When I started my first guitar kit, I had never built anything from wood. (Well, in junior high school wood shop, I did make a hat rack: Two pieces of wood and two screws, and I got a “D” on it. That was in 1962; it was the best thing I ever made of wood until 2005.)

And, 2005 was the year I got this bright idea that I could actually build a guitar.

I didn't know how to use a wood file correctly. I had never even touched a route and didn’t know what a router does. I didn't own any clamps. I had never tried to use glue that didn't dry instantly. When I needed to paint something, which was extremely rare, I always threw the brush away afterwards.

So, as a woodworker, I was not one.

Build a guitar? Heck -- I could NEVER build a guitar!

Then, I found out they make guitar kits! That's the ticket!

How hard could it be? It's a kit ... right?

Well, it’s pieces in a box, anyway. Most of the parts were there, and it included instructions. So, it qualified as a kit. Put together correctly, the pieces in the box would create a guitar. Quite a good guitar, if the ad was to be believed.

So, I took the bait. I ordered a rosewood and spruce 12-fret Triple-O kit from Stewart-Macdonald.The box appeared on my front porch one day, and the adventure began.

Just to spice it up some, I ordered a joined and sanded western red cedar top from

Luthier's Mercantile International, Inc.

                                                        In one sense, it was easy. I had no more difficulty

                                                          building it than my friend, Carl, who ordered and started

                                                          exactly the same kit I did, at the same time. We shared      

                                                          tools, argued some, laughed at our ignorance and many

                                                          mistakes. We started out using Carl's beautiful wood shop.

                                                          He had been building things of wood for years — really

                                                          nice things that people put in their living rooms.

                                                                 But, in another sense, it was hard. Carl had as many problems as I did, even with his years of experience. Just as many questions. Just as many things he had to look up, or call Customer Service about.

Not that the problems stopped us. We took our time. Still,

we made mistakes. Big and little ones.

Carl discovered that the building of a guitar is quite a bit

different from building tables and chests. Tables and chests

can be built as strong as necessary, but a guitar has to be

built light. Furniture can just sit there quietly; it doesn't have

to make music. The finish on furniture can soak in or be real

heavy on the surface, because it doesn't matter if the wood's

natural resonance is deadened.

But a guitar? It has to be beautiful, light, resonant, and

very, very accurately constructed.

It was an adventure, and I enjoyed almost every minute

of it.

So, how did my first guitar turn out? Surprisingly,

wonderfully well!

Okay, so it took seven months. During that time ... well, life happens, doesn't it?

It's not a perfect guitar, but it's a very good guitar. In fact, having it in my lap, playing it, hearing it and enjoying it is one of the most rewarding experiences I've ever had in 40 years of playing guitar. I only wish I had built a guitar earlier in life; it would have changed everything.

Like I said, it's a very good guitar ... It sounds great. I mean, everyone who has played it (experienced professionals, music store owners, and guitar techs) has said, "Wow," and, "I'm impressed," and, "I'm surprised," and, "Beautiful tone and sustain," and things like that. Personally, I absolutely love the tone. I feel as if I created it, too, with the cedar top, and having shaped the braces quite differently than the kit called for. (After all, I now

know that the top wood and bracing account for the

main character of a guitar's sound. So, since they

didn't sound that good when they were lying in the

box ready to be glued, carved, sanded and finished,

I can say that I “created” the sound of this guitar.

Of course, that doesn’t mean I knew what I was doing

... I read a lot and tried real hard.)

       But, like my children ... I excuse it — and myself —

from perfection. It’s a much healthier way to live.


Reflecting On The First Kit ...

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