Sunapee Craft Fair

The annual League of New Hampshire Craftsmen’s Fair in Sunapee, NH is one of the oldest and largest crafts fairs in the nation, running for nine days each August and attracting over 30,000 visitors from all over the world. As a League-juried acoustic guitar maker, I had the good fortune to be invited to put together a demonstration tent for the fair this summer. Holly (my wife), Gordon Greenway (former student and now friend and apprentice) and also Liam Stone (current student and now friend) helped man the demo tent. Many thanks, guys!

It was a hoot! Our tent featured three tables, as you can see in the first photo. At the front table, are various guitar parts and building tools to let us demonstrate building techniques. On the left, is the display kiosk with many photographs of building steps and also articles I have written about both practical aspects of lutherie and also its philosophical and spiritual dimensions. On the rear table we had four guitars for people to examine and also play. In this first photo, you also see two young ladies who stopped by and who had just finished guitar camp.

Two young ladies who stopped by and who had just finished guitar camp.

They played a set of extraordinary duets. I have never before had the experience of hearing two of my guitars performing a duet by gifted players. One of the greatest thrills for a maker is to hear one of their instruments played well; to hear two together was over the top for me! I don’t have words to describe it well, except to say they produced a captivating “shimmering” effect, as though they knew one another (which they do, having been born on the same workbench!) and were delightedly saying hello to one another. Sadly, being inept with my new smart phone, I did not make a recording. And the young ladies were headed back to Florida. I hope somehow they see this newsletter and know how grateful I am for the magical moments they provided.

Thanks also to all the nice folks who stopped by the tent and made the experience so much fun. Many of you signed up for this newsletter; I hope you enjoy it.

A typical scene at the tent, with people visiting, trying out the guitars.

Hawiian Koa Guitar
One of my sudents, Bob Navitski, regularly travels to Hawaii, where he knows someone who runs a Koa plantation. Bob brought a bunch of Koa back and side tonewood sets home with him and was generous enough to give me one. I built the Koa guitar planning to offer it for sale at the Craftmen’s Fair but, playing its first notes, realized I had to keep it due to its having the best sound to come out of the shop yet. Several things differentiate it from previous guitars. First, obviously, the Koa back and sides. Second, the use of solid, bent willow linings, which are used in violins. Willow bends well and is very strong for its light weight, allowing the linings to be made thinner than standard kerfed ones, which increases the resonant area of the soundboard. Here’s a brief video:

Listen for when I play the low E in the C chord. The guitar is brand new and the tone will open up during the coming months, but already you can hear the richness, especially in the bass. If you visit, I’ll let you play it!

Shop Notes
The shop is very busy with commissions and students; I feel honored by the fine people who have chosen to learn lutherie with me or ask to have a guitar made. The next opening for a student will be mid to late spring, 2012. Likewise new commissions, which would be complete in early 2013. Fortunately my good friend Gordon Greenway has joined me as an apprentice. According to the Zen apprentice tradition, he must do menial tasks for several years whilst I periodically sneak up on him to test his state of mindful awareness. (Well, just kidding…sort of)

Hope you enjoyed this newsletter. Suggestions welcome. Expect to hear from me again in the winter. Don’t forget to practice!

Best regards,
© 2011, John Whiteside