Gearphoria Vol 4, No 1

Digital analogs in lutherie Learnings from handmade versus machine-made 22 GEARPHORIA SEP/OCT 2015 GREETINGS Gearphorians! There is a lot of talk these days regarding the merits of old school hand build- ing versus building in the digital realm. I am here to shed some light, and offer some perspective on the subject from my having learned the old school methods passed down through the generations here in So Cal, then learning the modern digi- tal methods through CNC machin- ists trade school and from my time at Taylor Guitars. One thing I can say is the methods matter less than the craftsman. Throughout the last century up until the last 20 or 30 years your typical solid body electric guitars and the various methods of craft- ing them have been made primar- ily by folks in the pattern making trade. Pattern makers worked in factories and in foundries making patterns and molds out of wood and various materials. This is where the grade of mahogany called “pattern mahogany” came from. Honduras mahogany is the most stable wood on the planet. Making it perfect for guitars and for patterns for casting parts. Paul Bigsby was perhaps the most famous pattern maker in our guitar world, first with Crocker Mo- torcycles and then with his own gui- tars and later Bigsby vibratos. One could arguably call him the father of modern “boutique” guitar builders. Back in the day at Gibson, the gui- tars and production equipment was designed and built by patternmakers. The Midwest was rife with skilled tradesmen in those days. A modern builder whose pro- gressed beyond being a pure hand builder will invariably use some tooling and machinery in their building to achieve consistency and accuracy to nail down that hard