A couple of weeks back, I had the opportunity to join my boss, Rob Johnstone, and George Vondriska — one of our frequent contributors — in Chicago at Craftsman Experience. Both Rob and I have been there before to give various demonstrations, and you may have caught some of that coverage late last year. This time around, though, our triumvirate efforts were focused on a very worthy cause as well as some fun woodworking. We were building a kit guitar to donate to Guitars For Vets. These folks provide guitars and lessons free of charge to veterans who are trying to cope with the after-effects of overseas combat.
George got Rob involved with the program last summer at his Wild Earth School, and you can read about that in “Shop Talk” (page 22) in our April 2011 print issue.
Aside from good company (along with our bad attempts at stand-up comedy), three evenings of great music and Craftsman’s kind hospitality, I also learned a thing or two about something for which I previously was clueless: instrument building. A guy with moderate woodworking skills (that would be me) and absolutely no ability to play a guitar (also me) can actually build one! Well, that’s true up to a point; I can put the pieces together, but Rob (a trained luthier) and George (a seasoned guitar builder) actually made our project guitar sound like a guitar. Still, I was able to, as George explained, help “give it voice.” What a nice phrase that is.
And that very aspect of making a guitar will stick with me for a long time. If you’ve ever toyed with the idea of making something you can actually play, it really IS possible. Guitar kits aren’t that complex to figure out. It’s sanding, routing, gluing and clamping, drilling, finishing. This is stuff we all do already. “Bread-and-butter” woodworking, Rob might say. There’s definitely some precision that goes along with it, and the parts are fragile, but it isn’t rocket science. And the end result is remarkable…you start with a pile of ordinary parts and end up with an instrument that can bring real music and harmony to life. How cool is that?!
In our case, hopefully this guitar, which will be auctioned off to provide even more guitars for veterans, will enrich the lives of people that truly deserve it.
Catch you in the shop,
Chris Marshall, Field Editor