An average Joe builds a guitar from scratch.

Today was a big day.  We finished the necks.  It was crazy to carve a neck out of a block of wood.  Check it out:


That turned into this:


All with a rasp and some sand paper!

But wait…check this out!


Holy shit that looks like a guitar!

Charles Fox, our teacher, said that I had a natural ability for carving the wood, which was awfully nice to hear.  And he said he took a lot of satisfaction out of all the progress that I and the rest of the class were making both on our guitars as well as our general skills in the shop.  And he’s right, we’ve all learned a ton.  I feel like I kind of know my way around now, when I hadn’t ever held a chisel before in my life.

And that got me thinking about Charles, and how I really needed to write something about him.  He is easily the most compelling character in this whole thing, but I am finding it tough to figure out exactly what to say about him.

I’ve already written about his role as one of the fathers of American Lutherie.  He started the first lutherie school, invented a bunch of tools.  Like I wrote last week, he’s kind of a big deal.

I thought about writing about his work ethic.  For example, he fully rebuilt two of my classmate’s tops after they had a few too many mishaps on them.  And he did it after hours.  Considering our pretty packed schedule—9AM to 8PM six days per week—that is some serious dedication.  

But that’s not particularly interesting, just admirable.

I thought about writing about his skill as a teacher.  His patience, knowledge, fairness.  But I thought that was hard to relate to—sort of a “had to be there” kind of experience.

And then yesterday I found my topic.  Charles’ wife, Denise.

Charles works out of his home workshop, while Denise works upstairs in the home office.  As Charles says, he’s “just the talent, but she runs the show.”  Seeing their dynamic was more illuminating to Charles’ character than anything else.

Denise came back from a four day trip to the Oregon coast this afternoon, and when she walked through the door into the shop, Charles lit up.  It was subtle, but I’d say he was even giddy.  Just so happy.  He is so in love with this woman.  It’s awesome and so clear.

And that, as much as anything else, is responsible for our incredible experience here.  He’s got to know what he’s doing as a luthier, and 40 years’ experience attests to that.  And obviously he’s incredibly experienced as a teacher too.  But I think it’s the halo effect of his life with Denise that makes this whole thing feel like a deeper, more profound experience than just whittling some wood.  There’s joy, contentment, and serenity around here.  It’s nice.

As usual, it’s not about inanimate objects.  It’s about people.  It’s about wood, skill, and love.  And hopefully it will be about good tone and resonance too.  And keeping all of my fingers.  Let’s not forget that.

7 months ago