Refurbishing/Building Guitars; How One J&P Tech/Blogger Decompresses
April 24, 2013 | By: Scott Holton
I was a little surprised the other day, when the person who oversees the blog asked me to write a little something about my hobby. I’ve been in the motorcycle industry since the late 80’s, and it has been cool working in a field that has also been exciting! However, after 35 years of non-stop immersion in all things motorcycle, I needed to find an interest that allowed me to relax in my free time.
Enter my son, 15-year-old Jack Holton, who is the best kid a dad could ask for! You know, with all the sinning I’ve done in my life, I deserved the kid from he**. Fortunately, my wife and I have been blessed with a very well-mannered, conscientious young man who is a joy to be around.
Jack has been taking guitar lessons for the last few years. First he did so from a national music chain West Music, and more recently with the Iowa Rock and Roll Hall of Famer BillyLee Janey. Jack let his mom and I know that he was interested in building and repairing guitars, as well as playing them. We investigated some possible luthier courses for him and it looks like that may be a career he may choose to pursue.
Always looking for a way to share experiences with my son, we decided to work on guitars on the side. I’ve always liked working with my hands, and it gave us something we could work together on. Our first father/son job was an early 1980′s Arbor Guitars Flying Vee. We picked up this beat-up rascal at a friend’s perpetual yard sale for the grand sum of $100. It had a broken switch, a frozen tone pot, and on a couple of the tuning machines the screws had been stripped out and were just kind of hanging there. We went to the local Guitar Center store in Cedar Rapids and just about drove those nice folk’s nuts with all our questions. in building and repairing guitars, as well as playing them.
Somewhere through the life of the guitar, somebody dug out a big hole in the body to add a third humbucker type pick-up. There was a Seymour Duncan Humbucker in the hole, but it was not wired up. We decided to restore the axe back to the original two pickup configuration, to replace all the pots, switch, and completely rewire things. As we were putting things back together, I found that my son was very good at soldering, something he had learned in the Metalcraft merit badge he earned as a Boy Scout. What a pleasant surprise! He was the one to do every solder joint in this restoration (how kewl is that?). As everything was a “first” for us we learned a lot on this project. One of the major hurdles was what to do with THE HUGE UGLY HOLE in the face of the guitar. I was trying to come up with a complex solution when Jack came up with the simple idea of a cover plate. A trip to a trophy shop got us a plate with his initials in Old English lettering that does a very nice camouflage job. We learned how to set up a guitar and set the action. All-in-all, the doggone thing turned out pretty nice.
We also have had a local fiddle player, Rick Karl, give us a 1894 SS Stewart 10” Ladies Banjo. While it was all in pieces, it was 98 percent complete and is in the process of being restored. This is a very, very sweet project.
To show Jack what all goes into building a guitar, we have researched on the internet and are now building a couple of new guitars. We bought a body for one on E-bay, and the other is Jack’s own design we are building from scratch. We are both learning as we go and when we make a mistake, we are learning how to overcome it. It has been extremely rewarding to work side-by-side with my son, and I’ll treasure the memories and music that we make together. To see what we are up to, we have a Facebook page; stop by if you like.