The Birdsong Basses
The Birdsong Guitar
THIS WEEK'S NEWS
Client & Current Builds
Available in Inventory
HOW TO ORDER
Frequently Asked Questions
Media & Video Demos
PO Box 1745
Wimberley, TX 78676
us on Facebook
Maggie the shop dog...
Your bark of quality!
December 12th, 2014
Ahhh, workshop days...
Some days it's Grateful Dead sun shiny carvy detail work, other tasks
need more fuel like the MC5 kickin' out the jams. But it all gets done... or as much of it as
possible for a given time, given how we do it. There have been beautiful
basses & guitars coming together and going out this past year, and
knowing December is a short month for us, somewhere about three months
ago I started doubling up on this and ordering extra that and fitting in
this other to be as efficient as possible and get as many as practical
finished by today. Here are some that have flown the nest in the past
few days or are preparing to Monday...
As usual there were a few slipping out early and a handful that will
wait. We are grateful for your patience with the que & the
process, especially this time of year when we run into the Birdsong
Holiday break. The last work & shipping day for us is Monday Dec. 15th,
and we will again have files filing and routers routing and twelve
clamps a-gluing sometime during the same week in January on the other
side of that big ol' 15.
2015. Can you believe it? I'll believe it when it's here...
right now there's still way too much to do. And it's not as if the
morning of the 16th I get on a jet to go lounge on a hammock in the
Bahamas. There are lots of things, some paperwork & computer-related,
some shop function-related, that get "blown off" a bit during the year
and that will take some of the time. So call as usual with questions or
orders or anything you need from me. Birdsong is not an "Open" or
"Closed" store-like thing... if I'm breathing, I'm probably "Open."
There are just a couple of times a year I'm doing different things than
covering myself in the wood chips of your instruments-to-be. I'll be
around; I'll still be answering emails too... but the Facebook posts
(find Birdsong Guitars & friend us!) and this site will be quiet until
about this time next month.
I think it's important to have times one steps away from what
they do - especially when it is so deep and close to who they are. For
me, it's only when I'm out of familiar schedules & context that I can
have perspective on things a Captain of any ship needs to think about.
Designs and ideas happen constantly but in the moment as it all spins
it's difficult to go deep with any of them and pull back to see the big
picture. I'm the team coach but I'm also the quarterback and sometimes
things are clearer from the sidelines.
What can you expect from Birdsong in the new year? Oh, fun stuff.
Your instrument if you're waiting! That's one right there. But
there will probably be the usual prunings & plantings every healthy
garden has, something new over there by the fence, a tasty variation of
another showing up with the blooms of spring. In gardens we work as if
it's up to us but ultimately must wait to see what the seed brings. New
beginnings are what it's all about; isn't every day one? Every day I
wake up I feel born again... it never ceases to amaze me when I open my
eyes in the pre-dawn and have the chance to make it through doing what I
do. Every day is a ceremony and it starts that way and by dusk I'm still
like the kid out playing long after the ice cream truck is gone and it's
time to go in. "Oh allright..."
As of today there are still goodies in the INVENTORY for those
who want to give themselves (or that special bass player you'd love to
have owing you favors for the next year) the gift of a cool new tool of
creation. Here you go:
Fretless tri-tone Cortobass, black hardware, $2100 w/case - SPECIAL SALE
THIS WEEKEND ONLY - I'll ship it Monday with the last few going out this
year and it's 20% OFF! That's
SHIPPING for you who were busy drawing band logos on
your book covers in math class. If that's not a deal and a half, I'll
come kiss your Grandma on the mouth!
And a beautiful pre-owned 2012 lined fretless Cherry, Maple & Ebony Hy5
5-string for $1995... FREE SHIPPING this weekend only! This one is in on
consignment from the original owner and is MINT. If it was a drug I'd
sell it by the gram.
Needless to say there are also beautiful basses & guitars in
various stages of completion waiting for the shop to gear back up after
the Holiday break for clients and for inventory. And I say Holiday not
to be PC, but to be practical - the season includes in with its
religious & spiritual celebrations the New Year, and a bit of time off -
a "Holiday", if you will. So since I'm wishing a whole world my best
from my little slice of life, and a true wishing is about you not
me, I wish YOU Merry Christmas, AND Happy Hanukah, AND all others of the
season, AND the general catch-all of goodwill... Happy Holidays. Heck,
I'm not going to complain WHAT anyone wishes me - with peoples'
attitudes these days you're lucky not to be getting told to go screw
yourself for asking for the wrong kind of salt. So be happy... it's been
a good year and next year shows definite promise. Thank you all so much.
On behalf of all the hands that help a Birdsong to become, our
deep gratitude & sincere tidings to you and your circle from us all. Be
good to each other and stay tuned... thank you for flying Birdsong,
please remain fastened securely in your seats until the room comes to a
complete halt. More fun to come, brothers and sisters, more fun to
come... for now though, it's break time. To paraphrase, I believe it was
the immortal Tyner who said "Kick out the jams, mon frer!" -
something like that. Be well & we'll be back shortly (pun intended).
A quiet little man keeping time with the universe,
Captain Of The Ship
Snuck this one in on Wednesday so I could wish you all a blessed
LOTS of updated pictures on the client builds page!
Here is a pictorial of 14C-313 that flew the nest for authorized
~ it will be available on their site. Tell them you heard about it here!
Have to give this Cortobass one more showing off before we move on... I
knew it was a local wood but when I started on it the type was a mystery
to me; turned out to be Pecan once I worked it and it started looking
familiar. It had been years since I made a completely Pecan body for a
Birdsong. This "Western" themed build includes an inlaid buffalo nickel,
woodburned fence-type barbed wire, and of course that beautiful rustic
wood. This is the kind of wood you wish could tell you its story; it
can't, but now it can sing...
Staying VERY busy in the workshop, will get as much done as I can
before December 15th, which is our last scheduled shipping day of 2014
as well as our last day before Holiday break. Christmas, New Years,
these are times to gather and - in my case - personally regroup every
year. Think about model changes, get my self and thoughts together for
the next year. Go through the tools, clean up the website behind the
scenes. Breathe, relax, focus, re-center to continue to bring my highest
to my work. We'll be back on it mid to late January to finish up what we
can't in December. I want to express my gratitude to all of you, from
the casual looker to the collector of our work, for your interest and
But we'll speak again before the break - next NEWS page update will be
in a couple of weeks - again I'll be skipping next week's update to
devote this time to building & finishing instruments. I WILL be updating
the client page throughout this time... thanks again!
Your sensei of short scales,
Captain Of The Ship
Listening to: Bad Company Bad Co.; Jerry Jeff Walker Viva
Terlingua; disc 1 of a Foreigner greatest hits. And
A cold front came through that has kept us down in the 40s, but it
looks like by the middle of next week we're back up in the 60s & 70s
again. So I'll be skipping this news page update next Friday, as I'll be
a routin', cuttin', gluin' up fool I tell you.
So I've been settled in the assembly shop with a space heater, a
stack of old albums, and the occasional mug of spiced apple cider and
there have been some basses & guitars coming together! It's a fun thing
to shave the neck to fit the pocket, touch that up and squeak it in
there, then take it from copper lining the control cavity all the way to
where the next step will be to nut & string it. That's a good stopping
point. By then all the hardware's on, the pickups are in, it's wired,
and once the strings go on then it's just a setup & cover plates away
from going home. So being Mr. Efficient, I load myself up with enough
for a day of that end of things. Here are some pics of what has come
together this past week:
And here are some of what's next, this afternoon & over the weekend:
So I'm working away, doing what I do, hoping it's bringing something
good to you. In the background is playing one of my favorite
I'll probably listen to some of my own half-finished studio stuff (like
many of your basses that'll get finished up after the new year too) and
some more old acoustic blues, and go on through the weekend. So if you
have any questions or want to talk about getting a build in the que for
2015, it's a good time to call.
Also go to Facebook and find Birdsong Guitars, like & friend us! We
do regular little updates on there. What looks like "Nothing much to
say, must not be much happening" on here from out there is really
"Too busy doin' to talk about it!" I'll still update the pics on the
client & current builds page as I can but I'm "Balls to the wall" as
they say for the next couple of weeks.
Be well & stay inspired!
Your taskmaster of tone,
Captain Of The Ship
Listening to: Jefferson Airplane After Bathing at Baxter's;
George Thorogood (1st album); Mississippi Fred McDowell I Do
Not Play No Rock And Roll; Richard Betts Highway Call; Wings
Band On The Run.
Home stretch, folks! To you it's not even anywhere near
Thanksgiving... to me? I'm staring down both barrels of December. This
is the time of year where some of the late '14 builds become early '15
and some of what I thought would be early '15s make it out before the
Holidays. As each build is different and each build also changes
hardware stock and wood supply, and as we (or at least those of us whose
lives operate on a 4 to 5 month lead time) look towards that fast
approaching light we know as the Christmas / Chanukah / New Years (and -
respectfully - other celebrations) season, I take stock internally, externally,
check with the hands that help me on their stacks & the sources who
supply us, and realistically assess what is going out
this year in November & December and what I'll pick up on in January. I
generally have extremely patient clients and heck, even those of you
that might - in other areas of life - not exactly win any flexibility
merit badges, even you all get that it's not linear in here and there's
a flow and you give me some breathing room around my rough time
guesstimate to do what I need to do to get yours across the benches.
That is the greatest blessing - I appreciate the naturally easy going,
roll with it types but to know you other sorts can sit back (ok, maybe
with just one cheek on the chair) and trust me as well... I know how
hard that is for you. Just trust in the process; reputation has it that it'll be worth it,
and I'll make sure of that. For the next couple of weeks, please check
your builds on the client page to see if the 14s have turned to 15s or
vice versa. Call me any time day or night with any concerns over any
adjustments - I mean that. And I appreciate you all, of all personality
types, being in my line for my stuff. Your vote for ME and Birdsong is
greatly respected! And I'll actually live up to my promises or fall on
my sword trying. I'm not usually that far off but the
Holidays are a big ol' speed bump we hit every year.
About now I take big pieces of paper and make a huge list of the
goal instruments and their lists of tasks - this big list has been known
in years past to make the guys in the shop experience shortness of
breath and a momentary vocal stammer... but if you're setting out to
take Vienna, take it! You start early and have all the maps & plans you need or
you're not working WITH yourself. Believe me - the weather, the time,
the human condition and other people's situations therein will all
appear at any given time to throw monkey wrenches into any courageous
long shot attempt. YOU have to behave at all times - and plan and react in
any endeavor - as if you're ON YOUR OWN TEAM. Don't work against yourself
- leave that to the world. You get up early, work late, stay focused,
and just do what's next. That list, that march, that game, that dream -
a lot of it will take care of itself if you take care of where YOUR ass
is on the field and what it's doing there. Put on the right music, take
a deep breath, and lean into it. This pep talk and nutsac cinching up
courtesy of your brother Scott who has learned over the past decade a
little about ti... tiMING - TIming, that's it - timing. Timing and
groove and rockin' with the rhythm. And a whole lot about cinching the
Last scheduled ship-out date is Monday December 15th. After that,
we do a bunch of extra steps on the next wave, and in amongst the
Holidays do a bunch of behind-the-scenes cleanup & maintenance on everything from the site to the shops & tools. We do a
metric crap ton of end of the year paperwork, take a little down time,
run down lists of stuff I blew off during the high-gear months.
Actual building gets rolling again mid-January and that's
when you'll see the first updates of the new year on the client page and
this one. I do take orders all the way through the Holidays, and answer the phone,
and call you back... in fact it's a GREAT time to get a hold of me since
I'm not "lost" in what I'm doing in the workshop.
I roll with it in here too - it's chilly today (not a problem)
and raining a LOT. That's an issue because we're a workshop not a
factory, and there are certain crucial dimensional tasks such as routing
neck pockets, fitting necks, and things like finishing that I don't do
with the humidity like it is right now. Most other conditions, sure -
wood is forgiving and I've never been much on the concept of crafting
these in a totally controlled environment... and then sending them all
over the world to freak out in completely UNcontrolled environments.
Acoustic instruments are structurally very different - but solid bodies,
heck if this piece of wood is going to move around and have issues with
weather changes I'd rather it be right here; it feels the weather like I
feel the weather most of the time... and that goes both ways, which when
you do this for a living every day for a long time, gives you a
symbiotic relationship with when to cut and when not to cut. So I'll get
to the next cutting, planing, routing & shaping the next day I can and
spend today in assembly all day... and I'm actually writing this update
on Wednesday. See? The FLOW. I don't fight it.
"But you write the
updates on Friday!" No, I write the update when it's time to write the
update. I might be routing the two Fusions or the two guitars I was
going to do today & tomorrow on Friday. Can't change the rain,
right? With Camera Chris coming to do more videos this weekend, I might
bump them to next week. I roll with it. "Next" in a workshop is very
different than "Next" on an assembly line in a factory... here it's a
living entity influenced by things outside of its direct control (as are
we all) and changes by the day sometimes. I feel like I'm in the middle
of a jazz jam - in lesser inspired, less equipped hands this could be
chaos in no time, but time and experience has honed the goings-on into
music with a rhythm... a shifting kind of in-the-moment order. Everybody
on stage knows where the downbeat is and can feel the "one" and so it's
a groove. Nobody's lost, we're just playing with the changes. So I glue when it's time to glue,
cut when it's time to cut.
When it's not I do something else. If I'm out of black bridges I put
that build aside until the box from Hipshot shows up... and do something
else. If it feels more important to rout, round & drill out those two
Fusion bodies and get them into sanding rather than spending two hours
inlaying Turquoise into a truss rod cover... then that's what gets done.
Home stretch of the year is when it's time to do everything all at
once... but that isn't realistic. So "Best order of the moment for
productivity of the shop" prevails. The flow rules. The groove takes it.
And in some moments, the groove takes me... and I'm carried by
the wave... and I'm buoyed in the water... in tune and in time, high and
on fire by just being here, alive another day to do what my whole life
has added up to, in this sanctuary of wood and wire; this temple of
sound. I am the glimmer of chrome. I am the shape inside the plank. I am
a string plucked that wills to sustain.
Just a peek inside the little shop where wood goes in and magic
comes out! And I'm telling you all this NOW because in the weeks to come
these news page missives will be a little quicker to the point and I
might even skip a couple to get more time in on the instruments - maybe
turn another couple out for you. I'll do my best! Do keep
checking in... and I'll keep the lights on, the music playing, and the
woodchips flying. May you all be blessed & inspired.
Your servant of sound,
Captain Of The Ship
Grateful Dead Movie Soundtrack,
discs 3 & 4;
an old Roots Of The Blues
Frank Sinatra In The Wee Small Hours, Eric Clapton 461
October 31st - Happy Halloween, boys and ghouls!
This week we're going to talk about Walnut, steel and Mahogany.
First up, Walnutian glory!
Walnut is the wood my mind pictures
when I hear the word "Wood"... always holding surprises in the
depths of its grain and coloring that don't reveal themselves until one
rubs in that first coat of finish, the plainest of it is beautiful and
the more lively of it is simply a feast for the eyes. It works great, is
a nice medium weight wood, and contributes to a good tone. Walnut is
visually some of my favorite wood. We happen to have a number of Walnut
instruments coming together at the moment, so I figured I'd get a "Class
picture" before they all scatter about into the world and begin their
Top L to R:
Walnut bodies awaiting routing; fretless Walnut bodied Shortbass;
custom order Birdsong with Maple stringers (BX-023 on the current builds
page); F43 and 48, a pair of rear-routed Walnut Fusions with Walnut
Bottom L to R:
The Super24 guitar prototype; a prototype D'AQUILA guitar with a
Walnut top from a few years back; Walnut lap steel blank; SD Curlee
fretless of Walnut & Maple leaning on a Walnut plank; Birdsong guitar
with particularly colorful Walnut wings.
(Yeah I know these aren't all Birdsongs -
any questions on the "other stuff" out of our workshop, just gimme a
call. 512-395-5126. Anytime... but no texts.)
I have a thing for old American steel.
Usually when it gets dragged home around here it's on wheels and
powered by old American cast iron... not this time!
It's always a great day
when a new fixture comes to the shop. Like an old car new to the
driveway, it has to have been somewhere - it has to have a story. It
can't be just a "thing"... I'm not all that interested in those, no
matter what they are. It's gotta have some life to it. So now, joining
with the Birdsong workshop tools from my old friend Johnny, Birdsong's
history, the original '70s SD Curlee shop and various grandpas'
sell-offs are these two fixtures from the Jennings-Thompson Guitars
workshop of the early '90s. For those patiently waiting on progress on
Birdsong builds involving tops, I've been kind of waiting on this to
These have been in a shed for a long time and it took a while to
get to where they were and do the deal. The one on the left is the big
time-saver and consistency answer for laminating on tops and "Hippie
sandwich" body layers. To the right is one I'll be using for various
glue-up tasks including lap steel production (another of those things I
do "on the side.") They've got to weigh a hundred pounds each.
Jennings-Thompson (JT) made very high end $3000 - $4000 (20 years ago!)
rock & roll guitars & basses in Austin, TX. I know Tommy Shannon played
one for a while. Ross Jennings is a renown luthier, the equivalent of
the guru on the top of the mountain... and long ago in another life... I
delivered pizzas for Jeff Thompson, who is now at Collings. Now some of
their tools are in my shop and I'll have them working next week.
Mahogany is - for many recipes - my favorite tonal ingredient.
believe it or not, we're not here to talk about that this week. We're
going to focus on one specific plank of old Honduran in honor of Cream's
Jack Bruce who passed away this week. He was known for playing the old
Gibson EB basses, including the commonly referred to "SG-body" variety.
So I pulled out another talisman to share, in honor of Jack.
This is my '69 (or thereabouts - dating Gibsons is tricky) EB-3. I've
had it for about 12 years. It looks like Walnut, but it's just a few
decades of hard living. It's the absolute most beat up instrument
that's still functional this boy has ever seen... and I've seen a few
guitars. Not a square inch on it
doesn't have a ding or a scrape or a chip. It was owned in the '90s by a
street kid from the northwest named Kade, who would play it on the
street through a Pignose amp doing solo versions of Pink Floyd songs
among other things. It never had a case.
Kade drifted through Wimberley,
Texas in the early 2000s where we jammed, partied, and played one gig as
Red Menace (he was six-something with a big red beard)... a crazy
Cream-meets-Primus like jam with me on guitar and a drummer who hit like
Bonham. Kade worked his way through all the free whiskey and dancing
girls in town -
and an old GMC flatbed, and this bass, which wound up at Uncle Johnny's
backwoods workshop with a busted headstock - then moved along. I'm
actually sipping a little Jeffer's Creek 6 year in his honor right now,
as a matter of fact.
Johnny was going to strip & restore it,
but I bartered him out of it
before he had the chance. He did tackle the headstock repair however, a
rather "rural, rustic" repair that has held solidly since. It's probably
the strongest point on the bass. Under the original pickup cover is
a different pickup now that actually sounds decent, and the wiring is a
trick neck pickup volume that mixes the bridge pickup in from 9 to 10
(mine) and a subtle passive distortion circuit (Johnny's). The feel of
this particular bass' neck carve made it into the Birdsong neck and I've
even gigged on this thing.
And up the ol' mic stand it goes... believe it or not...
If you like these basses, you'll probably like a Cortobass a whole lot.
If you look at the two carefully there is a little of the good DNA from
an EB in ours... minus the tonal, balance, and ergonomic issues. This
particular bass reminds me of Jack Bruce - old and incredibly weathered,
a few unoriginal parts, seen & done it all, still rockin'. It'll rock
until it just flies apart one day, like those of us held together by our
purpose... kept intact by what we do. You know, just the other day I picked up some small tools at a
welder's estate sale - just some clamps and things to mix in with mine,
keep 'em workin'.
He was 92, the old man was ~ still out there cutting & welding until
just a few days before he died. We won't all make those kinds of
numbers, but that's the way to do it; do what you do, sing
your song 'til as close to the last breath as you can. Leave some marks.
And leave a legacy big enough for another on the path to pick up a
little piece of it and run with it for a while.
(Posted in memory of Jack Bruce - the world renown bassist - and Herschell Murray, WWII vet & metal yard art guy just up Ranch Road 12 in
Dripping Springs, Texas. I don't know who the hell we can possibly ever replace
either of you with... well done, sirs.
Captain Of The Ship
The Cream box set, Clapton's Backless, some early Sinatra, and The
Ramones Rocket To Russia.
Here is a Scottman's Sampler of some of what's coming together in
the workshop. There's a lot more; there are usually a handful of
instruments-to-be stacked at every station in the workshop. Blank prep,
glue-up, cutting, routing & shaping, sanding, neck, finishing, assembly
(of course by this time they're hanging in a row, not stacked!),
stringing & set up... instruments manifest through every stage,
taking the places of those that move to the next, being replaced by those
coming up a step behind them.
||Our model in dimensioned lumber form is going
to be a bass going to Hawaii ("Hawaii?" "Fine, howa you?"). At
this point the plank is planed to thickness and I lay out the
body (or body halves, in this case). This is a curiously cool
colorful piece of Walnut.
||Further along in its becoming is this lefty
"Rainbow" Cortobass destined for the UK. Many would pile pieces
in a press with glue between them and do it in one shot... I do
it layer by layer to get the tightest joints possible. This is
actually two sections ~ there's no glue between those
Purpleheart strips, so each acts as a caul to the other. This
sort of thing and double-laminate tops & backs are a bit extreme
for us. Most of the time glue-up around here is the halves of a
2-pc., plain or with a contrasting stringer down the center.
||Awaiting the first step in the process by
which we cut & carve away anything that doesn't look like a bass
guitar is C314, a "Southwestern Special" Cortobass of Texas
Mesquite that'll be getting Turquoise inlayed into the holes &
cracks (all secured and only cosmetic treats now) of this wild
wood and some engraved silver trim pieces. It's heading to
online dealer HD Custom Guitar Supply.
|Routing & shaping
||Having been cut and edge sanded, here sits a
Walnut Corto2 bound for Seattle. It's had the pickup, neck and
control cavities routed and been rounded over. Now the rest of
this stage is about to happen - drill neck and jack and wire
holes, and carve in the contours. Then it's off to sanding... by
the time it gets back, the neck will be ready and it'll all hit
finishing at the same time.
||Starting to look like something now ~ this is
one of my little no-frills Shortbasses in ready-to-sand
condition. I'd show you some basses & guitars in sanding, but
that's one of the parts of this I don't generally do. I give
other local luthiers & wood workers some side work and can stay
busy and much more productive doing the parts I enjoy. (A
Shortbass is sort of a side project, a basic distillation of my
design... read about it here:
||Almost through its own coming-to-be steps,
here is the neck for C316, a Mahogany Corto2 shipping out to
Louisiana. Here it's getting the Mahogany headstock veneer. That
clear caul on top helping to even out the clamp pressure is part
of an early worn out template we cut apart into a bunch of other
small fixtures still in use.
||Just out from the last hand-rub coat of
special oil finish blend is one of our SD Curlee basses - a
fretless Classic Plus II of Walnut & Maple. We resurrected &
revised these iconic '70s basses a few years back; I was a big
fan of them. I'm an even bigger fan of the new ones... and even
more so of what that line will look like in 2015! This one is
going across the pond as well once the hardware, pickups and
controls are in and it's strung up to play like greased unicorn
farts. Did I just say that out loud? I think I may have.
||Now it's really coming together. Once the
finished neck is fit to, touched up, and FITTED to the neck
slot, with a few ceremonial words the now whole instrument comes
into the assembly shop. Here's Fusion #048, rear routed of
Walnut, which is in the process of being wired and having a set
of Cocobolo plates fitted to trim it out.
|Stringing & setup
||In its final tweak-out stage before flying
home and out to its life and journey, a D'AQUILA Supreme... sort
of the show-biz cousin of the Birdsong guitar. Texas workshop
meets Art Deco on the way to the modern Jazz gig. Every guitar
and bass has its turn in the "hot spot", the last hanger on the
wall. From here, once it's all tuned & tested, it's some
paperwork and a final once-over away from being cased and flying
the nest, out to spread its tone and our good vibes into the
hearts of others ears-first. It's "back to basses" after this
one, as there are four Birdsongs waiting for this same
|Here are some
shots of stacks, all tools-to-be of good vibration making their
way into being, across the benches and through the hands, to the
first music of the tools and whatever is on in the workshop...
I want to thank you all for your interest in
what we're doing and, for those of you in line for instruments, for your
patience ~ it's a very rare thing for me to get impatient calls or "is
it done yet" emails. Almost never happens. Partly because it's obvious
I'm staying busy, meaning if I'm not on yours I'm working towards being
on yours... but also it's a show of respect and trust - two things that
are very important to me - and those are earned by reputation and
devotion (ok, and results) over time. I know the wait isn't easy,
especially in the nutty instant everything circus of the 21st century.
It means the world to me that you trust it'll be worth the wait and
respect that it's a workshop of benches and not a conveyor belt. I'm
blessed to have the greatest batch of clients I could ever dream up to
be working for. I'm also very grateful for the hundred times that number
(or more - at this point I can't even tell, but I know there's a bunch
of you) of folks interested enough in our basses & guitars or what I
have to say to be checking into this page on a regular basis, possibly
looking at the inventory, maybe even deciding the details on what
they'll someday contact me and order. Yes, I still handle all of that...
talking with you is one of the best parts!
Maybe that's what it comes down to - we communicate directly and
deal clearly and honestly with each other and keep it real between us as
we go. Then things can happen that bring something great to both of our
lives and there's very little drama. Geez, maybe we're onto something
Have a wonderful weekend everybody!
"Stick a fork in me, I'm done!"
Captain Of The Ship
Niyaz Niyaz; Foo Fighters Foo Fighters; Kyuss Blues
For The Red Sun; George Harrison Wonderwall; Frank
Sinatra In The Wee Small Hours
Finally updated the inventory page - go
check out what's available and coming to be!
Had a great visit with a client this week who drove in from Oklahoma to pick up
his Corto2. When I see others' reaction to "where the magic happens" I
am reminded this is very different from others' lives and light years from
where we started. They freak out. Most of the time it's a quiet and
reserved shock, but I know the look in the eyes. I walk into a shop that
builds hot rods or a kitchen where good food is being cooked and I
breathe it in and suddenly life is the kind of technicolor you find on
the backroads of the journey. It's hard to have perspective when I'm surrounded by
what I do and the base of operations for my whole life is where I do it;
for me this is a world I live in every day... surrounded by music, its
tools, the making thereof and then those tools. I am so deeply
imbedded I feel like a molecule. I'm just another tool in the shop
(really any other hands around can confirm this, mostly the "tool"
part). In the scheme of things, I live at the temple; and I relate to
the wood on some level, as I am still becoming too - I too am being cut
and shaped and finished. I am still finding my voice. I am still walking
this path of music. The workshop is a temple; this is the only
way I can see it.
Yesterday I got another call asking "What courses would I take at
Texas State (University) to have your job?"
Texas State can't teach you how to have my job. There isn't a
school that can prepare you for the path of the artist/craftsman as a
way of life. It will test, stretch, deepen, empty your life and fulfill
your spirit in ways you can't imagine, grasshopper. It will provide
answers for questions you don't even have the words to ask yet. It will
bring you and it will derail you; it will giveth in ways and cost you in
others; it will bring you more to life than most in moments while it
slowly attempts to kill you. Once you commit to the path of full-time
artist as the way, it becomes both mana and mania and there is no going
back to the cubicle or assembly line intact once you've tasted it. Being
a luthier may look like it's just cutting and screwing together, but the
folks to whom it is just that - merely an exercise in inserting tab A
into slot B of "product" - they veer. The sacrifice is too much. They
can't handle the instability. They can't go deep enough to cultivate
what sustains one once the reality sets in. It doesn't fill the holes in
their lives like a good steady paycheck and they're gone. They
don't feel or find their groove here. The high-strung or easily
discouraged either FI or FO... and I've seen way more fall off when the
road got bumpy. There is a romance to it and that's all true -
but without the zeal of a called preacher and the balance of a dancer,
without the life skills to keep it together in the midst of all of this,
it'll spin you out in much the same way as addiction because there are
similarities. Me? Personally? Not a single frigging regret. Ever.
I gave myself to music at 13 and I'll die with a song in my heart.
This is an honor. Even if it's only product to someone else,
this is dharma to me. This is all I am and everything I
have to offer. You don't get that out of a book. There
is no Honing Oneself to Chisel Life Into a Monument To Ones Calling
101 at the big school; for that you graduate yourself OUT into the
BIGGER classroom and begin the journey.
But it may teach you pieces - I arrived at the dojo with
nothing but some playing experience and a few ideas; for you to arrive
better prepared than I did, which I strongly suggest, here are some
things to show up with and a few thoughts... feel free to apply these to
any out of the ordinary endeavor you may feel called to. One option is
to do very well in the next ten years with a valuable degree and a plan,
build a whole life and pay it off, then do what you want to maintain.
But for an artist, that's not usually an option - we're wired a bit
differently and thus our lives are rarely that tidy or predictable. The
only time my ass has seen a chair in a classroom since the last day of
high school was as an invited speaker talking to young people about what
I do and their dreams a few times... I had to watch what I told them. I
just gave them a dose and lit a spark in them. Out here I'm less
inclined towards the sugar coating when it comes to answering to a call
and finding your way through the circus. And looking at luthiery or
painting, sculpture or music as a side thing, a hobby, that's fine but
it's very different than total immersion with no safety net -
which is often the only way the full-time artist/craftsman egg breaks
for you. You can't expect even the potential of full results on partial
commitment. So for you who are ready to be lifers...
Doing what I do:
Have experience with woodworking tools
Have small electronics / soldering experience
Get a grip on how a small business works
(Little of what you'll learn is Scripture - but it's good to know
what you may need to adapt or rethink exists in the first place. The
lingo and how the various numbers & tools work in each are essential.)
Have your life in some order regarding dependents, habits, other people
and your path.
Genuinely love & believe in what you're doing - approach with reverence
Understand it's a potential vow of poverty - at least for a while. Size
(So much more important than one smitten with the romance of the
craft ever considers - most of the attempts at this that have failed can
be traced back to one or all of these.)
As you go:
Stay in touch with the magic of what you do. Sanctify your work & devote
yourself as servant through it.
Keep on top of the business side of things. You're either on top of it
or it is on top of you.
Be in the moment - don't look at the mountain. What's next that has to
happen? Do those layers.
(These will keep your shiny side up and the wheels on your ride.
Healthy forward motion stops when any of these get loose. Treat yourself
like the most important tool and keep yourself sharp and focused.)
Bonuses at every step:
Discipline and drive - my prayers are only of gratitude. Making
it happen? "If it's to be, it's up to me."
Minimal ego involvement - don't do it to feel important. Do it to be
useful and help create something.
Sense of direction - "...is this I'm about to do aiming me towards or
away from my goal?"
(These keep me pointed towards my own "True North" of what I do and why.
I'm certainly not anywhere near perfect - just another work in progress.
But I'm up before the sun working my focus, my mind, my body, and then
my list. Confidence in your self, skills, and path choices comes over
time. But you have to walk there through doubters, haters, circumstance,
your own challenges, life's little surprises and crap eagles of all
manner. Listen to me - this is SO much more important than knowing the
"correct" screwdriver to use or what kind of pickup "sounds best" - you
must every day push your best up to the surface through your
worst, to where it can get light and air and bloom. THEN you have a
chance at sustaining a living and a business and a path as an artist.
You build the basses, but the process builds you. Without both, without
health and nourishment, the garden dies.)
For so many it's about waiting until they have the better tool or
the right kind of space, the command of the skills or time just
magically frees up and lays the correct "now" in their lap. Oh yes - and
the perfect understanding of every aspect. Until then nothing gets
started; it merely gets thought about. My friend, YOU are the essential tool - if
you don't show up ready to "do", guaranteed nothing is going to happen!
And honestly you are the ONLY essential tool - if you start seeding the garden of
whatever you're doing, if you start doing it, much of what you think you
need to know will become self-evident and a bunch of what you think you
need to have will be attainable as the time comes they're needed. As for
understanding, that doesn't come from a daydream.
The pursuit of a dream is not piano lessons where you learn one complete
song before you go to the next...
There's a whole trail of unused nows behind any failed endeavor.
Don't waste too many waiting for the right time. I guess that's what I'm
trying to say - whatever it is, start in that direction and keep walking
no matter what happens. There are other ways to do it all, but I can't
comment on those ways; just the one I'm walking.
Next week we'll look in on a few instruments coming together so
you can see the variations and details... it'll be a wood feast for the
eyes for sure. There's so much exciting going on on the workbenches
right now. So strap on that bib and we'll meet here again next week!
See you around... like a bagel,
Captain Of The Ship
Mississippi Fred McDowell You Gotta Move; Phil Lesh & Friends
There And Back Again; Sergio Basurto Bahia Del Perdon
(Flamenco guitar from San Miguel de Allende, Mexico).
October 9th ~ No big update this week, as I'll be away from my computer
on update day... but I have put up some of the progress pictures on the
client page (more coming) and I did at least want to slip in a little
encouragement to do some good work and listen to some good music,
whatever that is to you. I've been listening to everything from Alice In
Chains to chanting from India, Jethro Tull to Johnny
Griffin, Steely Dan to the Grateful Dead. It's all good if it feeds your
head and soothes your soul. So play some good music and wish well on the
players that manifested it. Bigger blog next week!
Have a great weekend!
Greetings from the garden. That
is how I view what I do; I am a gardener. I help things grow. I assist
in the process by which tangible things come from tiny seed. The seed is
not mine, the soil is not mine, the process is not mine, and the only
way in which I'm attached to the results is that they are well done and
will be of good service. I like it when you like it, and your happiness makes
me happy. But these are not mine, even when they don't have a name and a
voice attached to them yet. I am here to spend myself on their becoming
so they serve you with their being.
The right instrument is a talisman; you become a Shaman in notes
and rhythm. And I, here in my workshop (and with the help of others in
their workshops) get to make the Shaman's tools. I don't think I've
ever, in the hundreds of instruments I've owned, found that shamanic
quality in a new, off-the-rack guitar or bass. Not to say that a good
Shaman can't make it that way, but that's exactly my point - hanging
there on a brightly lit wall fresh out of the factory, I haven't found the same kind of
potential - life power, if you will - as I have in something that has been
played or workshop crafted. Manufactured? A potentially great tool. Played and
had a journey? Touched by the right hands? Crafted in a workshop?
Potentially a MAGIC tool.
If you don't believe that (or think I'm suddenly going to book
ten more orders because I'm perpetuating some sham we're all in on as
builders), hey - go play what
you want. Be happy. But maybe - juuuust maybe - some of us have seen and felt other things
you perhaps have not. I have picked up instruments and had the hair on
my arms go up. I have emoted instantly through a guitar I had never
played before. I've had them bring me to tears. Not something you'll see
very often from me, I can tell you that. There are things going on
where our eyes don't take us. To not know is natural. It's intelligent;
"I know enough that I know I don't know." To say it can't be because it is not to you?
I don't know about that. We're all little grains and that's a big ocean, Bub.
Is the right tool magic? Nothing but believers in the walls of a
Here are a couple of my talismans...
Blondie came to me as one drop in a series of dealings that
eventually produced a great shower... which my crop received very little
from. Happens occasionally; but what a drop this turned out to be! This early '70s
Ventura Barney Kessel copy came out of a South Texas pawn shop about 12
years ago needing electronics work and having endured both the most
violent headstock break AND the most brazen repair I've ever seen
evidence of to this day. Touched up and with more glue, the headstock
and heel haven't moved. Mojo? Uncle Johnny's first fret job. One of
Wyatt's first fret dresses. In fact he owned it for a few years. (Who
are they? Birdsong history... part of the magic). An old Chrome cased
Bill Lawrence pickup I had is in it now for its "Jazz chapter" but it
saw some tape as a rockin' feedback machine. The knobs? Tophats off of
the BC Rich I had in the late '80s that opened my mind to what "hand
made" was. There's more, but I'll stop there. A perfect guitar? Hardly.
But it pulls things out of me nothing else does. One day I'll
finally score the late '70s Ibanez George Benson on the bucket list, but
this one will always be within reach!
Fusion #43 is almost done, it's mine (this one I DID make for me; I put
it in line and waited just like you...) and I can honestly say it'll be the
greatest bass I've ever had. I can say that - I'm very disconnected from
the part of me that designs and engineers this stuff when that happens.
I don't EVER sit there and go (deep booming voice) "Look what I have created!"
No, this is like the song you just can't believe came through you. This
is that to me. And I've been lucky to have a whole string of these
melodies in wood & wire come through my pen and hands and shop. I can
sit back and enjoy it with some "Wow factor" because it's not about my
head. I don't walk around as that guy 24/7 - it's just something that
happens when I need it to. I merely helped this
blossom become. I played one role in the life of this material and its
path. I will now play a very different
role for a while - and I'll play the hell out of it. But eventually the
reality that nothing is really mine will find me elsewhere and this
instrument elsewhere. All has its path; all has its time. When we're
lucky, we have some good time together along it and share something
meaningful. Do note that even with the trim pieces and strings yet to
be fitted, the strap is already on it!
Speaking of time, here's reason number 340 as to why these
Birdsongs take a while. There's a little more to this than it looks. It
looks to you like a finished instrument you're waiting for... it looks
to me like lists of tasks. Here's how it looks to the process... a piece
of Cocobolo is dimensioned, sliced & planed. Various trimout pieces
grain oriented to the section of the wood they'll sit against or butt up
to on the instrument awaiting them; each to be carefully cut, dressed,
edged, drilled & countersunk, shaped, fitted, sanded, and then finished
Once marked & cut, the batch breaks out into sets of
pieces. There will be similar grain and coloration in the plates of
these basses... something most won't notice but many would if it was all
different. And oh yeah, your humble craftsman must be extra careful
around Cocobolo because its dust is known to be toxic... definite "Yay"
on the ol' breathing mask. So while I'm busy reverentially
trying to guide it into woodcraft, it's trying to kill me. Small price
to pay for being able to work with one of the most exotic, beautiful
woods in the world, though!
Any of you high-rollers up for a Cocobolo special? That's a top,
back & trimout all of Cocobolo...
Ok, that's all for this week. Thanks again so much for your time
& interest! Next Friday I'm away from the desk so there won't be an
update... tune in in 2 weeks for further adventures of life, luthiery
and linguistics from your humble servant & instrument maker in his Texas
"Hill Country" workshop.
In a while, crocodile...
Captain Of The Ship
Velvet Underground Peel Slowly And See (box set);
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
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
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
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
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
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,
Captain Of The Ship
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.
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
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.
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. :)
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
firstname.lastname@example.org "Hy5 for sale" in subject. If it's still
here next week I'll do a pictorial on it. Thanks!
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.
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.
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."
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.
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...
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
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,
Captain Of The Ship
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
"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
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.
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
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.
Captain Of The Ship
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.
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
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
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
On behalf of the hands of Birdsong, thanks for being with us!
Captain Of The Ship
Listening to: Grateful Dead Dick's Picks #3, disc 2; Martin
Scorsese's Blues documentary soundtrack.
Shots from the workshop:
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
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,
Captain Of The Ship
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.
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.
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 &
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.
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.
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!
All goodness to you - from my workshop of life to yours.
Captain Of The Ship
Listening to: Eric Clapton's
Rainbow Concert; anything John Lee Hooker; Alice In
Chains Dirt; Grateful Dead Dick's Picks #3, disc 2.
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.
||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
||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.
||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.
||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.)
||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.
||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.
||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...
||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.
||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
||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
||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!
||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.
||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.
||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!
Captain Of The Ship
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
Tuesday, July 8th
(Snuck one in early...)
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
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.
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!
That's awl for now!
Captain Of The Ship