A Luthier's Scrapbook

An archlute is restored in our shop
A partially collapsed rennaisance lute that had been "theorboed" is being restored by Harry Becker in our shop. I'm photographing the sequence as it progresses. Oh, and find out what "theorboed" means.
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REMORA OR SHARK SUCKER. FAMILY ECHENEIDAE

A six-foot, clamp-on harp extension to an existing guitar. We called it the Remora

Fifteen years ago, Sean MacLean wanted to cover Michael Hedges'  inventive (and fiendishly difficult) guitar compositions--and play his own compositions in Hedges' style. Sean had purchased one of my Brazilian rosewood Dreadnaughts previously, and asked me how he could convert it into something like Michael Hedges' harp guitar. At first I thought the idea was nuts. I liked that.

It took a whole lot of interaction with the client, a six foot slab of inch-thick Sitka spruce, six mando-bass strings, four EMG bass pickups, two Campagnolo bicycle quick-releases, and a lot of Industrial Design--and the Remora was born...a Remora being the peculiar fish (see above) that spends much of its life attached to sharks by a sucker on its head.

Fifteen years later, Sean calls me out of the blue. He now works doing classical music programming for WGBH Boston Public Radio and still performs of his Remora, which is still going strong. Two rare old friends return.

God, I love this business.

music39.gif (1520 bytes) Hear Sean MacLean play the Remora
(1.3  meg MP3), a fragment of his composition based on the Prelude to Bach BMV 998.

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The abalone "S" was my logo fifteen years ago when I called my shop "Stringfellow Guitars"
NYC's American Craft Museum displays William's work

Thirty years ago, during summer breaks from art school, I packed art work into cartons as an intern in this prestigious craft museum. Now my stuff is on the museum's walls.

Work in progress
Come in and see what I'm working on: commissions, classes, special projects, and process shots

 

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Purpleheart Jumbo 7-string
A guided tour through my shop
A virtual walk-through. Well, virtually.

 

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Harry's bench
Recent finished work
Shot just before it went out the door.

 

We've replaced a smashed side on a friend's guitar. Photosequence here.

 


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Beeswing Mahogany Wedge Cutaway 12 string
Interesting Visitors A prodigal child returns

My book, first published in 1984, detailed the construction of a steel string guitar [and also a classic guitar], written in 1980. The steel-string made for the book was bought soon after by Nashville country-western singer songwriter Susan Taylor, known professionally as Taylor Pie. Pie's beaming smile was captured in the photograph which was published at the end of the book. 

Twenty-seven years later, Pie mails me the guitar. She had bought a second Cumpiano guitar [and a soprano cuatro!]  from me since, and found herself playing the other, the Ditson Grand Concert illustrated on the home page of this site, more often. So she asked me to spruce it up and sell it for her. This is my 27-year old child, returned after many miles, and many songs:

Pie's 1980 Cumpiano "book" guitar still has the abalone pie I inlaid on the 12th fret, plus a few bumps, dings, and well-repaired minor cracks--but played and sound marvelous! I resold it for her to a customer who wanted "the guitar from the book."


Does this look like a 30-year old twelve string?

Imagine my delight at seeing back in my shop, for the first time in thirty years, my Mahogany cutaway twelve-string SFG 87 (My labels said Stringfellow Guitars back then) made in 1979. The original buyer brought it in because the bridge-seam was parting slightly. But the top was still flat, the action was true and the finish still shone. God, I love this business...


Distinguished guitarist Martin Simpson visits us 5/04

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Awarded "Musician of the Year 2004" by BBC Radio, Bristish Isles folk stylist Martin Simpson has been very busy lately. During a break from his recent US tour, Simpson dropped by our shop for a visit, and to try out a just-finished cocobolo/cedar guitar (first instrument on this page) purchased by a friend of his. He expressed his delight repeatedly...


Puerto Rican master musicians perform  impromptu in Cumpiano shop


Juan Montalvo (left) is one of Puerto Rico's most revered cuatro players. He and his son Kacho (right) visited my shop in 2/2011 and picked up one of my cuatros and one of my classic guitars and started to play traditional Puerto Rican melodies.
Among the pieces they played was La Araña [The Spider], a classic pasillo by the great cuatrista Nieves Quintero.

Listen to them here


All the way from India


This is how East Indian Rosewood arrives in our shop after a long sea voyage from Maharashtra, India: in gunny sacks--all neatly handsewn and end-waxed.


Yet another prodigal son returns...


A Brazilian rosewood guitar I made in 1975 returned to me for extensive refurbishing (after suffering two decades of bad repair work). I had lots of free time in those days...


Distinguished visitors all the way from California

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West Coasters Teja Gerken and Dan Gabel of ACOUSTIC GUITAR magazine during a recent whirlwind New England luthiers visit.


Danger! Genius at work...

In early January 2002, past editor/publisher of the Journal of Guitar Acoustics Tim  White brought the latest iteration of his famed Chrysalis guitar. I've been cheering Tim on with his revolutionary guitar project for at least twenty five years, a magnificent obsession which has been called "the next guitar paradigm." Made mainly out of graphite (there is a wood version available) it is snapped together from several components --which all fit into a briefcase--with the flip of a lever, at once popping all its strings up to tune! It sounds terrific as an electric, and quite  well (with the addition of an inflatable soundbox) as an acoustic guitar. Here is what it sounds like:

702kb .mp3      1.9 meg .wav

The Chrysalis was on recently display at a guitar show at the Boston Museum of Fine Arts, along with the Stradivarius guitar, John Lennon's guitar and Les Paul's "log", and was judged an audience favorite.


A MOST DISTINGUISHED VISITOR:



 Imagine our indescribable pleasure and awe when a mint-condition 1929 Santos Hern
ández classic guitar was brought in March '02 into our shop. This is a similar vintage model to the one that in Andrés Segovia's hands ushered the guitar for the first time into the world's concert stages.

We will be taking exact measurements of this instrument for our own edification and that of the guitarmaking community. It's sound? Well, perhaps the most beautiful sound I have ever heard from a guitar.  How much of that magic sound was a result of skill, how much of it was the result of its 73 years? Sorry--as far as that goes, the guitar was silent...