Sunday, January 25, 2015

Birthdays, Dad & Craftsmanship


Today would have been my dad’s 93rd birthday. Wow, is that right? Yes, it is. Not really sure what I want to say that hasn’t been said here before – I think about him every day and will always be grateful for the impact he had on the person I’ve become. The crinkly pix here is from an article that ran in the community newspaper in May 1982. Not sure how it came to be, but a reporter visited and interviewed him about his guitar playing and making. Yes, my dad built guitars, as a hobby for many years; and, yes, I have talked about that fact several times here on the blog; but to me it’s impressive, so I can’t help myself!

He was an interesting guy, my dad. In a time when he couldn’t go online and order Guitar Building for Dummies from Amazon or Barnes and Noble or check out YouTube to learn the skill of making a guitar, my dad built his first guitar by studying the Spanish classical guitar he had played for years. Not an easy task – you can’t just open it up to see what’s going on inside. I remember him using mirrors and flashlights to look inside his guitar. I remember lots of sketches, calculations and patternmaking. I watched as he first created molds from blocks of wood and then soaked the finely honed side pieces in hot water in the bathtub (he didn’t have a steamer). When the pieces were just right he would gently form the pliable wood into the self-made molds, clamping along the way and then waiting. I don’t know how many ribs are inside any one guitar; but I do know that his were all handcrafted using a variety of tools. The fronts were designed in single pieces while the back was three pieces that included a stringer running down the center. (Kind of like a surfboard, right?) The neck had to be shaped and carved – there are so many pieces in total, big and small, that went into the crafting of just one guitar. He engineered and created each and every piece – except for the tuning pegs and strings.

As a kid, I was fascinated and spent many hours working alongside of him learning the trade, of sorts. You see, he is the one who taught me how to use a variety of tools, the one who let me use all of his big shop tools and how to take care of them all and most importantly, he was the one who taught me the old adage about using the right tool for the job. As a side note, my mom would have had a fit if she knew I was out there using a table saw twice the size of me and a band saw I had to stand on a stool to use! But then maybe not, she did teach me to use her commercial sewing machine when I was just five and had to sit on pillows to see the presser foot…so not much difference really. I never remember a time when my dad said “get out of here kid, you’re bothering me!” While he may have thought it…I never heard it.


The final unveiling was always fun – each guitar had its own unique sound depending on so many variables. If memory serves, they all sounded fabulous in their own unique way. The early ones may not have looked so great but they are the ones I treasure the most. I am so fortunate to still have one of those in my possession which definitely shows the signs of love having been played for many years. The newspaper article says that he made twenty-three in total – that was in 1982 and I do know that he made a few more in the years to follow.

Today as I look back, I can’t really find the words to express how thankful I am for the shared moments. All that I experienced in those times shows up each and every day in my jewelry studio. While, my finished product is not the same as his, the skill, technique and pride in that finished product is the same. So, dad – I know you are right here with me – I can always feel you – I just can’t see you. 

P.S. If you'd like you can read a few more posts where I talk about guitar, music and my dad. Interesting, as I prepare to click on the publish button; on allclassical.org Jose Broca, is playing the most beautiful Spanish Classical piece titled "Pensamiento Espanol." Thanks to the best radio station ever! To quote Meg Ryan and Rosie O'Donnell in Sleepless in Seattle, "it's a sign!"