One of the greatest and simplest tools for learning more and growing is doing more.
I built my first guitar in 1993. At the time, I was at a transitional point in my life and really not doing much. I was burned out on the music business and working 9 to 5 in corporate America. The guitar has always played a large role in my life. My thoughts were that since I had been educated with it, lived with it, worked with it and in its own way become a product of its influence in my life; essentially having a role in producing the person I was. It seemed to only make sense to see if I could turn the tables and literally produce one of them – and again I really wasn’t doing much.
I lived in a small dark basement apartment in Nashville and as space and light were at a premium the entire place became my workshop. Yes, many mornings I would wake to shake sawdust off the Cheerios box and wipe away a clean spot to have breakfast. Things were messy, scattered and out of order. I had a limited set of tools to work with: some chisels, block plane, a rasp, coping saw and fretting files. The only power tools I had were a router and a Dremel tool.
Again looking for more to do, I was adamantly opposed to building or assembling from a kit. So I purposely bought lumber that was not pre-dimensioned or bent. I then needed a guide or a road map and was somehow lucky enough to stumble onto Cumpiano and Natelson’s Guitarmaking: Tradition and Technology. A book I still have and find myself going to even now some twenty- years later. It is often referred to as the bible of guitar making and in my opinion deserving of such praise.
The first guitar I built was an acoustic made from mahogany and spruce. For me building that instrument was one of the most rewarding experiences I have ever had the pleasure to take part in. It demanded order, empirical reasoning, craftsmanship and creativity. It allowed for experimentation, success, failure and innovation. It produced a LOT MORE to DO and an instrument that can still produce music.
It’s not the best looking or sounding guitar I have ever built but I keep it around to remind me of a time when I was looking for more to do and how it helped me grow personally and professionally. Guitar building showed me that sometimes by doing more we see more and in turn often learn more.