A Guitar Maker's Philosophy

Maker's Philosophy

I have a particular view of guitar making. I believe it is a “calling”, a lifelong passion, a desire to reach ever higher standards. A musical instrument should have its makers personality in every component part, and he has a duty to leave behind some contribution to his art, as has every maker before him.

It is essential to me that the guitar is made totally within my own workshop under my own close control. I believe hand skills are the best way of interpreting natural materials, and that the finest facilities and materials make it possible to reach the highest standards, but are secondary to the structural design of the instrument. Guitar making is about the pursuit of excellence in design, construction, and of course, sound.

At Fylde, at least 95% of our work is at the bench, dedicated craftsmen working with traditional hand tools. The workshop has the best possible facilities and amazing stocks of the finest materials. The designs are the result of broad technical training and research, with fifty years of experience and development working alongside the world’s finest musicians. Nobody does it better.

The Fylde sound

It’s easy to get a guitar with a huge immediate sound, all volume and attack, but very little tone. All you need to do is make everything light, shave every brace down and the end result is a drum with strings on. Lots of people will be impressed, particularly at first hearing in limited situations like exhibitions and shops, but that doesn’t impress most professional players, and the guitars may not survive very long. I like to build guitars that will last. Sound great to start with, pure and balanced, but that can be worked hard, and will then open up and sing, not shout.

Experience counts

Most makers have at some point made a guitar from the worst possible pieces of timber, only to be embarrassed by how good it sounded, and also, to have sometimes used the finest materials and spent weeks on exotic inlays, only to produce a complete lemon. That usually happens in the early days, when the maker thinks he knows everything in the world. The worst one though, is to spend all that time and money to make a guitar that sounds wonderful but quickly becomes unplayable. If you survive as a guitar maker, then those are the strongest way of learning lessons. If they haven’t happened, the lessons haven’t been learnt. Don’t buy a guitar from someone who has never made a mistake..

Timber

I’m at my happiest amongst timber; ask my wife or my kids. I have been known to mix up piles of wood just so that I can sort it out again. Lots of wood comes through my workshop, I reject a lot of it and sell on a lot more. I keep the very best pieces and I have some beautiful materials. Some of the timber I use has been here more than thirty years. I know some makers that take an order for a guitar before they buy the timber, because they haven’t learnt the harsh lessons that come from experience. I use that experience when I’m choosing the wood for a project, particularly for a custom order or one of my "Personal Selection" instruments. For those I choose each piece of timber and decoration to try and achieve something special, so everything matches in a unique instrument that cannot easily be repeated. I'm easily bored and it keeps me interested.

Best of all worlds

In the Fylde workshop I have put together what I consider to be the best of all possible worlds in guitar making. The facilities have been built up over forty years and are the among the very best available to any guitar maker. Methods of work change constantly, adding whatever improves the final product and discarding that which does not. I am lucky to have had a number of excellent people helping over the years, with skills gained in every walk of life, and of course such people do move on, but currently I feel the work situation is the most satisfying that I have ever had. Last but not least, I have unrivalled stocks of timber gathered over many years, chosen from all over the world for their physical and tonal beauty, carefully seasoned and graded for use in the instrument most appropriate for their particular properties.

A tour round the workshop at Fylde is a surprise to anybody with preconceptions. There is no romance of ancient craftsmen working in primitive surroundings amongst a pile of shavings, neither is there a constant buzz of machinery or piles of component parts. I work with two or three craftsmen each at individual benches, with our own rack of hand tools, one instrument in front of each of us, working carefully and moving the work between us in an interweaving pattern of complementary skills. Here and there are single guitars, nearly finished, a few part made mandolins in boxes, several guitar bodies on one bench, and some rough shaped necks on another. Shelves with bent sides and soundboards acclimatising between operations. Mugs of tea are everywhere, packets of biscuits. Drawers of small tools are all mislabelled, but we know where everything is. Small piles of wood that are waiting to be put away. Dust. Vaguely chaotic perhaps, but near the door to the office, a shelf, full of nearly finished, shiny, marvellous musical instruments. I still sometimes look at them and think "we've made those!"

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