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The Five Secrets of Building a Weissenborn Guitar
For over twenty years I have always been very curious about guitar building. I’ve been playing acoustic guitars for almost as long as I can remember. I had a great partner who lived just down the road and we did everything together so when he announced he was going to learn to play the guitar, of course I didn’t want to be left out! We bought some new guitars and practiced hard together even in the cold winter night, we went to the local laundromat to practice when our friends dumped us!……Yes, my enthusiasm never waned throughout my great hippie youth. To this day where I find myself living on a yacht in Australia with eight wonderful guitars at the approximate age of fifty eight.. I even still do a few gigs!
But I digress! No matter how many guitars I’ve owned over the years…and I’ve had quite a few…I’ve always had a secret desire to build myself one. I proudly imagined how I would encase it all in love, encrusting it with black coral, turquoise, silver and glowing mother of pearl. But, every time it came to crunch I just didn’t have the balls to really get stuck in and deal with it.
What was wrong? I couldn’t solve it. I have achieved many other things that I wanted to do during my journey in life. I built a 43 foot yacht, first. I learned that to finish a project is to tell every living soul that I know I’m going to do it… that way, I knew that after that, when my enthusiasm was ignited, I just had to see it through to the end, or I’d get the reputation of a big ‘go-go’ guy Be, want to be’, I secretly thought of it as my insurance policy! It really helped, no doubt.
However, as much as I loved playing, my life got a big shake up when I finally went to see a great Aussie guy named Jeff Lang play a gig in my hometown. I sat transfixed, turned around, completely blown away by the rich, vibrant, cool wailing sound that seemed to leap out of this amazing Feld Feld guitar.
It just didn’t seem possible that a guitar could sound so full, so haunting, so melodic, to tell you the truth, I was so elated by it all, I felt tears streaming down my face I felt such a fool… well, what a state to get into! This was a major crossroads in my guitar playing!
That incident never left me the same again… I wanted one of those Weissenborns so bad it hurt. I felt like I couldn’t handle my other guitars again. I was upset, we didn’t talk for a few weeks…..but I gave in, I had to have wanted taylor all my life…now I got it, will I ever play this again? But something was different… I wanted to play this damn thing like I never wanted to play before, so I did, you better believe it. I don’t even want to think about how long and how many hours it took me to start improving, but I really did.
I took all this time to get to the whole point of this article. I overcame the indecision that haunted me… I couldn’t afford two or three thousand to buy good steel. Not a chance.
Luckily I have a great friend in Luther Kim Hancock from Mount Tamborine in Queensland. Kim, a kind soul together with his two sons (also scary scary) Dayan and Shawn, build guitars that are something else that have already established themselves among the best in the world market…
Kim was really encouraging and gave me my first secret, unwittingly. If you start it and fill it…so what? It’s just a piece of wood, see what you did wrong, throw it in the garbage and order another piece..simple! Then, do it right the second time!
The second secret came right on the back of the first.! Don’t let the project scare you… Take control of it.. You are the master, that’s the issue.
The best secret of all came when I started building….I remembered the words during our conversation a few weeks ago….treat each stage of construction as a separate project. The back, the sides, the bridge, the headstock.. a separate project. Look, it’s a good secret, I guess. That way you can see the build as many small projects instead of one big, overwhelming monster……hey and give yourself a reward every time you complete one of these steps..beer, lollipop, go splash people, don’t be cheap on yourself!
The next secret is this: during construction there is always something that will stop you dead in your tracks. With me it was “how the hell am I ever going to get the rear connection perfect or the front, let’s face it?” Well, my secret was in being provided with a good guitar making book by Kim. The answer was there! Glue some sandpaper to a straight level and then sand each part as smooth as a baby’s bottom… see, simple when you know how!
So, find your way around any problem by thinking it through carefully… There is always a way around any problem you encounter, it may not always be as you imagined! Oh yes the name of the book is “The Guitar Builder’s Guide by Jim Williams” you can get it from Kim Hancock’s website
[http://www.Australian] Luthiers supplies.com.au Let me say though, there are no plans for the Weissenbourn there, you can get those from StewMac in the US or other suppliers.
The last secret is a really simple one: make a firm decision to see it through. I actually live on a yacht in a marina.. I almost talked myself into building the guitar time and time again. I’ve heard so many times “how can I build a guitar when I don’t have a shed, bench saw, etc?” BS people, BS with a big stamp. Make the best of what you have, have your wood supplier cut the wood to size, then design it so you don’t need all that expensive equipment, man, they’ve got it all!
There are also a few more secrets….I wrote a book “How to Build a Weissenborn Guitar” that will give you some more lights to shine in those dark corners of your mind! To help you do this thing! This guitar is really basic, just like the original, no frets, no truss rods (they don’t need them) simple bone but the sound! Ya hahaha!
It tells you how to build your dream guitar at your own speed right there at home, in your warehouse garage or apartment with minimal tools and experience. I now have a website about building called http://www.buildaweissenborn.com which you can also see in the authors resource box.
There are some pictures of my new Wissenborn, made by the way, with Australian maple (cousin of Koa) and an Indian rosewood scent board that actually has no frets on it, and may never have!
Finally, I hope any of you out there reading this article would like to know how my Wiesenborn turned out…..amazing! This is the loudest guitar I have ever heard in thirty years of playing… I can hardly sing about the sound of it!!! And it means something that people make me have one strong voice.. not a good one people, but a strong one!! It was a harrowing but amazing experience, thanks again to my good partner Kim Hancock for all the help and advice he gave me so freely especially when it wasn’t needed!
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