked gross. Some areas were soft and gummy. Mostly it was a mess.

So, that poor guitar had to sit around in gooey misery until I could find the gumption to scrape it all to bare wood and start over (I really wanted to say 'start the finish over' here, but I didn't). (You're welcome.) That happened last week. I spent a full day scraping and sanding, taping and staining, until I got it ready for its final finish. After a great deal of labor, I now have a guitar that I can call done.

And now, after making you wait, ever so patiently (for more than a year!), here are the twins. I'm playing the same song with each of them so you can hear the difference. Listen for the bass in particular. The deeper bodied guitar will have a much stronger bass response. It'll also be the louder of the two, just due to the depth of the body. One thing that remains the same between the two will be the crisp, woody tone from the cedar top reflecting off the Honduran mahogany body.