Is there a tonewood you always think customers should explore?
No, I think that you've got to be really open-minded and you've got to allow the instrument to be the instrument that it's going to be, without being too prescriptive. That sounds a bit vague, but there's an element surprise that I really like with the instruments.
I don't have a particular favorite wood because It's like trying to pick your favorite child. I love all of the pieces of wood that are in my collection because they've each got something that drew me to them. They've each got a little bit of magic. And it's why I'll rarely build the same instruments twice. Sometimes clients will come to me and say, "I really like this guitar. Can you just build me that guitar? Because I want the same thing." And it's like, "All right, I can do that, but are you sure there isn't something else that would make this guitar even more special for you, that would make it even more right for you?" Because there's also no guarantee that you're going to get the same result because every single piece of wood is different. Every single piece of wood even from the same tree, even from the same board, even from the same flitch, it's going to be different and so that's why it's so magical.
Also, there's so much common wisdom floating around in the industry that is a by-product or a consequence of mass-produced instruments. Rosewood sounds like this, Maple sounds like this, Mahogany sounds like this, which doesn't stand, it doesn't apply for luthier-built instruments. One luthier built with Maple, and it will sound like like another builder's Rosewood instrument and vice versa. There's so many nuances and we're all building in vastly different ways. And so being super prescriptive on tonewoods, it's not the way that I like to work.
So obviously if somebody comes to me and says, "We decide that we want (using whatever vocabulary that we've decided on) a dry sounding instrument” then I'll be able to suggest something based on my experience of working with that timber. But this is the beauty of it. This is why it's so special and this is why so many people are drawn to it.
That's interesting. Would you therefore rather not build the same guitar twice?
Yeah. Definitely. And that's purely just because more opportunity, more... With some people, once they know that something works, they're like, "I'll replicate this." and that's fine. Then that will work for that person's personality. But for me, once I've done it, I would feel like it would be a dilution. Of course, there's elements of like, "Okay, I can build this guitar again with these ingredients, and I can try and get a better result. Now I've got the experience with it, I can do some more with it. Like how can I eke out every tiny drop of performance?" But I feel the results are going to be less surprising.
Going back to the relationship side of thing, I'm not just building the instruments, I'm crafting an experience. And ultimately, the reason that I do this work is that I love the materials. I love taking the different ingredients and putting them together and creating something new and exciting. And I love the building the relationships with the clients, getting to know the clients, and having these relationships that extend beyond the instrument, that are everlasting. And so part of my job is to bring people along for the ride and allow them to experience the excitement that I find in doing the work.
So ideally, when the customer picks up the guitar for the first time, they feel they have owned it forever and it just works for them. I had one could customer last year, and this was an example of the perfect project. We were texting each other every day. I'd be what is happening photos and videos. And we had hoped that we could have done a personal handover, but with COVID, it just did not happen. And because we had worked so closely together, there was a little bit of nerves and we had tried new things, and we had explored, and the client had given me a lot of freedom, and we were both excited. And there was this kind of moment where I thought, "What if it doesn't like it?" I felt comfortable in saying that to the client. I said, "I'm actually a little bit nervous because we're both so excited about this and it's been such a trip that, what if you don't like it? And he said, "I already love it." And before he had received it. It is like, "It's going to be what it's going to be, and I'll love it for whatever it is,." which is amazing really.
But that to me was just like, I've done my job. Ideally that's what everything should be. Because also, there's no perfect guitar, the perfect guitar doesn't exist. But thankfully people's search for it is what keeps us all in business.