Back in the mid ’80s, i started playing guitar. As a teenager, i got into it as many teenage boys do, reading guitar magazines, keeping up to date on my favourite bands and guitarists, learning whatever i could. I found over time that i was far more interested in the gear guitarists were using than technique or theory. Learning about amps, processing – and, more than anything, their guitars – became my passion, more than becoming a better player. I began to learn about the woods, the hardware, the pickups and the construction of their signature guitars, and this was incredibly fascinating to me.
In 1988, a friend told me about a guitar shop in Toronto that offered guitar building courses. At this point, i had already been doodling and sketching custom guitar ideas… i was on an academic path through high school to head to university to study architecture, industrial design or graphic design. The idea of building my own guitar took hold, and later that year, i took a solid-body guitar building course at The Twelfth Fret in Toronto, under luthier Gordon Barry. For one evening a week for about 12 weeks (it actually ended up being a bit longer), i went down there and learned the fundamentals of carving, sanding, assembly, fretwork, set-up and electronics. While i would consider this experience to be FAR from an apprenticeship, it did give me some solid fundamentals to work from, and more importantly, a passion for working with the tools and for bringing my ideas to reality. It was too late at that point to deviate from my career trajectory, so building guitars would have to wait.
Over the years, i have looked for opportunities to further my training with any of the incredible luthiers that work in the greater Toronto area, but the sad reality is that higher costs and slimmer profit margins have meant that few – if any – luthiers today can afford to train apprentices. Many of them operate in one-person shops or have a couple of paid (and experienced) assistants, or they run large commercial operations. Most of today’s “journeyperson” luthiers apprenticed under the greats of the previous generation (nearly every Canadian luthier seems to have apprenticed under Jean Larrivée in his early years, but those opportunities to learn as an apprentice seem to have all but vanished.
So i spent the intervening 20 years reading everything i can get my hands on and talking to whomever will share their knowledge. Fortunately, there are forums like ProjectGuitar.com full of amateur and semi-pro builders, and many experienced luthiers out there like David Myka, Jim Soloway, Mike Sherman, etc. who so kindly share their processes, their knowledge and their experience. And over the span of those years, i continued to refine designs i started dreaming up back in high school. The models you see here truly are the product of 20+ year process of design and research & development.
So in a sense, i’ve done a sort of “virtual apprenticeship” over the last couple of decades, and once i got access to a shop in 2009, it was a completely natural and logical transition back to building. After getting up to speed on the tools with the help of my friend Brian Bowes, i had very little hesitation or indecision… it was a fairly quick process to get into the rhythm of building guitars again. I will freely admit that i still have a TON to learn, and my skills are continuing to improve.
Prototype 1, started in 2009, was in a way a “20-year anniversary” tribute to my “Number One” guitar built in that course when i was a teenager.