Having played with various guitars for the past 30-plus years, it had always been a secret wish for me to build one. However, the passage from dream to reality was, at least, very long for me.
On several occasions he had brought me to the brink of the momentous event and then I studied the smooth and perfect forms of each of the guitars he owned, heaved a deep sigh of regret, and once again slipped from the task.
I was wondering, ‘What’s the problem? You have built a 42 foot yacht, you have learned to fly a plane, you have learned a few languages, you have become a marine surveyor, but this one has you better!
It puzzled and irritated me and I thought it was beyond my abilities, but great things were going to happen. Some time ago I went to see one of my guitar heroes, Jeff Lang, play. Little did I know, but this event changed my whole life. Stunned, amazed, and totally dumbfounded, I watched this guy take a strange fig-shaped guitar, lay it on his lap, and produce some of the best blues sounds of howling dogs gliding down the guitar that ever slid out of the Delta. . My amazement continued as Mr. Lang tuned in and retuned more whining Celtic and Asian megarithyms and Orientals until I was numb. YOU CAN’T get that sound out of a guitar … not possible … guess what, you can, and he did! I really wanted one of these Weissenbourns!
I was hooked, I sneaked home now completely depressed. My guitars hid in shame, we ignored each other for days. The die was cast. To hell or high water, I was going to get myself a Weissenbourn slip ‘slidin’ portable steel guitar! Three to five of the greats was out of the question … dare I try to make one?
Here came good luck. Thanks to the great kindness and encouragement of my good friend and incredible Tamborine Mountain Luthier, Kim Hancock and his two sons, Sean and Dane, I decided to take the plunge. With Kim’s extra help and safety and the supply of some really beautiful wood in a long box and a great book on how to build guitars, I started the impossible dream. I decided, once and for all, to build that damn guitar and what’s more, write a book at the same time!
HOW TO BUILD A WEISSENBOURN
After visiting many websites and reading some interesting books on guitar making, I realized that there were a few different methods of building a guitar from scratch. However, I decided that the safest method for me was to build a mold, a real replica of the guitar, and a working base on which the mold could be built.
The basic job of the mold is to provide you with a real live 3D model of the guitar that you intend to literally build around the mold itself. The other function of the mold is to have an immediate and very useful reference to work the front, back and side dimensions of the precious wood that you are about to cut. The working base is exactly what it says. It is a flat base constructed of MDF board, two ¾ “thick pieces each glued together to provide strength and form a mini ‘strong back’ on which to build your guitar.
The work stand has handy slots cut around the perimeter and these are used to slide small clamps when gluing on the back by adjusting the sides or even to hold the mold or guitar still.
So the working base is your bench, your mold is the basic pattern your Weissenbourn guitar will be built on and around. Once the basic body of the guitar has been built, naturally the mold is removed and construction continues … are you with me so far? Okay, we’ll slide (pun intended) on how this was going to be accomplished … In fact, the whole thing was going to be really awkward for me since I live on a forty-two foot yacht in a marina. ..And that? It was going to happen in hell or at high tide, literally.