How My Guitar Journey Began

I get asked quite often, how I began building guitars. It’s been an interesting journey with this year marking my 25th year, I thought it would be fun to share how I got started…

It was 1988, and I was a design engineer and project leader at Intel Corp. I had always loved playing the guitar, as well as collecting, but at that time with raising a family and working, I hadn’t touched my guitar much for a couple of years. I decided I needed to start playing the guitar again, so I bought a nice classical guitar, started taking lessons, and really enjoyed it.

After a few months, the bridge on my new classical started to lift, so I took it to a local place in Phoenix to get it fixed. Well, they messed up the job, and the guitar looked terrible. I decided that without any real experience, I could do better than that. I fixed the job they did, and started working on some old beater guitars, and started doing some simple repairs for friends. I bought every book on guitar repair that I could find, and started buying some tools, and putting a shop together in my garage.

Eventually, around early 1989, I decided to build a guitar, so I bought Bill Cumpiano and Jonathan Natleson’s book: Guitarmaking Tradition and Technology, and got started. I decided to buy some inexpensive pieces of cherry from a local hobby shop, and a piece of sitka spruce for the top. The cherry boards were 3/32” thick, 2” wide, and 24” long. I designed a guitar that would let me use these small boards. It was a small body guitar-almost travel size, with a multi-piece back (seven pieces). I put together a pipe bender, with a blowtorch for heat, and after setting my shirt on fire at one point, got the sides bent. I measured the fret spacing by hand, painstakingly sawed each of the fret slots, and eventually got the guitar done.

I was very proud of this guitar. It wasn’t perfect, but it played well, and I showed it to a lot of friends and that’s how I got my first order. The Guitar is shown below—the top, the multi-piece back, and my first attempt at inlay—my logo: GSL guitars. I definitely went a little crazy with the design (especially for a first guitar)—the cutaway, multi piece back, wood bindings, and a bound headstock.


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