In early 1992, I had a chance to go to the NAMM show in Anaheim as a guest of a friend who was in the music business. During the show, I found a magazine called “Guitarmaker”, which was published by ASIA, the Association of Stringed Instrument Artisans. I was blown away by this magazine, and read it cover to cover. Among all the amazing articles about building guitars, there was an ad for a guitarmaking class (eight days), to be held in August at a place called “Peter’s Valley Craft Center”, near Layton, New Jersey. The class was to be taught by Dick Boak of the Martin Guitar Company, and Bill Cumpiano, who had written the book I had been using as a guide and reference book. I called and signed up for the class, along with my friend who had invited me to the NAMM show. I felt very fortunate that a class like this even existed- and I was going to be a part of it.
The class was excellent. I have included several photos below. We built Martin kits, and even though I had already built about four guitars, and was pretty familiar with the basics, I had a chance to ask about a million questions- of a couple of very experienced guitar makers, and work with some jigs and molds that were new to me. In addition, both Dick and Bill were great. They were very approachable, and kept the class running smoothly. One afternoon, we closed up shop early, and were invited over to the home of Bob Benedetto, the great archtop builder, for a shop tour and dinner. At that time, Bob lived and worked in nearby Stroudsberg, PA, which was just across the Delaware River from Peter’s Valley. This was an unbelievable trip, and started to give me a lot more insight into what tools were needed, shop setup, and a chance to ask even more questions of another of the greatest guitar makers of our time (and a really great guy). From this class, I knew that I wanted to be a serious guitarmaker. I still kept my day job, but began making guitars in my spare time. I was invited to come back to Peter’s Valley to help teach the guitarmaking class, which I did over the next few years, helping Frank Finnochio teach the class.
This class, and others that I have taken since, motivated me to start teaching my own classes, which I’ve offered since 2001. My classes have been referred to as the “Weekend Warrior” classes, where people come and spend about fifteen Saturdays in a row, building their own guitars. It’s been great to watch the classes bond as each person creates his/her own very high quality instrument, from bending sides, to neck carving, to inlay, and spraying and buffing out their finish.
Below: Dick Boak Addresses the class. Next photo: Bill Cumpiano helps a student position the bridge.
Below left: Dick Boak helps a student route the binding slot. Below right: the author tapes and glues his binding
Below: A shot of Bob Benedetto’s shop circa August, 1992. Next photo: Bob showing us his binding router table
Below: Bob showing us one of his recently completed archtops. Last photo: our class photo. Bill is front center..That’s me front row on the left.