Beginnings are always the hardest part. Where to start? I mean literally, where to start? At the beginning.
This is a blog about lutherie, wood work, and music making. But really that’s not the beginning, not by any stretch of the imagination. That is very much the destination.
The beginning, I suppose, takes place some 26 years ago, when a much younger me first picked up a violin. What followed was many, many hours of (unintentionally) impersonating the sound of an enraged and cat-nip addled tom cat being fed tail first through a wood chipper. The practice continued, and the cat-slaughter sound effects finally abated. Several years were spent playing with high quality youth orchestras. The tuba, guitar, and mandolin were added to my practice regime. And somewhere deep inside my mind, a question started to form. Because you see, once I understood how a musician used a musical instrument to generate a sound, and string that sound to several others to play a melody, I wanted to know how the musical instrument itself worked.
Although I never did much in the way of woodwork growing up, it was something which had always been present during my youth. My maternal grandfather was an active and enthusiastic woodworker, building everything from toys to wardrobes. There is another blog post or two about the sanctuary of Grandad’s shed, and about the idea of heritage in hand tool working, but I shall leave those for another time.
And so the idea had been planted, and as soon as I finished law school, I booked myself onto a term at the Totnes School of Guitar Making. Under the tutelage of Phil Messer I designed and built, entirely by hand, a 12 string acoustic guitar named Esmerelda. And somewhere a lightbulb lit up. This was it – the Eurika moment. This was love. With hand tool working and making things from wood I might add, not with Phil (although he is one hell of a chap). That was just over six years ago now, and for my sins I spend my days working as a construction solicitor at an international law firm. When I’m not in the office, my focus is still on playing and writing music, and of course, wood working.
Most of my workshop time is still dedicated to lutherie, particularly building acoustic guitars (although at the moment I am working on a ’59 Blackguard Telecaster type electric guitar). But thanks to the writings of Chris Schwarz, both on his blog and in print through his Lost Art Press publishing house, I am slowly turning my gaze towards furniture building. In 2014 I intend to work my way through the projects in the Joiner and Cabinet Maker, and will chart my progress in this here blog.
It seems only fitting to end this inaugural post with photos of the instrument which started it all; Esmerelda.
An acoustic 12 string guitar with alpine spruce sound board, Indian rosewood back and sides, mahogany neck and cocobola headstock veneer and bridge. At her widest point she’s 512mm wide (across the lower bout), so pretty large, although the tight waist and small square shoulders give the impression of a smaller guitar when in the playing position.
The corner binding is maple and rosewood, a theme which is repeated in the soundhole decoration.
The Indian rosewood back.
Close up of the cocobola bridge.
The headstock, with cocobola veneer and angel inlay taken from the cd my band Cake for Lily released back in April 2007.