Calling all fellow pro luthiers from the 1970's!

Discussion in 'The Small Company Luthiers' started by Terry McInturff, Jun 2, 2005.

  1. Terry McInturff

    Terry McInturff 40th Anniversary of guitar building! Gold Supporting Member

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    Hello all,

    This is such a selfish thread. It is truly for my own enjoyment! I can only hope that it provides some fun for those of you who read it. I suppose that it will die a quick death if it does not. That is justice. I can live with that.

    Calling all pro luthiers who were paying the bills via guitar repair/building at any time in the 1970's!

    This thread is...yes... all about history and nostalgia. But I hope to hear some war stories from the guys and gals that have REALLY paid some dues in this business/art. It does not matter if you gave it up in later years...I want to hear your story.

    And if guitars have paid your bills steadily from anytime in the 70's until today...I REALLY WANT TO HEAR YOUR STORY!!!

    Maybe....casual readers will get a look at how the art and craft arrived at where it is today. Who knows?

    We all look at the current times as being "The Golden Age of Guitar Making" and justly so. How did we get here? The "full-time from the 70's" crowd can tell you.

    I "date" from late 1977 (ie, full-time guitarwork payin' the bills, no gaps since) and like others from that era to today, I have a story to tell. But, I will hold off of telling my story for now.

    Will any of you pioneers please share your story..or a part of it?

    Do any of the younger builders have any questions for us "old guys"?

    Let it roll.......stories from the days when Titebond was pretty new, when we knew how to cook hide glue, when we simply HAD to master the use of shellac (not to mention NitroCellulose lacquer),

    when you had no hope of approaching tolerances to the thousands-of-an-inch unless you had God-given hand and eye skills (and plenty of practise), when every single scrap of exotic hardwood was saved, when you dug thru a boxfull of spruce scraps looking for the perfect "cleat",

    and when any use of epoxy on any part of a stringed instrument was the mark of a hack.

    And, no less importantly.....the stream of stringed instruments that passed thru your hands had a HIGH percentage of INCREDIBLE this, that, and the other....

    Stories, please!

    Thanks in advance,

    Terry McInturff
     
  2. Gadowguitars

    Gadowguitars Member

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    Hey Terry!....we still "cook hide glue" over here at High Strung!:dude
     
  3. 56Tweed

    56Tweed Sub-Octave Member Silver Supporting Member

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    I bet there have to be some stories to tell! I'm a youngster, but when I started looking at guitars back in the '80s there weren't a whole lot of smaller builders. Or at least they were harder to find.

    I think my understanding of the instrument has changed and I now recognize the difference between an assembly line widget and a piece of craftsmanship. :cool:

    Mike
     
  4. Shades

    Shades Member

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    I first started in 1978 doing amp repair, then guitar repair the next year. I didn't really start building them until 1981 (I still use hot hide glue most of the time btw). I'll tell you, info was pretty hard to come by back then and every tip you got was taken for what is was...manna from heaven (I got the sloan book early on, and Kamimoto's book soon after). I had been doing both woodwork and electronics since I was a little kid. My grandfather was a carpenter and my dad was an EE for Raytheon. I actually kind of stumbled into the whole thing when I was asked whether I could fix an amp by a guy that knew I was an electronics geek.
     
  5. Mike

    Mike Member

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    OK, so I'm NOT one, but I want to give a plug for the first guy I ever "almost" had build me a guitar. His name is Dennis (Denny) Stevens, who was from Golden, CO. He's built a lot of flat tops and pre WWII style archtops. Also mandolins and other whacky stuff. I almost commissioned him to build me a 335 style guitar in 1984. He quit his job in 1974 or so to build full time. He is a master's master.

    I'd love to contact him. He lives somewhere in Oregon now, and I hear it's a 3 -4 year wait for his instruments now. A couple of friends of mine have L5 style guitars from him, as well as Dale Bruning, one of the old time greats from the area. This clip features Dale playing his main guitar, an L5 that Denny made for him:

    http://www.jazzlinkenterprises.com/clips/TomorrowsReflections/thetouchofyourlips.rm

    You can also hear Dale's (Denny's) L5 on the duo album Dale made with his student, Bill Frisell:

    [​IMG]


    Mike
     
  6. Saul Koll

    Saul Koll Member

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    Great Thread! I'm always interested in this kind of thing.
    I started a little later, in the early 80's. But the shop where I got my first job had been there since the early 60's, so there was much carry over.
    Everything was hideglue, shellac and lacquer, powdered stains, etc. We were wary of titebond, and just started to see superglues. I was appalled when one of the guys glued his frets in!
    Back then we saw all kinds of weird old timey "repair". They were " fixed up real good." We spent a lot of time just removing old crappy work to get to the job.
    We kept everything. Every scrap for grafting future work. Some of our customers knew this. I remember one player bringing his D'Angelico guitar back that had been converted to a cutaway a decade earlier. He wanted us to go through our wood and find the "cutaway section" that had been removed for the procedure. He was convinced it was in the back somewhere! With D'Angelico prices going up, he wanted to put it back to original. I saw the tail end of that time when "vintage guitars" replaced old/used guitars.
    It has been fun amazing to see all the changes over the years. These days everyone knows a whole lot more!

    Back to the wood pile,

    Cheers,

    Saul
     
  7. Jack Briggs

    Jack Briggs Member

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    Let's see......in the late '70's I was doing some repairs, but only occasionally; built my own guitars starting in 1977 (bolt-necks.) Did the sporadic repair or build for bandmate or such during the '80's while gigging in cover bands up and down the East coast. Got serious about building in the late '90's, which I've been doing since. And I DO cook hide glue!!
     
  8. tms13pin

    tms13pin Supporting Member

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    How's that hide glue taste with good 'ol NC BBQ? :D

    Sounds like NC's a hotbed for both of these!

    --Tom
     
  9. decay-o-caster

    decay-o-caster Member

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    I lived in Bridgeport, CT in the early 80s and ran across two luthiers whose names I can't begin to recall. I almost got one of them to build me a guitar. Like an idiot, I chose to buy a Carvin instead! :eek:

    Hey - what can I tell you? It was koa! :rolleyes:
     
  10. Well lets see, started torturing my own guitars in 1969 because of a lack of information{was like trying to get in the CIA} Begain building guitars in 83 and repairing $250 Les Pauls {really $250 were around} and really anything with a fretboard.
    Early on I had to put up with the guy with a cheap guitar with no money, they would talk me into doing a cheap repair and I always regretted it.{spent hours looking for a 10 cent bushing that fell off the $10 guitar and ended up charging $10 for the repair. Almost gave it up 1000s of times but some how have survived. Today I build and repair stringed instruments and repair tube amps. That's my story and I'm sticking to it, too old not to.
    Stan Williams
    S. C. Williams Guitars
     
  11. Stike

    Stike Member

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    Umm, like ****!:I think hide glue is made out of the parts you cant eat which in NC aint much more than bones and hair. We'll take that thang from the rooter to the tooter.
     
  12. Terry McInturff

    Terry McInturff 40th Anniversary of guitar building! Gold Supporting Member

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    I was hired as a repairman by Oxbow Music in Chapel Hill in January of 1978. Ive been full-time ever since.

    The absolute worst thing to=date happened not long after. I had just finished steaming a neck off of an acoustic in order to re-set the neck angle. I was talking on the phone while holding the neck in my left hand.

    The guy that I worked for came barging into the shop...he kinda threw the door open (he was carrying something) and the door caught me in my left arm's funny-bone.

    I dropped the neck on the floor and it exploded into a million pieces. I remember a certain "sinking feeling". :(

    The customer was delighted, as I bought him a brand new guitar (one that he had been wanting) to replace his old one. I was somewhat less than delighted. :(
     
  13. Jack Briggs

    Jack Briggs Member

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    Wow! I could read stories like that all day! Repair experts like yourself, Terry, really have my respect. You've no doubt had to improvise an awful lot to keep the customer happy. But, I can't help what wonder - aren't you hard at work today??!!!

    Cheers
     
  14. Gary Ladd

    Gary Ladd Member

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    Back in 1977 I went to my first luthier to get a brass-nut put on my Univox ES-335 that I was desparate to turn into a blues machine LOL, he also did some work on an old Martin I had as well...he did some excellent work & crafted some nice guitars as well.

    He was sharing his Tustin, CA work-space with Jim Kelley, who had just started his own shop repairing/making amps - Does anyone know that luthier's name?

    Thanks :cool:
     
  15. AJ Love

    AJ Love Senior Member

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    I find it interesting what a small world it is for builders and how so many of you know or have worked with each other...

    for instance (got this from Gene Baker's Fined Tuned Instruments website) how Gene Baker was an apprentice under Gibson Master Builder Roger Griffin for awhile.... and then later was a master apprentice under Fred Stuart and Jay Black at at the Fender Custom Shop in the 90's while working alongside folks like John English, John Suhr, Kenny Gin (currently of Suhr Guitars), Mark Kendrick, and many others... and had Mike Ponce (also currently with Suhr Guitars) as an apprentice for awhile later on...
     
  16. george4908

    george4908 Member

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    John, when would this have been? Some of the first custom built guitars I ever saw were "Alex Axe" guitars in the early 70s. I remember being seriously impressed that people could build individual guitars like that -- until I looked at them up close. They were fairly crude.
     
  17. enharmonic

    enharmonic Old Growth Gold Supporting Member

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    Question for all of the pro's

    Have any of you ever done a job that took your skills to a whole other level? Meaning...a time when your skills were used to their maximum potential, and you had a "breakthrough" in your craft?

    Sort of like when you start writing songs. You might write several hundred before things start to come together...and another hundred before you consider yourself good...then maybe a few hundred more before you know you have something special and people around you know it too...was there a progression like that for any of you as pro luthiers/craftsmen?
     
  18. OOG

    OOG Member

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    too funny!
    looking at this thread i was tempted to post on a great guy who taught me a ton off stuff
    he didn't "share" with Jim as such
    he let Jim work in his shop a while 'cause Jim was friends with a guy named Todd Wilson who loaned Jim his Ampeg (the bass amp with the flip around top) to COPY it's circut
    that was where the now rare and desireable Jim Kelly amp started, i'ts an Ampeg copy
    Jim then leased the shop next to his and made his amps
    never really liked them 'cause they needed a big old attenuator
    to sound right
    things got really weird there 'cause of a couple of factors (plz don't ask) and ended up in a stupid law suite

    Dale Fortune is the name of your mystery luthier
    if you'r ever lucky enough to find a strat or tele with a fender spagetti looking logo that says Fortune instead of Fender
    Buy It!

    Dale learned his stuff from Leo and Doc
    a pure source
     
  19. JingleJungle

    JingleJungle Member

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    I am actually looking to get in touch with a luthier called Chris Lukasic.
    He built this one, according to my sources.
    Any help is really appreciated!

    Oh yes... and my warmest regards to all you fine craftsmen out there... I'd go totally broke if I had to buy one guitar from each of you guys! I'd have to own 'em all :D :D !!

    JJ Paul
     
  20. Schroeder

    Schroeder Member

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    Great stories! I would imagine that information is one of the biggest changes in guitar building in the last 30 years. I remember when I built my first instrument, a bass in the late 80s, there was no internet and very few books to reference. My dad's guitars and pictures in Guitar Player magazine were all I had to go by!!

    Questions for the veterans...

    1) Looking forward to the the next 20-30 years, if your son/daughter was interested in building guitars for a living, what would your concerns be?

    2) I remember reading a quote from Les Paul saying that the guitar-building community needs to think outside the box and take the guitar to the next level. Any thoughts on that? What are the most significant advances have you seen to the guitar in the last 30 years? What are the biggest issues that need to be addressed or in your opinion has the instrument been perfected?

    3) What is the general concensus on the theory that the tonewood supply is dwindling?
     

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