It's Personal



It's Personal

 I worked for three weeks in the Smokey Mountains in Tennessee during the summer of my junior year of high school.  I was picked to work there building horse barns and fixing hiking trails 4,000-5,000 feet up. This was right after playing exhibition basketball games for the Rhode Island All Star team against the National & Olympic teams in Scotland, England and Ireland.  We went to a furniture shop up in the mountains that had fifty woodworkers running lathes all at a time. Impressive.  Making some of the best furniture anywhere using mostly black walnut, grown right there.  I managed to buy a piece of black walnut for $7 that was 2" x 8" x 3 feet and managed to get it on an airplane back to Pittsburgh. I really wanted to make a guitar out of it, but I didn't have the tools and I had a lot of excuses why I couldn't.

Years later. About a year and a half ago, I got very I'll and was given six to twelve months to live if I kept up the treatment I had for 6 months that didn't work and gave me considerable pain. I then got a chance to get into an experimental study which I did. After two months of this, I was going to have a CT scan and if the results were good, I would be allowed to stay in the program. If the results were bad, then I was out. So I said to myself, if they are good, I was going to buy a really nice 1984 Les Paul Custom for $2,400 + $400 in interest. I had previously sold all five of my guitars to take what I thought was going to be my last trip to Cape Cod to see my sister, since I figured I'd be dead in six months.

Luckily the results were good and I got my first credit card at 63 years old online at 3:00 AM on my smartphone. I found out that PayPal had credit cards,  PayPal Credit had credit cards. Ebay had credit cards. Who woulda thought. So I bought this $2,400 Beautiful white Les Paul Custom. 

I got it and didn't really like it that much. And like I used to do all the time years ago, I traded it for a 1967 Fender Vibrolux Amp. Back in the late 60's and early 70s I'd buy a Les Paul for $300 and sell it 3 weeks later for $350 or $275. Some of these now worth $50,000- $150,000 . Just incredible. I repeated this process many, many times. I actually bought one of the first Alembic Guitars ever made in 1974, the year they started. They sold the first one to Jerry Garcia. I paid $250 for that Alembic that was made out of the most beautiful birdseye maple with approximately 300 pieces of inlay on the body and big pieces of mother of pearl in the neck. It was a masterpiece / museum quality. And like an idiot I sold it for I think $200 after the Walnut Band I played in broke up.

After buying and selling over 100 Guitars. That is the only one that I was happy with 100% and I've been chasing that type of guitar since then with no success. I can't afford an Alembic now. A guitar like the one I had would cost me a minimum of $25,000 easily.  So I decided before I die, I would try to make one and replicate the basics of that Alembic to the best of my ability. I did go through a phase of buying Guitars from Japan on credit. Guitars like a 1981 Greco 50-59 Les Paul and a 1971 Greco Strat. Good Guitars. They called those, the Ibanez and Univox "Lawsuit Guitars" because they copied Fender and Gibson exactly and sometimes made a better product for 1/5 the money.         

So then I bought a Maple neck online to start. I couldn't afford a good $400-$700 & up Birdseye Maple neck. When I bought it, I found out the individual selling it lived in Pittsburgh. So I emailed him and asked if I could pick it up in person, so I didn't have to wait for it, just like I was 12 all over again.

We met at like a 7-11 Mini Mart.  He asked me if I ever put a neck on a guitar before and I told him that the most I ever did was to change strings. He said that he didn't like to put necks on other peoples guitars. (I'm guessing that it was because in case something broke, he'd be responsible. Understood). We continued to talk for a little bit and we found out that we both had similar health issues. So he then told me he would put it in for me. That was the best news I heard since my CT scan results.

I followed him to his house and he and his wife couldn't have been nicer people. People that you rarely run into in life.  His health issues came from Vietnam and mine came from loading explosives in tunnels, spraying cement,  breathing in some fumes filled with harsh chemicals and acid. And the smoking didn't help either. It is what it is.

When we went to his work area, I was in heaven. He had guitar necks hanging from cut up metal clothes hangers and guitar cases everywhere with lots of pictures of Eric Clapton hanging on the wall. I had found Nirvana. I now thought that I could finally learn to build my own guitar the way I like it. This gentleman was not only super nice but also extremely talented in all aspects of building guitars. He showed me how to put that neck on. Then I started scouring the internet to buy guitar bodies and necks. He would then put them together for me and do all the soldering and wiring for the pickups. A master of his trade. I learned a lot from him and I am extremely grateful and lucky to have been able to watch him work and build for around 3 months.

Now it was my time to make my ultimate guitar. Not happy we with the necks I was buying, I started picking out and buying only the best wood I could find and then shipping it to a great neck maker. He builds them still by hand and does not use a CNC machine [computer built].  Most all guitar bodies and necks are made by computerized machines,  so I  think the real art to making guitars now is getting the raw unfinished, unpainted, guitar bodies and necks and making the best guitars I possibly can. And I only get the best possible wood that can be found. I prefer maple necks but sometimes will use a 1 piece rosewood neck when I can pick out the wood in person. But again, I prefer curly, tiger and mostly birdseye maple necks and try to get the 4AAAA & 5A Birdseye. 



Pittsburgh, PA, USA

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