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David Lamkins picked up his first guitar a long time ago. As best he can recall the year was 1967: the year of the Summer of Love. Four decades later David has conjured up an amalgam of folk, rock and jazz solo guitar music for the occasional intimate Portland audience.
LCW on Bandcamp
location: Portland, OR USA

Facets: construction, guitars, preferences, @musings info

So you want a custom guitar?

I didn't start by wanting a custom guitar. I bought and sold a lot of guitars. Every one was different in some way: body style and size, scale length, pickups, vibrato, fret size, neck shape, fretboard radius, woods, construction, ... lots of variations. I played them all; gigged them all. Along the way, I made note of the details that I liked and didn't like. I used that knowledge to guide my next purchase. Over time, that led to one guitar which was almost perfect for me.

I played that guitar almost exclusively for three years while trying to find one that was even closer to what I really wanted. I looked into the custom shops of the name-brand builders and either couldn't get what I wanted (limited by a very narrow set of parameters that they were willing to customize) or found the cost prohibitive.

Eventually my search led me to the smaller builders, and I corresponded with several who seemed capable of building the guitar I wanted. It turned out that the luthier having the greatest breadth and depth of experience in building full-custom instruments (as opposed to simply customizing the details of a few stock designs) was within walking distance of my house.

I arrived at our first meeting with some carefully thought-out requirements as a starting point. We hashed out some additional details over a few sessions, two of which involved reviewing and critiquing a full-scale plan drawing of the guitar. No detail was left to chance, so I knew exactly what I was getting. And every detail was executed exactly the way I wanted - no compromises. The luthier's experience was very important in designing the internal construction of the instrument to make it respond the way I wanted; that's something that you simply can't do by selecting from a checklist of options.

Once all the details were finalized, I signed off on the design. Then I waited... for a long time. There's an amazing amount of work that goes into building a full-custom guitar. The builder is not only creating a guitar, but also the tooling and jigs that are a necessary part of the construction process. Every bit of this guitar was handmade - no CNC. I got status reports every now and then, which was a thoughtful touch. I always responded by saying "Thank you, and take as long as you need." You can't rush perfection.

The end result: I got a guitar that was exactly what I wanted: a highly-refined version of my favorite "off the rack" guitar that I had been already been playing for years.


I have no idea what the resale value would be on this guitar, and I don't care. In the long run, I'll save a lot of money by not trying to find a guitar that's better for me.

December 07 2004 05:54:12 GMT