Wednesday, February 25, 2009


You might have heard about the competition for the 'Best Job in the World', and if not, well, suffice to say it's aptly named: It involves being the caretaker of an island on the Great Barrier Reef, so, 'nuff said, huh?

Our wonderful daughter in law, Miranda has put together a video as an applicant for the job, so....

Please check it out and vote for our girl, - The short list will be generated in only 6 days, so get after that votin' thang!

(And yeah, she really is that nice and that cool!)

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Guitarras Mexicana

I spent the last week in sunny Mexico, Puerto Vallarta in particular.

There I saw many really nice guitars; guitarrons, requintos, bajo sextos, tresillos, vihuelas, and huapangueras to name a few. I have limited but usable Spanish, and when I explained to virtually any player that I make guitars, they happily handed them to me and explained when and where they had bought them. The vast majority came from Paracho, which is no surprise; that town boasts several thousand builders, some 3rd and 4th generation builders.

What was surprisingly to me was the fact that quite a few guitarrons came from Ixtapa Zihuatanejo, specifically Guitarrons of surprising beauty and quality. If you’ve never been down there and need an excuse, Ixtapa hosts an annual guitar bash that is reported to be a pretty amazing party – Check out this link for more info.

Of course these axes were working instruments; it makes sense then that these instruments are well cared for but heavily used. There are not many fancy woods, and no end to end bling on these babies, just solid performing woods and designs. Since these are virtually all nylon string instruments, the majority I inspected were plain Cedar backs and sides, (And the big guitarrons and bajo sextos probably need to be for those guys to haul them around and play them night after night!). There were a couple of guitarrons made of a heavier hardwood, both from Ixtapa, and the owner of one said it was Granadillo, and maybe it was; either my eyes weren’t that good or I’d had too much Tequila by the point that conversation took place!

A couple of models which got me thinking: First, the requintos romanticos were very cool, kinda the Mexican version of a Django guitar and with a very nice voice indeed. I saw several soloists pulling great leads on those guys, and the large oval sound hole is striking indeed.

And the vihuelas, ahhhh the vihuelas; from the top they look more or less like a standard nylon string axe, but turn ‘em around and you find this beautiful, deep bowl back. The projection of those little guys was noticeably better than a lot of the other sizes and shapes I heard and saw played.

Not long ago, a customer brought me an 1848 German parlor of unknown make; I loved the shape and size, and it too had a deep bowl back like those vihuelas; the shear use that little thing had seen made me think that we might be missing something about that shape...

The curve of the back culminates, more or less, at the waist, meaning both front to back and side to side, the bowl is greatest at that point; this of course puts that point pretty much dead beneath the sound hole as well. Now this stuff might be common knowledge to y’all, but it sure wasn’t to me and it makes me think that I would do well to do some experimenting one of these days. There are plans for quite a few of these South American stringed instruments and expanding ones horizons is always a good thing, don’t you think?

Wednesday, February 11, 2009


Well, as Kenny Hill noted, “Just when you think you’ve seen it all…” kenny is a very well established, high end American guitar maker. He was contacted by a potential client who seemed knowledgeable and legitimate, and he ended up selling one of his guitars to the guy COD/Cash/Certified payment upon receipt, which as Kenny noted, isn’t that unusual in the guitar business. The guy had said the axe was for his kid, and called back a couple days later wanting another one; the last BRW model he had, in fact, and Kenny sold him that too.
See it coming? The guy’s Certified Cashier’s Checks were forgeries.
Not only that, he got two with the same scam off Howard Klepper, another fairly legendary American Luthier.

So this asshole has tens of thousands of dollars of stolen guitars.

The shithead gave his name as:
Jonathan Silk
1915 San Francisco Ave
Long Beach CA 90806.

Kenny found the real Jonathan Silk, a former UCLA Professor living in the Netherlands who had nothing to do with this.

If you’re a builder, collector, or player, be on the lookout.
Go here for Kenny’s info, and here for Howard’s.

I realize there are lots worse things that happen in the world, but stealing guitars from folks who have put so much heart and soul into a beautiful art for so long is like stealing purses from invalids; it’s wrong on a whole bunch of counts.

Dude, whoever you are, we’re looking for you, the word is out – We will find you, and then you’re gonna learn a thing or two…

Monday, February 09, 2009

Et Tu, Brutus?

Well, there was a Special Convention of the Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth this Saturday: Now, there’s a new diocese, a new Bishop and a new Standing Committee and the old one is swept under the rug for the time being.

It was one of those God moves in mysterious ways moments when, a bit later, I found myself talking on the phone to my friend Brian, (Who just happens to be the Vice President of the House of Deputies of the Episcopal Church of the United States of America). Brian runs The Episcopal Church of the Resurrection outside Spokane, Washington. ECOR is what I think of when I think of an Episcopal church. Anyone is welcome, and all feel welcome. Whether you’re rich or poor, black, white, brown or green, smart or a fool, well dressed or wearing rags, you’re welcome there; pretty everyone who attends regularly feels that way and so do the guests.

I recalled a sermon he had given many Christmas Eves ago. He started the service in full, high Church regalia, but slipped out right before the sermon. The place was packed with regular attendees and C & E Christians, (Christmas and Easter). Then out walked Brian in shorts and a polo shirt. Little blue haired church ladies about keeled over; it was priceless…

He told a story of visiting the south while on Church business, when he decided to go to a Sunday service at a local Episcopal Church. He was wearing the same things he was wearing as he now gave the sermon. And when he walked into the church… Everyone was in suits and ties and dresses. No one greeted him. No one looked at him, except for sideways vaguely disapproving glances throughout the service. No one shook his hand at The Peace. Brian related this and spoke of the Episcopal Church that we know, of the welcoming, equipping, inclusive, open church that we know: the place he’d visited wasn’t like that.

At Trinity, there are a few black people, Hispanics, a handful of gay folk, and everyone else is white and upper middle class. To be fair, your color doesn’t seem to matter that much, but still... One of the things we've noticed about north Texas is the diversity - It is much more vibrantly diverse than anywhere else I've lived; so why aren't more of these folks in my church: Why isn’t there the diversity and vibrant membership that I’ve seen in so many Episcopal churches throughout my whole life?

The Presiding Bishop is wonderful; I heard her introduce herself over and over, to young and old alike with a warm, "Hi, I'm Katherine." Ted Gullick, the new Interim Bishop of Fort Worth, also seems genuinely warm and very cool. He also the Bishop of Kentucky, and I know nothing about that diocese or him, but he seems genuinely cut of the that I am used to as an Episcopalian. I pray that he will indeed bring some badly needed change and openness to a diocese that has been dark and dire for far too long. Iker is gone, and that is a huge blessing. He is no Episcopalian and neither is his raft of nasty little minions; I bid them and theirs bon riddance and wish them well, somewhere else...

I am glad that the change has brought a new guard, but I still pray for yet more change.