Uke 1201 Progress Report

August 18, 2020

Yes, progress is crawling toward completion.  The finish has been knocked down and buffed.  The bridge has been installed.  The saddle and nut are rough shaped and will be notched and installed after mail order strings arrive.


Work Resumes

April 18, 2020

Yes, much time has passed since work in the shop as occurred.  I am isolated due to the Corona Virus, and no good excuse exists for not making progress in the workshop.  A Uke, a Parlor, an OM, and a Macaferee style guitar are all ready for final application of lacquer.  I reacquired a compressor which will allow me to spray finish with lacquer and inch toward completion.  I will document my progress as I go, and hopefully give you, my interested party, reports on the activity.


Harmony Sovereign Headstock Repair

May 6, 2019 

My amigo, David, presented me with a decapitated Harmony Sovereign.  I was able to reattach and (from the suggestion of others) reinforce with one of my sMg headplates.  

Photos showing fit (or lack thereof) of sheared headstock.

Note the high quality credit card cutout used as a truss rod cover.

Climbing Back Onto the Slow Moving Train

May 1, 2019

I am slowly, with caution, climbing back into building and repair.  I have repaired one of my earlier guitars for a customer.  The curve in the upper bout sproinged (technical term for separated).

I have also helped a friend reattach a sheared headstock on his Harmony Sovereign.  

In the wings are the finishing (as in lacquer) of a koa Ukelele, Rosewood OM, and Myrtle Parlor, and Palo Escrito Macaferri.

December 2, 2018

OK, it’s been a year since last post, and you can imagine that this lack of communication indicates lack of progress.  You have a great imagination.  All guitars (3) and a uke have slouched toward the wrap up step of lacquer application.  Plans are in place for completion.  


Guitar 1201 and 1202 ready for pre-lacquer prep

October 30, 2017

I have completed neck shaping, fret installation and fretboard attachment for both the Parlor and OM (1201 and 1202).  

Next steps are fine sanding, gap filling, neck adjustment, fret levelling, then pore filling prior to the finishing process (which I abhor).


October 22, 2017

I have officially resumed building.  I retired in June from teaching and have ministering to the health care and benefits schlmazel that was necessary to make the transition from employment.  Now that I am enrolled in Medicare and supplemental insurance, I can get care for any workshop mishaps with sharp tools (both power and hand).

I have a parlor, an OM, a ukelele, and a Macaferri style guitar in the final stages of production.  I’m also mentoring my son, William, on the construction of a Stew-Mac faux Stratocaster. 

The parlor (aka 1201) and the OM (aka 1202) have experienced recent neck shaping and fretboard binding.  Most of my recent efforts have been relocating the materials, tools and jigs I use.  Mostly an effort in remembering where everything lives (which bin, which cupboard, which whatever?).  Example:  Last week I remember stumbling on a headstock template which I could use for 1202, yet, where is it?  I put things down, make a mental note, then have great difficulty finding my mental note in my mental cabinet and subsequently spend time swearing at myself. 

The upcomming challenge is to reset the neck for 1202 to remove the 14th fret bulge.  This will require careful chisel work.  I must confess my chisel work is still rudimentary; not at the skill level to which I aspire.


William and his Stew-Mac Stratocaster

1202: Rosewood OM with Vine fretboard inlay

Rosewood binding on fretboard for 1201

Ivroid binding for fretboard of 1202.

Summer 2015

July 23, 2015

Yes it has been way too long since I’ve updated this site.  Yes, I’ve made promises to myself to reestablish my guitar building activity.  Yes, many things have happened in the intervening days since I last put chisel to wood.  Yes, I’ve been dangerously close to abandoning building guitars and let that era pass.  There have been many reminders; mostly spam posts chiding me on my content and spelling on this site from bots designed to toy with my ego and fall for the ploy that all could and should be improved if I would just get off my ass and care a whit about how I’m presenting myself to those who are actively judging me.

I have been without a nearby workspace for over 2 years.  I relocated my shop to a rental space several miles away.  When the shop was in my home, it was difficult to motivate myself to walk down 15 stairs and put myself in front of the project du jour.  Imagine how that motivation waned when the shop got farther away from my recliner.

Saturday, upcoming, a bevy of beefy boys will assist me in moving the last of the power tools from the rental space into my newly concocted workshop in my newly procured home.  I’ve been in my new home since November, and have finally devised a way to get my shop into the basement bedroom adjacent to the garage, where I will have all I need (sans a spray booth) to resume my “hobby”.  There will still be 15 stairs between my recliner and the shop, but past experience has shown that more gets done in proportion to less distance between recliner and shop.

Phase One

The basement bedroom with pegboards and workbench installed.

Can I Get Back in the Saddle?

For the past 2+ years I have barely held a dull chisel, powered up my defective drum sander, or applied health detrimental nitrocellulose lacquer.  Life has interfered with craft.  My workshop is located far from home and only gets visitation to pay the monthly space rental.

Today I put the gears in motion to buy a house.  I’ve been renting since June 2013.  In November, I will move to a new house which contains space for my workshop.  When the muse strikes, I will only need walk down a flight of stairs to the workshop.  Will that be enough to get me back in the saddle?  It must.  I have several commitments to complete guitars and ukes which I’m sure have caused some discomfort in those awaiting.

I need to take care in knowing the difference between dreams and reality.  I will only know when it happens.  November 15th?

UPDATE:  I have made it so!  I moved into my new home November 17th, and am working on converting the garage and downstairs bedroom into my workshop.  This process should take about two months, before I can begin the resumption of my craft.

Small Fortune

Q: How do you make a small fortune in the guitar business?

A: Start with a large fortune.

The following is an excerpt from an online blog:

When you see a guitar builder charging $3,500 for a boutique bolt-on instrument, do you think somebody’s getting rich? I don’t, and here’s why: The “small fortune” adage has been applied to many hobbies-turned-businesses for good reason. Passion for the product is all well and good, but in business—even the guitar business—it may have to take a back seat if you want to survive.

Guitar building—either from scratch or from parts—has become a cottage industry in recent years. It seems like every starry-eyed dude with a board and a butter knife calls himself a builder. Web-based luthier-supply stores have empowered thousands of hobbyists to create instruments at home. These outlets offer just about everything you need to become a fledgling guitar maker. In fact, these vendors have become so sophisticated that many of the large factories now buy from them.

Assembling guitars in a basement or garage gets many people daydreaming about a home-based guitar business. After selling guitars to a few friends, this may seem like an exciting adventure. But if you’re used to getting a steady paycheck, you may be in for a surprise.

Counting costs. In addition to building my own brand of guitars, I work as a consultant for both small and large operations that are serious about not only making guitars, but building a business as well. (Let that sink in for a moment.) No matter how much you love guitars, you have to be prepared to put that aside in order to see things objectively. And sometimes that means putting business first.

When I’m hired to help streamline or improve a guitar shop, the first question I always ask is: Do youreally know how much it costs you to make and deliver a guitar to a customer? I often find that people have no idea. Many builders tally the cost of parts and materials, and maybe throw in some extra dollars to cover miscellaneous expenses. If they are paying people to help out, they might add their salaries to the tally.

Passion for the product is all well and good, but in business—even the guitar business—it may have to take a back seat
if you want to survive.

Whatever profit they think they’re making is likely kept in a pool for things like new tools or the rent for a small space. They probably aren’t planning for the day when a stoned employee puts an X-Acto knife blade through his thumb and decides to sue. Did you figure liability insurance into your business plan? That increases the cost of your guitars. Your time mopping up the blood is a cost too.

The best way to view your operation is to consider anything you do an expense that must be offset by your billings. Turn on a light? It’s a cost. Turn on the heat? It’s a cost. Use the phone? All of these and more are ongoing costs that figure into every instrument you sell. Other services that get used occasionally, such as hiring an electrician or an attorney—yes, there will be lawyers—should be built into a financial plan ahead of time in order to smooth out your cash flow and help you establish your pricing structure. I advise asking an accountant to mentor you. This is going to be fun, right?

Material matters. Acquiring raw materials is another area where planning pays off. You need to know how much wood is needed for a single guitar, including the waste that inevitably occurs. For example, if you buy 1,000 board feet of neck wood, you will not be able to convert all of it into product. Your wood supplier will do their best to sell you usable lumber, but there are always defects in every board that must be worked around or scrapped.

A good place to start is to add at least 30 percent to what you think you will need and include this in your cost estimates. You may find that you’re doing better than that on average, so you can adjust downward for future buys. Another helpful tip is to ask your supplier to cut your boards to a length that is a multiple of the individual blanks you need, which helps eliminate waste, reducing your cost.

The same logic applies to hardware. No matter how well made your vendor’s hardware is, there will be occasional duds. You won’t have to pay for a replacement, but it might stall the completion of your customer’s guitar, and every day it’s delayed is money you will never get back. The knee-jerk reaction is to keep loads of hardware in stock, but inventory costs you money. Be sure to inspect and test as soon as a shipment arrives so you can get replacements before your cash flow stalls.

These are all basic business and manufacturing concerns, and we haven’t even gotten into promoting, selling, or the most basic streamlining of the actual building process! When you endeavor to turn your passion for guitar into an avocation, the very thing that got you interested may be last on your “to-do” list.

And oh—don’t forget to include the cost of that shipping box.


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