A bit of a philosophical tangent now. What is handmade? I think this a conversation I’ve always heard phrased in more questions than answers. I think that’s a great thing and I think it proves it’s own point- that ‘handmade’ is a continuum and not a definition.
On one end of the handmade guitar continuum you have guys who use only hand tools, some not even sandpaper. I believe I heard a rumor Michael Greenfield doesn’t even use any jigs. On the other end you have places like Washburn that are almost entirely cut out and finished by machines, assembled by hardworking men and women, with a “handmade” label inside.
If someone owns a CNC machine and uses it to rough in mandolin tops which are then finished to thickness and tuned by an experience eye and ear are they still handmade? If a neck is roughed in on a shaper bit and then carved by spokeshave and a rasp is it hand carved? Maybe it’s not a case by case scenario maybe its “you know it when you see it”.
We solder and flange and fit and sand and patina the bodies using our abilities. The tops are cut on a laser machine. The Fholes always have been, I used to cut the contour out on a Pexto circle shear.
Progress or regress? Does there have to be a balance between running a business (market speak for ‘providing for yourself, your family and your employees) and handcraft in its purest form? Who defines that balance.
I know this is a bit of a different question but it’s my blog and I can do what I want- I submit that what we are actually looking for is the story. Is this made by someone I know? I think the tops getting cut out by a giant laser is pretty cool. The shaper bit I had made is awesome. I put the neck on a jig, push it into this blade of death and it hogs out all the excess material so I can get right to carving a great feeling neck. Me, Matt, I do that. You know me, you’ve seen pictures of me. If you e-mail Mule I am the one who responds to you. These guitars are not commodities, they are an experience and a connection between me the person who made it and you the person who also loves the instruments. In that context is whether or not I use a top bearing router bit meaningful AT ALL. No, I should say it’s not. It’s almost silly. I think that shows it’s a bigger question. If you buy a Martin or Taylor or whatever, you have no connection to people who brought that guitar to your door step. There is the history behind it of course, and it is a GREAT guitar. But there was no connection to the people who made it. That’s what makes these resonator guitars different, and that’s non-debatable. There is no continuum.