I first became interested in instruments in the early 90’s when I started playing the mandolin and guitar. After playing a few higher end instruments that other pickers had I was amazed at the difference between the really nice instruments and mine. As I had always been someone who was good with my hands, I began to consider the possibility of building one myself. Looking back on it now, I realize that the turning point for me was when a friend of mine was having problems with the pick guard coming of his old D-35. He was a long-time friend of Wayne Henderson and suggested I ride with him to Wayne’s shop and get it fixed. Those of you who are familiar with Wayne’s story know that at that time he was still in the old store building in “downtown” Rugby.
I remember going in to his small shop. The dust, wood, shavings and guitars in various states of completion everywhere really made an impression on me but most of all I was blown away that someone could actually build something like that themselves and that it didn’t come from some machine somewhere. It was at that point that a “need” to build an instrument was born (those of you who build and make things with your hands will understand completely when I say I needed to make an instrument. To this day, I give credit to Wayne for being my initial inspiration in building instruments. He has always been willing to answer any questions that I had and help out where he could as he has to so many other people as well.
Since I was primarily playing the mandolin, I decided that would be the first instrument that I built. Shortly thereafter, I bought Roger Siminoff’s book on building a bluegrass mandolin and a bunch of wood and dove in. Needless to say, that first mandolin was definitely no “Loar” but it did play and it sounded…ok. At least as good as the cheap mandolin I had been playing. More importantly, I learned from that first mandolin that I wanted to build another and that God had given me the skills with my hands in order to accomplish it. It didn’t take long before I started experimenting with guitars as well. I was blessed in that my first few guitars were good enough that people liked them and I started getting requests to make more.
Each guitar has been a learning experience and I am fortunate in that the area of Northwest North Carolina where I live has no shortage of good luthiers to learn from in addition to Wayne. Don Wilson who works with Wayne has also helped me out a lot. I have had the privilege over the years to play some very fine guitars made by a lot of different people and companies. It never fails that the ones that always rise above the rest are the old Martins. The pre-war D28’s and D18’s are the “holy grail” for the guitar picker and the tone and clarity of those guitars is what I strive to achieve in my instruments. These guitars were meticulously crafted and were as cleanly constructed as any of the handmade guitars of today. Most builders will freely admit that this is the gold standard that we all strive to attain.
To this end, I use the best tone woods I can find; I like to use Red spruce for the top plates and I like to build as lightly as possible. I also enjoy using hide glue as was used on the old ones. With all that being said, I thank you for your time and possibly the opportunity to build you a guitar which represents my interpretation of the old Pre-war Martins. My daughter Ellie wrote something for school that meant a great deal to me, and truly sums up the way I feel about how fortunate I am to do something I love for a living:
"Watching someone do what they were born to do can influence you in ways that nothing else can. Seeing my dad work endlessly and diligently on building guitars has shed much light on what it truly means to be passionate. Waking up each day with zeal and pride for what you do is worth more than any amount of money or 'job security' available...Witnessing my father take a tree and turn it into something beautiful fills me with utter awe. It's hard to fathom what my dad feels as he hands over a guitar to a customer for the last time. To see the expression in the recipient's face must sum up everything we, as humans, live for; to find what we love, to do it, and most importantly, to be appreciated for it." -Ellie 2013