Are they nickel plated, then gold plated?
Yes, nickel then gold.
Thatís the old Gibson way.
Yep. Then they go to a local craftsman and have the ebony appliquťs made. A few guitars have been ordered with some abalone work inlaid in the appliquť, but thatís a custom feature. So itís the metal supplier, the sheet metal guy, the machinist, the plater and the craftsman Ė five people are involved in the making of a tailpiece!
The Eastman archtops use a similar idea, in that the tailpiece is brass with a decorative ebony piece on
top Ė only theirs is made to look like a Benedetto violin tailpiece. Unless you look closely you canít tell thereís a metal piece
One reason a lot of guys use actual wooden tailpieces is because, like myself, theyíre not metal workers. So if you want an original metal tailpiece Ė where do you go? How do you do it?
Itís a complicated process.
Yes. I was fortunate that I knew the sheet metal guys Ė there used to be a big jewelry industry in Rhode Island and there are still a few plating houses around. But a lot of guys are using the wooden tailpieces, and itís kind of trendy now to use a wooden one.
How does an all-wood tailpiece affect the tone of the guitar?
I donít know. Obviously I am not a wooden tailpiece guy. Initially it kind of made sense to me, but I have to disagree with some of the experts on this. I donít think it necessarily improves the tone of the guitar. Iíve heard many wooden tailpieces that vibrate in an undesirable way. The big thing for me was that I wanted to do stuff that looked traditional and I liked Gibson stuff because they all had metal tailpieces; I played too many old Gibsons with metal tailpieces where I thought, ďthereís no way you could improve the sound of this guitar Ė it sounds great. Whatís a wooden tailpiece going to do for this?Ē
Maybe itís the brass?
I donít know. Sometimes you do get a little bit of a metal harmonic or overtone, but I donít find that objectionable! A great L-7 does the same thing and you donít have a problem with that. To my ears, I donít think a wooden tailpiece is necessarily a design improvement. The whole idea with a lot of the contemporary stuff is borrowing [from violin design]. Archtop guitar design is based on violin family instruments. And while they did borrow many design features from the violin family, that doesnít mean that all the violin features apply to the guitar, because itís a whole different instrument. Itís plucked instead of bowed, so there are some violin features that would actually be a detriment if applicationed to the guitar design.
Your three models span what price range?
The base prices are $4000, $5500 and $7000. Itís about a separation of $1500 between models.
Has the recession slowed you down at all? Are you concerned about that?
Thatís maybe way out there on my radar screen. If I was dependent on a local economy I would be concerned, but my business is nationwide and worldwide. If the whole national economy tanks then the first thing that happens is people cut back on luxury items, but somewhere in the U.S. or the world there will always be people that have money to spend on luxury items! My guitars are still relatively affordable for the average person.
It seems to take a guitar about 30 years to take on the mantle of ďvintage.Ē Where do you think your guitars will be in 30 years, as far as how collectors will look at them? And where will you be 30 years from now?
Iíll be 83! Iím not good with leisure time. I always feel like I have to be productive. So I imagine Iíll probably build as long as Iím able, although maybe not at the level I am building at now. Iím going to want to keep busy. Iíd like to think that my guitars will acquire vintage status. Of course, as soon as I croak the more expensive they get! [laughs] Iím pretty confident theyíll attain a fairly noble status after Iím gone Ė why not? Especially since I wonít be making them any more!