News From The Nest ~ 2014
Updated on Fridays 

Ahhh, the end of another great week of life, woodcraft, and music.


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Birdsong Guitars
PO Box 1745
Wimberley, TX 78676
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Maggie the shop dog...

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Your bark of quality!

Sept. 26th

Birdsong Hy5 from 2012 in on consignment for sale - 5 string lined Ebony fretless in Cherry with a handmade Ebony bridge by request of the original owner. Sounds & plays amazing, wonderful condition. This is a 3K+ bass... looking for offers around 2K. HUGE sound, small bass! Call 512-395-5126 no texts please.


There is no average day; every one is different. That's probably part of how I've stuck with this so long. I go into a morning with a list of things I'd like to get done that day... a list of "nexts." Along the way to these dots, the journey takes over and a the shape of a day is formed. Here's what yesterday looked like...

After taking care of a pile
of non-building-related things during the first half of this week, it felt great to get into the shop. I have short stacks of instruments-to-be at various benches & stations... glue-up, ready to cut, ready to edge (getting the outside edge smooth & shaped), routing, drill & dress (we'll get to that today), and necks awaiting attention for their nexts. I try to touch on every station in a given week. Having music in one's heart first thing in the morning is a great thing, so after jotting down a progression of Jazz chords, on went Mississippi Fred McDowell and the lights and up went the bay door. Quoth Wayne and Garth, "Game on."



The list said "Drill G001 & 002"
with a right arrow. That's Scott shorthand for "All the way", meaning all the way into the next stage. In this case all the way until absolutely ready to hand off for sanding. So it's a "Drill & dress" - long-bit the pickup routs into the control cavity for the wires, do the under-bridge ground wire hole, bore the side jack hole, lay out the five neck screw holes in the pocket, go over to the big drill press where these get a pilot hole and then, flipped over, the neck screw eyelet receiving holes are countersunk into the heel. Then it gets any contours shaped out of the body (just the belly cut on a guitar), and back up on the bench where a once-over takes care of the first round of cosmetics and cleanup of the work and checking that everything that should've been done got done. 



Earlier in the week some routing was done
with the new router. After years of using one model of router that really worked for me (though it took a dozen or so to get to 2014), the last one kicked the bucket. So, time for another upgrade and learning curve. I've designed instruments in the past, going for a particular sound & response, and found that voice occasionally in a pickup that just happened to be cheap. It had something others didn't. A pickup is just an ingredient in a tone; every model of every brand is different, and if "This one" does it just right, if it's "The one", that trumps everything to me. It's no longer a cheap pickup - it became the RIGHT pickup! Same as if it were the most expensive one. It's a pickup. It sits there and does what it does - you like it or you don't. There are no moving parts. There's not much to fail. But fall in love with the feel and handling of a cheap power tool, if that becomes THE TOOL for the job, guess what - it's ALWAYS going to be utter crap and no matter how you work around it it will make more work for you. It's like an inherent flaw - an inherent flaw will continuously rise to bite you in the ass until it's fixed. So you either budget lots of time and brain power to re-engineer failed half-fixes and adaptations, or you just finally give in to the fact that you've become emotionally attached to a poorly engineered barely fixable device long ago disowned by its own maker - that just happened to work ok for you on the one task you do with it - and replace it with something that's not a piece of shit.



This time my hand was forced -
it was my last, resisted resurrection attempts, and this model was indeed discontinued oh, say, in 2008 - and so I sprung for a brand new Bosch of similar dimensions. It's built like a Mercedes. For about the first five minutes it was like playing guitar with someone else's hands... but I got used to it. Imagine being a city bike messenger and you're on a strange bike. Everything's in a bit different spot, that lever works backwards, and the whole thing moves and responds differently. But I'll tell you - it's about the best put together tool I've ever had in my hands. The precision of a well made firearm, just the power I need, and small enough for me to feel in control of. I get the feeling the next hundred instruments will be no problem for it; 2 down, 98 to go. I'm keeping track. So far, I'm impressed. I look at Bosch and my brain thinks "Borscht" - well, can't "beet" that! AHAHAHAHAHA  



Over in glue-up
I unclamped some things including a re-body of Cortobass #245 which, in mint condition, surfaced for sale... with the upper horn lopped off. I do get requests from time to time to do a more symmetrical design or one with a shorter horn. I get that to you it may be cosmetic. But to the bass, it's there for a reason... that upper strap button needs to be around the 12th fret space to balance the bass properly. Saving anyone from buying this as a proper Birdsong Cortobass when this little mod wasn't even disclosed in the ad, I bought it and it's back home to be fixed. It's fretted and a lefty (though if you're interested I could make it a righty with little effort as both sides of this Walnut & Maple blank are beautiful), and it could be a Cortobass single pickup or two, or a Corto2. I'm not pissed that someone wanted to experiment, heck I wouldn't be here if I hadn't executed far worse violations to far more instruments along the path. But the fact it wasn't disclosed? Shame on you. Don't foist your failed attempts onto my clients as my work. I already designed it; it already works. The new body is ready to cut out and proceed - if you're a lefty, this is a rare chance to pick up something from inventory! Get in touch, otherwise it'll be a week or two before I decided what it's going to be and rout it. 'Til then? You choose... it'll come with a warranty, shiny chrome, good as new, with case for about $1500-1600 or so. (Put C245 in the email subject).



Next up I had a couple of necks
needing to go into finishing after headstock drill, detail & sanding. So I grabbed my yellow-handled carving chisel and bits of sandpaper and got a documentary up to watch. It was a BBC production on the birth of Punk in about '76 - its origins in previous musics and the catalysts of it. It was pretty good. I'm a fan of music and the stories and players, so this interests me greatly though I'm not a huge punk fan at this point. The Pistols can't be denied and I do love the Ramones and occasionally the Angry Samoans are still a riot but it's been years since I needed a fix of, say, The Germs. I veered off into The Wipers and that side of things before I even remotely went Punk. I was a rock guy with frosted hair. It was the '80s. I did come within a bootlace of forming a punk band called Johnny Vomit & The Scumbags a loooooong time ago though, but that's a story best left untold. I went on the road with a Rockabilly band instead and that seeded my ending up eventually in Texas. If I'd have become Johnny Vomit, who knows. I might be an investment banker now. I could be in Vermont or Idaho. It would have been a whole different path and the daylight out of that tunnel would have been in a whole other place. Interesting to think about. But at 45 I'd look like an asshole with a safety pin through my nose; this I know. So somehow it all works out. 



Ok, once the headstocks
(both Birdsong, which if you look closely was modeled after The Alamo) were cleaned up and the necks given a once-over and finish oiled, I had an amazing squirrel encounter. Jezebel comes and nibbles on my building. I don't get it, but it's cool and it makes her happy. She doesn't eat much. This has gone on for months. I talk to her; we're cool. She knows I'm no threat. Well yesterday mid-day she brought her little one around while teaching it to jump through trees and such. And she brought it right to me, walking it right by me before crossing the driveway. The little one walked right through my legs. I wasn't totally still, I was there and she knew it. She looked right at me. I talked to her and the young one the whole time. What, the reader may ask, does one say to a squirrel? Well you keep the conversation light. They're just picking up tone and sensing your vibrations. It's not easy in this world of chaos & conflict to cultivate oneself until the animals don't run from you. Being mostly apart from the world, I'm still working on it. But I will tell you that my interactions with the others here are some of my favorite moments. "I love you" meant sincerely and spoken with reverence is always a good place to start with anyone, even if they're small and fuzzy.



Two basses, a Fusion and a Corto2,
became no longer necks and bodies, but BASSES. Basses just missing a few components... once the neck is mounted, it's a bass. I undercut the pockets and shave the neck to fit tightly, touch up the sanding & finish on the end of the neck, manhandle it in, drill through the pilot holes in the body's neck heel into the neck (those are the basic neck screw holes), then drill just through the body part of the hole with a bigger bit. This means the screw won't thread itself and drag through the body; it goes through that part of the hole freely and hits the neck full force with fresh threads, pulling that neck with no drag or interference back against the pocket as the screw is tightened against its countersunk eyelet. Then, once the appropriate screws are in (chrome, gold, black), in a fit of Uncle Johnny inspired "Do something extra whenever you can" -ism, on the way into assembly it goes on the bench for a round - tuning machines, string-through ferrules, copper lining the cavity... then it gets hung over the assembly bench already in progress.



That's some of what went on yesterday
here at the headquarters, out in the Junipers of the Texas Hill Country... elsewhere there are bodies being sanded, necks being roughed out, and other instruments-to-be in good hands making things happen. Glad to have you along with us! As always if you have any questions, call or email (no texts) and don't use the old 4400 number that may be in your paperwork (or still in cracks 'n crevices on this site) - our number is 512-395-5126. Call anytime, and I mean that. I'd love to talk basses & guitars with you!  



Last but not least, a little Birdsong factoid -
this week as a gesture of thanks for YEARS of cheering us on, supporting us in forums, and just being an all around good guy... Andrew got a surprise in the mail. I packed up old Richard The Test Bass and sent it to him. Andrew has no affiliation with us other than being a very happy client and someone we consider a friend. None of his opinions have ever been paid for and this is not payment for any future enthusiasm our way... because I don't think you COULD buy his opinion, which is probably why I like him so much. Richard was the in-house test bass used to develop variations on its Cortobass theme; different wiring, pickup setups, and other features, starting around late 2005. He served us well and now has a new chapter as a real bass, to go and sing and be played and feel what all those he helped become have gone out and felt. To make a difference beyond our little inner Birdsong world. Thank you, Andrew - and Godspeed, Richard. 

See you later alligator,

Scott Beckwith
Captain Of The Ship
Birdsong Guitars
Wimberley, Texas


Listening to: Nina Simone and Piano!; some live Dead from '73 and live Steely Dan from '74; The Steely Dan Story (Best of); Mississippi Fred McDowell You Got To Move and I Do Not Play No Rock And Roll.

Crickets & cicadas, et al.




Sept. 19th

Ahhhh the Fall is creeping in;
the mornings are cool, we've had a couple of cool days, we've gotten some rain... so good. It gets very hot and dry over a central / South Texas Summer and though I do like to sweat when I work, it does take it out of your endurance. In my world, assembly & office are air conditioned; the workshops are not. I'm ok with that, I like being in tune with nature and her seasons. I'm not a carrot in shipment; I'm a being here and there's only so much insulation I really want from where I really am.

It's been another very productive week,
though a chunk of time is still being devoted to getting used to the upgraded computer and playing catch-up on the updates on all of the web sites. To you it's Birdsong and your bass (or guitar). To us, it's Wingfeather - Birdsong is by far the biggest part, but there is a lot going on here off to the side as part of what we offer, are working on, and what I as Captain of the ship do from day to day.

In addition to keeping steady work going on the Birdsong builds
(I see them as daily lists of "next tasks" I work through until I hang the mostly completed instruments up in the rack by my final assembly bench - it's then I generally finish them off one by one), which is my first priority since Birdsong is the "Mothership", in here it's more of a Wingfeather family with other instruments and projects worked into the mix. It's not like Cortos & Fusions are all I do; those are just the hit songs and, obviously, they'll be the most visible on this particular site.

Some of the other stuff is guitar related
and their seeds pre-date Birdsong itself. My first instrument was the guitar, my first builds were guitars, and Birdsong's firsts were as well. There was a long chapter where I put these designs and their own evolution aside to build Birdsong up once our basses "hit." Also, a few of our helpers over the years wanted guitar lines of their own on the side, so while helping them get those going I just concentrated on Birdsong and The Little Basses That Could so as not to interfere.

So for many of you who don't know, here's a chance for you to meet the rest of the family.

Hy5
The Birdsong short scale 5-strings were spun off into their own brand a few years back so as to be a little less of a "niche corner of a niche company" and shine in their own light. Also, I've had thoughts that perhaps a bigger company or someone with bigger dreams than me could get these out into the market in a way a small company can't reach. It would do well enough - there's nothing like it. A 5 anyone can play would create a market of its own. I've been too busy to really push these, but there's usually an order or two in the works. The site will be getting worked over for 2015 and I'll push these a little harder soon... those who have never played one debate how it can be; the players & owners since 2007 know. They're small, a 5 is VERY comfy in a short scale, and these sound HUGE, even the B. Can't be? Ok. I'll just keep making it happen, you go talk about how it can't be done. :) www.hy5basses.com

In fact, I have one in for sale - one of the Birdsongs, a really nice special order in Cherry with a hand made Ebony bridge (not one of the very first run that were similar, this is the evolved design - he just wanted a custom bridge and I did it). Here's the bass in a size comparison with a Peavey TL-Five. Contact me for details: scott@birdsongguitars.com "Hy5 for sale" in subject. If it's still here next week I'll do a pictorial on it. Thanks!

SD Curlee 
There's always one or two of these 32" scale basses in process. This was a company from the 1970s who I thought were cool and eventually their instruments became a source of inspiration for me as a builder. There are aspects of my Cortobass (and therefore all of its variations that became the menu here at Birdsong) that can directly be traced back to the basic 1975 design of Randy Dritz (The "D" in SD). Long story short, I not only have the company but revived it in 2010-2011. I re-engineered out the issues inherent in any decades-old design as times & luthierie change around it, offered that and then took it one more step. Having honored SD Curlee's past, it's time to now take the best of all of it and come up with tomorrow's SD Curlee bass. So that's what I'm working on behind the curtain with SDC. We have a cult following scattered around the States and large pockets of interest in Europe. www.sdcurleeusa.com
 

Here's an SDC hangin' out with a couple of Birdsong Fusions.

Texas Lap Steels 
Here's one from left field - I make lap steels. Not as many as I'd like (especially this past year) but they're about the most fun one can have with strings under their fingers if one is so inclined. www.sbeckwith.com/lapsteels.htm

And of course The Shortbass. Last chapter was more growth and a bigger workshop in an industrial park in 2010, and while it all happened under one roof and we grew to fit it, I wasn't doing nearly as much of the parts of this all that I enjoy. So I started a side project - me in my favorite homestead workshop building the simplified essence of my design. No options, no frills, just balance and my favorite beautiful round tone; simplicity with a little retro funkiness. And I just had a page up on my personal site about them. Well, they took off. And I had so much fun that I rearranged the whole shebang to where I get to do what I love where I love with ALL of this and the rest gets done at the workshops of those who help it happen. I still build Shortbasses, the page is here.  www.sbeckwith.com/shortbass.htm They're not as equipped or detailed as a Birdsong, but - same neck, same hands, same shop, same little pickup. If you can't swing a Birdsong and dig what I'm going for with the Shortbass, check 'em out. Here's the latest coming together, I'm just waiting to go pick up a bridge in a box of hardware they shipped to my old shop. Quoth Woody Allen, "I give them specific instructions so they know what to violate."


D'AQUILA Guitars 
There were three things as a younger player with a dream to build I set out to do - make a great short scale bass, make a great short scale guitar (24" scale guitars suffer the same misconceptions, vintage design issues and lack of pro-player focus as short scale basses had), and - being into jazz guitar and specifically Lenny Breau who played one-off solid body guitars in a genre predominantly using semi and full hollow archtop guitars (that, though gorgeous, come with their own set of stage performance issues)... I wanted to design a basic single pickup solid body voiced for jazz. The basses? Well, you're here so that worked! The short guitars? That's next (below). And the jazz solid body has been prototyped here and there for probably a dozen years. Talk about a niche market! But hey, it's in me to create. So I do. After a few incarnations, these guitars - and D'AQUILA itself - have found their way, mixing natural workshop craft with Art Deco touches and special pickup recipes to get a big warm voice with incredible clarity but no harsh brightness. Blues, rock, heck I've even recorded fuzzy psychedelia with them though that's like drifting a Cadillac limo... it can be done but it's a callous and tasteless display... they excel at jazz or jazz-fusion or anywhere where clean sustain, consistency of notes, and resistance to feedback are important - along with a look and tone that is your own. www.daquilaguitars.com  


This is a Supreme coming together awaiting its decobird bridge plate and wiring/controls. Note the art deco logo and the genuine Imperial tuning machines...

Super24 Guitars
 Aaah, my baby. The 3rd guitar I ever designed & built in 1997 was a 24" scale and it was a revelation combining the "Mustang" scale without the factory-made, student-oriented, '60s design compromises they were still building into every one. It became my main guitar for the next 10 years. The Super24 is basically the "Birdsong" of the 24" scale guitars. Optimized, refocused, built to a very high level of performance... and comfy like you wouldn't believe. At 24" the frets just lay under the fingers. It's my favorite guitar scale length (most Fenders are 25-1/2", most PRS are 25", most Gibson and the Birdsong guitars are approx. 24-3/4"). This is everything I know about short scale thrown at a guitar.  www.sbeckwith.com/super24guitars.htm


Here's one testing out a vol-vol-tone arrangement, a cool twist (pardon the pun) on a 3-way switch. Retro - I wanted there to be a '56 Oldsmobile's worth of chrome and some Kluson-type tuners.

There are still dozens of designs
on the page or previous designs I want to "riff off of" - take in their own direction. I balance a little of this in as I work steady (and mostly) on the Birdsongs; keeps it fresh, keeps the creative juices flowing, and the results always feed their best in discoveries & techniques back into Birdsong. Revised ways of doing this or that task, new ways of working with the wood, creative solutions to challenges that may crop up. While Birdsong helps these much smaller beds seed and bloom, they in turn feed the whole Wingfeather garden as R&D situations... you'll see a lot of family similarity in all of this. Well, same hands, same workshops, same ideals if different goals.

It grew to this.
We're still small - a workshop with a couple of other workshops' help, not a factory - a deliberately contained garden me and a cast of characters have seeded & weeded for 18 years. It feeds us in some ways and you in others through the involvement with artistic creation and music that ultimately sustains those driven and/or called to sing their song, be it with notes and melody or with spokeshaves and wood. Find your song and sing it to the world. Thanks for being interested in ours!

Much love & gratitude from the Birdsong nest,

Scott Beckwith
Captain Of The Ship
Birdsong Guitars
Wimberley, Texas


Listening to: Alice In Chains Dirt; Mad Season Above; Nina Simone and Piano!; RL Burnside Too Bad Jim and Sound Machine Groove; The Definitive Blind Willie McTell, disc 2; Mario Lanza the Legendary Tenor; and on YouTube, a Dickey Betts & Great Southern live show from Germany in '78. Search "Rockpalast, long" on YouTube - you won't leave the house for a week. Lots of cool concerts! I keep this stuff going while I put instruments together.



Friday Sept. 12th

Well as you all are probably aware of,
I'm not one for the concept of perpetually updating & changing what works really really well, adding endless "features", choices, cosmetic options... I'm a "refine the recipe then leave it alone" kind of guy. So to say I'm in hell when I have to learn new versions of computer programs is an understatement. I suddenly feel like the poor and brave challenged of this world that struggle to tie their shoes. I'm serious; I'm blessed to live a life built around what I do well where struggling at basic daily tasks only happens in little spills where I scrape my knee on dealings with issues with companies on the phone or bump my head on the corner of some paperwork. I relate to instruments and I understand machines. Getting my head to interface with software is like teaching a lunatic how to heel & toe downshift... a precision maneuver outside the bounds of my focus and function. Thankfully it only happens once, oh, say, every seven or eight years. Unfortunately in computerland, that's like crawling out of a time capsule every seven or eight years. So bear with me as today's updates go up piece by piece so as I can test my new ways of functioning and leave the bits 'n chips versions of bread crumbs for myself as I find my way home after each stumble through the maze. I'll be OK - I have my Jefferson Airplane "After Bathing at Baxter's" album on the record player, and the soothing crackle in that vintage spinning platter of plastic is strangely comforting in this "Major Tom" like moment. It is my tether. Keep hitting refresh and I'll do the same... thanks for staying with us while the new computer was being built Birdsong-style for us; for me there was no other way.

That first paragraph worked - wheeee doggie Jethro, we're on our way.
Though kept as simple as possible, this new computer is a Corvette built of the best high-speed parts. Sound familiar? Like I'd do what I do and feed you this line of believing in the value of hand built and the quality of the craftsman and the worth of an independent expert doing what they're called to like mad scienti in their laboratories of workshops... and then just go buy some boxed factory piece of shiny blinking offality at Mal-Wart. Come on, you know me better than that. I am not a Sunday believer; I walk it, brethren. I don't just talk it, I LIVE it even when it's a little inconvenient or it costs a few extra sheckels. Old American steel in the driveway, owner-driven nails in the house, good wood in the basses and EVERYTHING is mostly hand crafted in all three. Believe it. We sell out what we stand for so quickly these days and then bitch & blame about the repercussions... not at this ranch, pardner. The fact that I drive a computer like my grandpa used to drive his Skylark, semi-oblivious and cheating death at every intersection... well nobody said it was going to be easy and it's the battles that keep us vital. Ok, on to how to get pictures from the camera into the computer, rework them, save them, and put them here successfully.  It's at this point - and only this point - that I wish I'd had children. Because I could be schooled in all of this by any eight year old. But those little bastards can't powershift worth a damn, so I guess all is fair. Again, check back. I'm doing this piecemeal. Is it wrong to need a beer at 9:12 in the morning? Good grief.

Allllrighythen... here is a test pictorial.
I think what makes me mental about computer stuff is that if I hit a button and it doesn't do what it did last time, or - God forbid - does something else, I don't know how to fix it. If an old Econoline misbehaves, I pretty much know it's a lever or a small mechanical part, it's low on something or something with a screw or bolt needs an adjustment. In a computer? That mouse hits a mine and the screen changes and you might as well have tripped the blinking "You're screwed now!" button on the dashboard of the space shuttle. "What'd you do THAT for?!" - "What'd you do THAT for?!" - "What'd you do THAT for?!" Great. All I wanted... see? Right here, I didn't hit anything and now we're bold. Anyhow - all I wanted to do was insert a picture and now we're all going to die in the black vacuum of space's vast mystery. Why is my mouse so sensitive? Maybe IT needs a beer. So the last of my favorite routers has died. Discontinued six years ago, I bought a case of 'em. I like what I like. And the last one gave up the ghost... in reality they're a bit small for what I do, but they were reasonably rebuildable with parts from the previously failed ones and they just felt great in my hands. But this time, this last one was fighting me going back together and I'm just done dealing with cheap complicated electronic crap that fails and needs fixing. So to finish up the two bodies I was routing (it did it again - I don't understand) ... I pulled out one of the old SD Curlee shop routers. This one is small, but all metal and boy it sounded like a jet spooling up when I hit that switch (that metal toggle switch). This thing has more horsepower than the slant six in my '62 Valiant. If I could adapt a five speed to it, I'd put it in my truck. Fired right up after sitting for 25 years or so. Music playing a big role in the experience, I took off the Alice In Chains and put something on that tool would relate to more - Born To Run.  On its way in is a Bosch. On its way out is whatever the f%*& is randomly switching bold on and off. And already gone are the basses in the rest of the pics. .... ok - van, routers, '62, flown Birdsongs... go!



By the way, I'm now onto Sugarloaf's "Spaceship Earth" - a fantastic early '70s album nobody knows about. Nothing like good music to fill the soul while you turn your brain to grape jelly having the kind of fun usually only found in clotheslining oneself on a low branch or slamming one's groin into a fire hydrant.

More shortly...

Boldly yours (evidently), ~Scott

Dear God, it worked! I can't believe it. And I wrote down what I did, so it might even be repeatable. You know what I feel like navigating a new version of an old program where all the icons are different and relocated and everything displays and hooks together differently? You know what it's like? Imagine you're a hemophiliac and the factory tour you're on... well, you had no idea they made razor blades too! Wow, and here you are in the testing room! My, how quickly things turn in this world, eh? How careful are you going to tiptoe through that horror show... well that's me putting the pictures up right now. I touch one thing I'm not supposed to and this will turn dire really quick... here are more pics, now I'll go work on the client page. I'm feeling slightly more confident now. Might be time for some Stephen Stills. A shot of over the bench at some point in the last week or so - a Fusion, the prototype Birdsong guitar going back together, a D'Aquila Supreme art deco electric jazz guitar, and a prototype 24" scale "Super24" electric that feels unbelievable in the hands. Those last two aren't Birdsongs, but remember it's all "Wingfeather" in here to me - there's a LOT going on! Second shot is of five Birdsong guitars in process. The third? It's what happens when you're the shop dog around here. I think she's pretty happy, though...

 

Ok, that's it. I'm spent. I think I have this figured out. Time to go edge some bodies and then get to work on some Facebook posts of these, put pics up on the current builds page, and update the other sites! Thanks again for your patience while the computer was down. Some folks think if I don't post I've just slipped off to sip cognac in Paris or something; like my whole world will come to a halt over some electrical device malfunctioning. Birdsong the company, the workshop, the build info, none of these have computers attached to their function. All this box does is help me show you what I'm up to and we can pass notes back and forth. That's it. One can only imagine what happens when the computer system at Carvin goes down. I think everyone but finish sanding and the guy with the broom goes home. A workshop is a bit different. Thanks and tune in next Friday for another adventure report from the world headquarters of Birdsong guitars & basses! Check that current builds page this evening or over the weekend for new pics and we'll catch you on the flip side.


Scott Beckwith
Captain Of The Ship
Birdsong Guitars
Wimberley, Texas





Testing new computer at computer builders shop right here, right now - test test - computer up and running, update coming, getting it all hooked up! Thanks for your patience, I have a learning curve to tackle. ~Scott, September 5th.


_______

August 8th

Music... 

Thirty two years and counting
down the path of music and I'd still take it over food if I had to make that choice. Thankfully I don't have to make such a choice, but at times having chosen the path of music to lead with has felt like such a choice had been made. I never veered. If my last meal was Miles Davis Kind of Blue or the Ramones' 1st album, Blues from the Delta or bhajans from Dwarka, so be it. Being as I live music in one form or another pretty much 24/7, it's something I don't think about any more than I think about my breathing. When it stops or skips, it does grab the attention... but the other day I realized, walking down the driveway to check the mail with a guitar strapped on just plunking away, not much is all that different. 

The truth? I am strapped to it
like some magic carpet (at times like a life raft - you are strapped to it, not the other way around), and the path chose me. Besides that, and the window dressing of how my involvement with music has formed in chapters - the various styles, tasks of the singer-songwriter vs. bassist-for-hire or music shop guy or instrument maker - the core, what we can't see, hasn't changed. These days it might be a Martin or a Birdsong instead of a BC Rich and the driveway might be a much longer rural caliche one as opposed to suburban black tar, and there might be a few more miles of bad road on my face, but I am still walking the path strapped to a guitar... if not in these literal moments, then inside - all the time - as I breathe. Same kid. Only the props & scenery have changed. 

Perhaps perspective too -
I now see this all as serving some sort of harmonious greater vibration than seeing that old guitar as my Excalibur sword to conquer worlds with. My whole world changed around that paradigm shift. Music still gets me off the same as when it was all new ground, new flavors, and a new day. The second half of life doesn't necessarily hold as much discovery in every moment, but its flavor is deep and layered rich with the seasoning only miles down the road and a billion or so heartbeats can leave in their wake. All of importance to my life now has been brought to me - or me to it - by music, by this path. I am made of it. 

When I do steer myself into uncharted waters for whatever reason, music is there - as both vessel and water, as both fuel and food; fuel for the process and food for the soul. Even in the moderately predictable day-to-day, music in some way - soundtrack, inspiration, the tools thereof or the tools that craft those tools - is all of these things to me. As food, I like a varied plate. I'm not a same breakfast for 30 years kind of guy. I have my favorites that stood the test of time or keep cycling back into orbit over the years, and in music there still are discoveries to be made every day. But much like life, music is a buffet. I'm fed by everything from backwoods Gospel to Black Sabbath, Coltrane to Asian restaurant music, Blue Cheer to that old Paul Simon solo acoustic demo bootleg on green vinyl. From Running On Empty to Son House to It Takes a Nation Of Millions To Hold Us Back to Luciano Pavarotti. The Allman Bros. to singing Tibetan bowls and birdsong.

In my mind (and you can call me crazy, but I do work within these realms every day much, much deeper than many of you) the vibrations of a music are sanded into the wood and screwed in with the hardware. Like the first coat of oil finish hand rubbed onto - and into - an instrument, my vibrations are carried into it by the tunes in the air; and my vibrations are tuned and amplified in the moment by the music. It has less to do with type and kind and category than essence and movement and ripple. Look up tests done on food prepared with good intent; loved water crystals; plants sung to. Dismiss it all as some bogus hocus-pocus but you are no more of a grain of sand on this shoreline than I, my friend... and that is a big, big ocean. As for me, I prepare what I serve as sacrament, honor all I touch as infused with something greater, and am indeed a seed sung to and awakened into this ceremony of life with its tapestry of soundtracks.

People ask me what kind of music I like. I don't know how to even begin to answer this; it's as though they've asked me what my favorite limb is or which molecular sub-cluster I prefer... it's like asking what part of the infinite I would like to see. Why, I would become one with all of it! It's easier for me to just say "Anything but female Opera singers, gangsta rap and Miley Cyrus." From field recordings of African drum circles to Rage Against The Machine to Kraftwerk though, come and take me Universe; I'm yours. Paraphrasing George Thorogood, lemme grab my John Lee Hooker record collection and down the road I go. Life is my church, the workshop is my temple and this that we speak about - whether it reforms as paragraphs, in verses and choruses, or into wood and wire - these are my prayers, my humble offerings outward. I hope I serve you well. I hope you are inspired. It is good to be alive.

Next week we'll talk about a few of my favorite basses & guitars... outside of Birdsong. Talismans, they are. You might be surprised. You might be surprised at how you look at your old tools afterwards too. 

On behalf of the hands of Birdsong, thanks for being with us!

Scott Beckwith
Captain Of The Ship
Birdsong Guitars
Wimberley, Texas


Listening to: Grateful Dead Dick's Picks #3, disc 2; Martin Scorsese's Blues documentary soundtrack. 




August 1st

Shots from the workshop:
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View from the bench ~ I can't tell you how happy this makes me; cut bodies await the smoothing of the edges, then they'll wait for routing; routed & rounded-over bodies await drilling & cross-drilling, then body contours... they're on their way into sanding; Summer rain is not common 'round these parts ~ this was from yesterday, thunder and everything. Came over, did its thing, and passed...

Thoughts from the workshop:
As servant to what happens between the player and the played, I hope to contribute to those moment where it blurs. I've felt it, it's the only time I can really get out of my head, turn off the movie... meditation for me is an act of discipline; the brain never quiets. But music? I go. It takes me. At best, it plays me.

Here in the shop I too am part player and part played. In my own sacred space I serve this process of turning inspiration into tools. Skills and knowledge and all things human come into play... but at their best they work in harmony with something else, something transcendent, something greater that kicks in when the harmony is really happening. 

For me, it's the only part of this experience higher than hearing about Birdsongs in the hands of you all out making people feel connected through your music... to be a part of that is humbling. Speaking for the wood (if I may), perhaps the only part of its experience greater than being a tree is to transform into a tool of connection, a servant of greater inspiration. 

Devotion and drive get you into the realm of possibility. Intention brings you to the bank of the river. But magic doesn't happen by any one of these - it happens by getting out of the way and into the flow. Then you become a tool for it - and a human with spirit is a GREAT tool. Aimed properly and focused, the unforceable happens.

Thanks for checking in ~ next week we're going to talk about music!

Much love & gratitude from the Birdsong nest,


Scott Beckwith
Captain Of The Ship
Birdsong Guitars
Wimberley, Texas


Listening to: Jackson Browne Late For The Sky; Jaghit Singh; Alice In Chains Dirt; Grateful Dead Dick's Picks #3, disc 2; Singerman Blood and Fire Allstars (Dub Reggae Compilation); Pearl Jam Five and Live; Shangai Joe Reggae demo; Soundtrack to Oh Brother Where Art Thou; Black Sabbath Vol. 4.




July 25th

Attention all Birdsong family and potential clients -
there is a guy in Florida about to get his nuts chopped off by his wife if he goes through with with the bass he signed on for me to build him. What I'm going to do to help him out is to offer up "his spot"... he ordered a Fusion but this spot can turn into whatever YOU want. I'll take care of all of that numbering & paperwork stuff. What you get by helping to save this poor man's family jewels is 10% off and a jump start on your build. Let's call it the "Saving Ryan's Privates" special. Order this special and cover what his first half amount was (which I'll just pass back to "Ryan") and your total will reflect 10% off of whatever it is you order. He's a good man,  he's a paisan, and if you're almost ready to do the deal and join the family (or come back for another)... and you can close the deal on your end... you'll be getting a great deal and you'll be helping another man's applebag stay in his pants for at least the time being. Or at least one of them. And this will make a vas deferens in his quality of life! (Thank you, thank you very much). Don't leave a brother on his knees sacrificing walnuts to Testiclese (the Greek God of Balls)... step in and make a difference.

It's fun to have friends all over the world - being a guy who has colored outside the lines a bit and has let life color me outside of "my" lines, there are bits 'n pieces of goodness from all over, places I've never been and probably will never see, that have have woven their way into my life's tapestry in many different ways. Musically, culturally, spiritually... and then we get to HP Sauce. Very difficult to find here in central Texas, HP Sauce is a bottled brown condiment from across the pond that happens to be delicious, amazingly versatile and as rock 'n roll as it gets; Keith Richards toted cases of this stuff on tours and, being the magical concoction it is, God knows what it substituted for in momentary attempts to keep all the chemicals balanced. It's that good. Heck, it might just be THE thing that has kept him going all these years. So imagine my delight when, after conversing with a client from the UK and mentioning it, a gray package turns up in the PO box with four bottles of the stuff inside! Thomas, you are my hero. I can't thank you enough... so I'll just build you a great bass! This stuff on pizza... I see this happening again very soon.
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Here are a couple of cool basses
leaving the nest shortly - a rustic Texas Pecan & Rosewood rear routed Fusion, and the 10th Anniversary Corto2 of Mahogany with Texas Chinaberry headstock & Turquoise inlay.
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Guitars!
Got a jump on them, worked them in with the bass orders and various stages. For those who missed the news earlier this month, there's a little gold link under The Birdsong Basses that says The Birdsong Guitar. VIDEO DEMO is right here, and you can check out the rest coming together on the current builds page - that page got a bunch of pictures; it's been another very fun, very productive week.

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Here is the neck of the prototype. The life of a prototype is not easy. It goes together, it comes apart. Pickups are swapped, new holes are drilled for alternative parts or alignment adjustments. And once it is together in a most harmonious way, with those extra holes covered and it singing and working as a whole, the whole thing is again taken apart to make templates from it for shapes, routing, and drilling so all that follow go together at least as well as this one in its finalized version. In a perfect world, these pre-builds go back together again and live out happy lives as creative tools in appreciative hands... not always the case. I have boxes of prototype parts that used to be firsts. This one? I'm going to make sure it realigns and sings in my hands as soon as possible; I hope that's good enough for it. It's certainly good enough for me!

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All goodness to you - from my workshop of life to yours.

Scott Beckwith
Captain Of The Ship
Birdsong Guitars
Wimberley, Texas


Listening to: Eric Clapton's Rainbow Concert; anything John Lee Hooker; Alice In Chains Dirt; Grateful Dead Dick's Picks #3, disc 2.




July 18th

With the July 4th weekend 10th Anniversary shindig a rousing success and a round of builds to get to before we can even think about starting on those, it was time for a wood shopping trip. Tune in now as our intrepid reporter sets out on the mission.

woodhaul1.jpg (133884 bytes) Ahhh, setting out in an old truck on the beautiful 2-lanes of the Texas "Hill Country" in search of wood for Birdsongs. I have a list of general wood planks (General Woodplanks? You remembeh him from the academy...) to get and some specifics for certain builds with certain grain patterns or special features to be looking for. My trusty steed is Joe the Truck, '74 Dodge. Everything a great 40-year-old machine should be: strong, simple, reliable, steadfast, and the right tool for the job.
woodhaul1c.jpg (132376 bytes) Closer into town on the four lanes, we begin to see the Distractoids & Oblivians. Sure I took my eyes off the road for almost a second to take this shot, but the girl texting in the Bimmer was looking UP for almost a second at a time. Like most (and like most drunk drivers) they're not doing as well as they think they are, even if nothing happened... this time. Just parked in the left lane, speeding up & slowing down. This is why I drive a '74 Dodge.  
woodhaul2.jpg (142641 bytes) After a major shakeup in the "Scott's Favorite Eateries" department last month (2 of my favorite pizza places - completely unrelated - seized for back taxes and the last real funky little small town restaurant over by the marina in Canyon Lake ousted by investors that bought the strip of property), it felt so good to be looking forward to breakfast at Star Seeds Cafe in Austin. Small & funky as ever. Just a universe unto itself with its own gravitational pull. I just love this place - it represents the eclectic nature of Austin. Tunes playing, oddball collection of people, great food, breakfast all day, open 24 hours. I'm pulling in the driveway and I catch a whiff... no, can't be. No way.
woodhaul2b.jpg (181526 bytes) Way. The biggest liquid waste truck I've ever seen, parked blocking the side street, with a huge green hose going in through one of the windows. We pull in the driveway, and we pull out of the driveway. Said a friend, "It was really the only call you could make." It was offal. (Thank you, thank you very much.)
woodhaul3.jpg (207212 bytes) With my taste for breakfast pretty well keiboshed, I continued into far north Austin to my favorite lumber supply house. After telling a rather prickish young salesman to get lost and get Paul, one of my main wood connections again came through with the same great service, laughs and solid deals I've been getting since before what turned out to be the owners son was still whacking it to his Avril Lavigne posters. This is where we get a lot of the Maple, Walnut & Mahogany that becomes Birdsongs. Birdsong has always stayed small enough that I go select the wood by the individual plank - it doesn't just show up on a pallet. Not that my way's better necessarily, but I like it better and I like the results of it better. 
woodhaul4.jpg (211839 bytes) With 9 or 10 planks nestled into the bed, we hit the road and stopped at another favorite place that, from the highway, looks like some oddball ethnic convenience store... but you walk in and Ali Farka Toure is on the stereo and there's a great menu of outstanding Indian food and a bar with about oh, say, 300 craft beers. Un-freaking-believable. Given my recent history with eating establishments, I was a bit nervous walking in. But the Chana Dal (yellow lentils, sweet potato & red pepper on rice), side of spicy collards & Breckenridge Nitro Vanilla Porter were all savored without incident. 
woodhaul4b.jpg (196564 bytes) It doesn't look like all that much, but that's 'cause it's in Joe the Truck. It's plenty. It would look like more in the little '83 Econoline shorty I usually take or (for sure) cut to fit in a trunk. I think this was Joe's first wood shopping trip in a couple of years - the first with his current engine, which was being built for a Road Runner when his let go. Joe being Joe and higher on the pecking order than any of my other cars, in it went. .060 over, 4-barrel, aluminum intake, 9:1, big cam, headers... a strange brew of sensations from the cab, some bizarre mix of dump truck and stock car. Like someone bred a Rottweiler with a Greyhound. He sounds like a '70s car chase. Felt good to be doing this first post-10th Anniversary wood trek in Joe, as he helped build life over the past 14 years into what it is now in every way. More on him in a bit...
woodhaul5.jpg (145283 bytes) It's official, Austin is a C.F. At least half of these people had their eyes on little screens and just tap tap tapping away or reading, slowing the already gummed-up works into a snail's pace of barely avoided mishaps and baiting the weavers who think that six feet of road in front of you is worth risking life and limb for. I don't get out into the big city much anymore; years ago I gigged up here all the time. Now if I go to Austin one time a month it's really something... still the greatest city if I HAD to live in one. I'd just live IN it though, because getting in and out of it and around in it is just nuttier than squirrel dookie.
woodhaul6.jpg (231825 bytes) Continuing down the interstate a ways I visited the old San Marcos shop, now home base for the basses of Muckelroy Basses... and here's a brace of them, by Brady! A brace of Brady's basses from the base of Muckelroy Basses. (What is this, Dr. Seuss?!) Brady got his thing together in the corner of the Birdsong shop, just as a woodworker a bit down the path named Johnny let me get my building thing going in his years back. It's a great thing to see such a good man and superb musician as Brady become such a world class craftsman and have so much good stuff going on. He has helped out (and still does) Birdsong and some of our other luthiery endeavors. Pick up one of his, too: www.bradybass.com 
woodhaul6b.jpg (204064 bytes) He's got a couple of big tools of mine we only need once every couple of weeks, so I pop in and also pick up & drop off his Birdsong work. I'm the face and the words and I get plenty of sawdust on me but without the great helping hands over the years this whole Birdsong journey wouldn't be what it is & what we are. While there I cut out two Spanish Cedar and one wild Pecan Cortos, a Koa D'AQUILA guitar, two half sets of Mahogany for some Birdsong guitars, and made some thin flats for headstock veneers. 
woodhaul7.jpg (191230 bytes) Joe being the beast he is, it was inevitable we'd need some juice at some point. So I pull into the gas station and it looks like yet another Distractoid got here first. Hope that text was worth it; you could've blown the whole block into the next county, you big ol' doof. It's the Leaning Tower of Petrolia. If this were of the caliber to be newsworthy I wouldn't be able to resist spraying the story with related puns - I'm sure they'd be pumping folks for details on what they saw, fueling speculation it was some octanegenarian... but it was a regular, who gushed "Isle never do that again!" I'd have a blast. Tanks a lot! 
woodhaul8.jpg (145028 bytes) Headed back into the hills to the workshop, the core of my world, the nest of your Birdsong. After creeping for quite a ways at 40-45 miles an hour, this guy finally continues one particulary good starboard weave and pulls aside to let the rest of the known universe by. Not sure if it was deliberate, but I waved anyway. Of course in rural areas a wave can mean many things from "Thank you" to "We both know you're an @$$&%?#." Either way, we seized the chance and blew by him like he'd powershifted reverse. I don't want to be behind this... I don't want to be anywhere near this. This was a HUGE leather couch - hundreds of pounds up there. How do you not know anyone in central Texas with a pickup truck? 

Good God; it's a field day out here. 
.
woodhaul9.jpg (171465 bytes) Back up safely at the magic workshop, here's most of the haul. Varying shades of Walnut, planks of gorgeous dense Mahogany (no lightweight stuff - we'll use Spanish Cedar for those requests, it looks very similar, works & sounds about the same, but is consistently lightweight), Maple, Hickory, and a couple of Mesquite planks. I picked up some Poplar to prototype something with and some other odds & ends... plus the cutoffs from the long planks. Dense Mahogany brings an interesting combination of dense-wood clarity & depth in with the glorious Mahogany midrange "warmth" - still there in even the most dense of Mahoganies in my experience. A Cortobass out of this wood will still only be in the mid to high 8 pound range complete. It's beautiful too - I bought three planks of it.  
joeatwork03.jpg (78642 bytes) For those new to the family after the big July 4th weekend sale, a quick bit about Joe. Joe is a '74 Dodge D100 - he was the first tool I bought when it was time to settle a piece of rough land fourteen years ago and he'll be the last tool I work when I'm old and in suspenders, gathering with the geezers at the gas station a ways down the path from now. He worked his but off for me, us, the homestead, the company and a whole circle of friends (here's a shot from 2003) and has been an inspiration to me personally in my attempt to be strong, simple, reliable, steadfast, and the right tool for the job. I still work at it; Joe's got it down. There's a little bit of Joe built into in every Birdsong.

Big update on the client/current builds page, it's been a busy week! Thanks for checking in!

Wherever you're standing, there you are!

Scott Beckwith
Captain Of The Ship
Birdsong Guitars
Wimberley, Texas



Listening to: Bob Dylan Slow Train Coming; Robert Plant The Principle of Moments; Jerry Cantrell Boggy Depot; Chris Cornell Euphoria Morning; David Bowie The Man Who Sold The World; The Allman Bros. The Road Goes On Forever (disc 1); Eric Clapton's Rainbow Concert. 




Tuesday, July 8th

(Snuck one in early...)

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Ok, back to normal! The 10th anniversary weekend was amazing; hello to all who joined the family, came back into the fold, and stepped up for another of our little manifestations of devotion & gratitude carefully disguised as wood & wire.

With the first couple of days of this week spent getting four basses shipped and taking care of things shoved aside in the buildup and the weekend and the launch of the new Birdsong guitar, I'll be back onto the many projects at hand - with the music playing, the breeze breezing through the workshop, the sun shining and the smell of worked wood in the air.  

I'll be getting the client build pics updated as they are taken and hopefully later this week will be going on some wood shopping odysseys - this is why I'm doing this week's update a bit early, because by Thursday & Friday I want to be getting my lists of work done early in the day in the workshop and then roaming the roads and highways to my favorite sources in search of the planks and pieces I'll need to build more.

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To do this, I have to get Joe The Truck ready. He's been sitting patiently with building scraps from some workshop expansion in the bed and I need to top off all his fluids and do a dump run later this morning. It excites me to think of the hours in the workshop this week as the first of some kind, them being the first of the NEXT ten years. And there's no vehicle I'd rather take this "first" wood shopping trip in than my faithful old companion that helped build and grow Birdsong in his own ways of service (not to mention the homestead, others' homesteads, various shops, etc.), my '74 Dodge. He's hauled a lot of wood!

Now I've got to haul butt out of here & get a few things done. All the best to your world from ours! Regular Friday updates will start again next week, and I'll have a full wood shopping report for you. Thanks again so much for being with us! 

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That's awl for now!

Scott Beckwith
Captain Of The Ship
Birdsong Guitars
Wimberley, Texas

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