I had already been playing and performing with guitar for 10 years in a variety of musical styles from rock, bluegrass, swing jazz and fingerstyle, and had put together my own collection of instruments. These instruments were from the pantheon of famous guitar companies such as Martin, Gibson, Fender, Danelectro and Harmony. After playing all of these instruments and developing bonds with them (some of which still last to this day) I wanted to learn more about how they worked and performed their magic of making sound and music.
To begin my quest, in 1993 I enrolled in the guitar repair and building program at Red Wing Technical College in Minnesota. Here I learned the basics of guitar repair and built my first guitars, one acoustic and one electric. After completion of the program, I was very fortunate to receive a job working at Woodsound Studio in Maine. Working there with shop owner Ron Pinkham and his partner, John Blodgett, I began to learn and develop the necessary skills for guitar repair and building. I began to learn the essential repair skills of setting up a variety of instruments and doing fretwork, to more complex repairs such as crack repairs, neck resets, refrets and finish touch-ups. And it was there, working under Ron, that I began to learn the craft of building steel string and classical guitars. Ron Pinkham is a master craftsman and his instruments are truly special. He let me see how fine instrument are made, everything from making jigs, how all the parts of a guitar should be assembled with care, voicing instruments and different ways to finish an instrument (nitrocellulose laquer and French polishing with shellac). This was also a time when I began to design and build my own electric guitars. These were designs based on classic electric guitars and borrowed elements from Gibson, Fender and Danelectro. I blended things such as woods, construction methods, scale lengths, electronics and finishes into my own vision of what an electric guitar could be.
In 1999, my wife and I made a big move back to Michigan, where she grew up. I worked for a short period on my own until, in 2001, I went to work at the repair shop at Elderly Instruments. I still have to pinch myself as I consider this to be a dream job. For anyone who loves instruments this is the best music store on the planet, owned by Stan Werbin. The repair shop at Elderly was the stepping off point for Bart Reiter and T. J. Thompson. The current repair shop has 8 full time repairmen, headed by Joe Konkoly and Steve Olsen(both fine guitar makers as well), and is a very talented, knowledgeable and capable group. Every day I get my hands on (and in) the instruments that made and continue to make popular music in America and abroad. This includes guitars, banjos and mandolins from all of the great makers and companies from the 1800’s up to today. Having this ability to hold, play and inspect these instruments has had a considerable impact on my guitar making skills. I continue to be inspired by these instruments and draw upon them to form my own designs.