My long-winded explanatory tome about my life's journey.

mark norwine

My long-winded explanatory tome about my life's journey. Read it if you want; pass it by if you don't. It's "all good", as the kids say these days....


It’s funny how things happen. You fan a fire, and it grows bigger. Such is to be expected, right?

Last month, I was at my bench performing a mod to a Bassman head belonging to a good friend of mine, when I was struck by a simple notion:

“What am I doing here”?

Rewind 46 years to an eleven year old’s Christmas and a fancy Harmony guitar under the tree. This inquisitive kid also had a penchant for taking things apart to see how they worked (sometimes managing to reassemble them in working order!). Mix in a budding interest in electricity / electronics, and, later, some formal education…coupled with improvement on the instrument and a growing passion for “the process”…and the inevitable doesn’t take long: “amp repair”. All the ingredients were there...

Late teens found me ripping amps apart. They often “worked” when I was done! Sometimes they didn’t.

My ‘20s had me doing all of my own repairs & simple mods. Not just on guitar amps, either, but all sorts of audio gear: rack amps, mixers, VCRs, etc.

Into my '30s I was performing repairs for “friends”, which soon morphed into “friends of friends”, followed rapidly by “people who knew friends of friends”. Before long, there was a constant parade of strangers funneling through my shop. By the end of that decade, I had designed my own amps, was running an S-Corp (Carlson Amplification, Inc.); full-fledged manufacturing was taking place. My 600 sq.ft. shop was 100% set up & dedicated to making and repairing amps. I lived in my shop.

My early ‘40s, after 10+ years, things got tougher. Amps was hopping like crazy, but not quite enough to quit my day job. I was also playing in a popular gigging band and had 2 small kids, too. I was getting by on [maybe] 4 hours of sleep; something had to give.

In 2003 I turned in my business license & tax ID number and shut it down. I cancelled the phone number and website, turning away everyone. And yet, many still came. Saying “no” was very hard for me…”They keep pulling me back in”, as Pacino said in (the unwatchable) Godfather III. Maybe I brought it on myself, but it was like waves on the beach. The momentum couldn’t be stopped.

So here I am, at my bench in July of 2015, modding an amp in a shop that’s still 100% dedicated to amp work. Yes, I do far less work these days, but still, the thought hit me like a brick:

“What am I doing here?”

So I finished the Bassman (it sounded glorious, BTW!!), and after the customer picked it up, I made a big decision. Last weekend, my shop was 100% completely & totally dismantled of any-and-all aspects of amp repair.

  • My scope and generator…which had been permanently built into my bench…are now packed away in a closet. If I don’t touch them in a year, they’ll be sold.
  • All remaining inventory has been given away, as have the plastic parts bins in which they were kept.

  • The filing cabinet has been emptied of all records, schematics, bench notes, etc. and tossed.

  • “Specialty tools” [load banks, variacs, reverb tanks, diagnostic OTs, etc.] have all been boxed up and will be given away.

  • I kept a few test leads, but discarded most of the “special” ones that I’ve made over the years.
I am still winding pickups, as they continue to fascinate me…indeed, as all inductive / reactive circuits do. But while the science & math is harder, the inventory commitment is considerably less and the required “footprint” in my shop is virtually nil. So I intend to delve deeper into this abyss, because I’m having fun!

But amps? I’ve given over 25 years to helping guitarists’ amplifiers sound great, and I have nothing but fond memories. But the muse has left the building. My interest in amps is gone. The story is over. The book is closed.

If I see a thread here that I think I can offer insight into, I might chime in. But as for the bulk of the threads here, I believe my work here is done.

As for the rest of my shop and all this new-found space? Well, who’s to say what the future holds! I’ve always wanted to build a boat…


Bummer. Hope you'll continue to offer your expertise to fledgling amp modders/repairers like myself on this site. Post pics of the boat build as well


Gold Supporting Member
Enjoy, congrats, and all the best Mark. Your contributions here have been much appreciated.

Silent Sound

Awe man! It seems like it's getting harder and harder to find people who know stuff about audio circuits. They won't teach it in school anymore (if they ever did). Thanks for all of your posts on the net. If it wasn't for forums like this and people like you posting to them, I don't think I would have made it this far.

Whatever you do, enjoy it!


Shut up shop for customers by all means, and this time stick to the no means NO policy, but I suggest you hold off divesting yourself of all the basics required for amp tinkering.
If it helps, lock it all away in a cabinet and give your wife the key, then when someone comes begging you to get their amp fixed going for tonight's gig, you can honestly say that you haven't got the test gear any more.
You may have got 'amped out' for a while and feel enthused about the art and science of pick ups, but interests naturally ebb and flow, and you may regret it when you wake up with some aspect of amp behaviour etc bugging you, and be unable to investigate it without a load of hassle / expense.
Whatever, best of luck in whatever road you take!


Good luck Mark. IMHO, I wouldn't sell the gear. And, thanks for all the insights and advice you provide to this forum. Cheers!

Member 995

Great story! Sorry to see you shut down the amp stuff, but I hope you enjoy what comes next.


Silver Supporting Member
I have often felt the same with building guitars. I prefer playing them. But I keep starting new projects...


low rent hobbyist
Well, I sure hope you still hang around TGP. I always enjoyed reading your thoughts and opinions. Best of luck with the pick-up biz!

Jon C

As a fan and later, a friend (I hope/think), I'm sorry for us losing your skills and insight but happy for you making a move if it feels right. A lot of wisdom etc tossed with those notes?

I still have my TurboPup and each time I think it's more amp than I need for current use, I just can't let it go. :cool: Such goodness... :D

You did real good there and with your other contributions and I will surely miss you and them.



Mark best of luck to You! Hang on to the gear for a while anyway, never know or give it to me! :)

mark norwine

Someone suggested that I look into doing tech work professionally after retirement, so I asked a pal of mine about it. He said there's so many guys doing tech work after retirement now that he's not getting as much work anymore....gulp! Perhaps you're getting out while the getting is good.

Well, yes & no.

There are a lot of "techs" out there who own a soldering iron & have built a few weber kits. There's one on every corner.

But if you understand...truly understand...these circuits (and, let's face it...they're all pretty much all the same), and you know how do properly diagnose with the right tools, you will be as busy as you want to be.

I'm not getting out because there's not enough work....I'm getting out because I don't want to do it anymore. Huge difference.

As a fan and later, a friend (I hope/think)...

You know you're a friend. I know you're a friend. And that's all that needs to be said!

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