First Steps

Laphroaig Quarter Cask does inspire one to look back down the mountain. The amount of work in every sip makes one ponder the walk it has taken to get here to sip it in the first place.

It’s rough as a cob, but it’s where this all started. The Scott Guitars Blues Dawg. I had parts-swapped, modded, and bolted together Strats during the late 80s and into the 90s, but this is where I decided to make my own. I knew it was going to look like hammered hell in a handbasket because I was a songwriter, and that taught me well you’ve gotta get your first 20 or so out of the way, and by then you’re answering your own questions and coming up with new ways of going around old problems.


You’ve seen the patterns and put in the hours. The tools are familiar and you know how to stand and what comes next. I didn’t know any of that for this – my first – in 1997. It sure didn’t go together with a squeak… that neck pocket was freehanded. I didn’t know what a template was. You can see the ground wire for cripes sake! But it sounded raw as sandpapered hiney plugged in, and played really good; I sold it to a punk rock guy who played it out and eventually traded it in towards a new build, and I’ve kept it since.

I might do a small batch if there is interest… MUCH better fit and finish (hey, 700 and whatever builds later, one should hope!), and priced around the Shortbass. Let me know if you’re into it. I need to get this one cleaned up and playing… but it has ancient shop dust on it and looks so good looking down on all your new Birdsongs, Hy5s and whatnot becoming parts and pieces of instruments-to-be here in the Wingfeather workshop.

And really, it served its purpose. It taught me a lot of basic information and paid for the parts for the next one. It’s a touchstone. In an in-the-moment work world with no clocks here, it gives me a sense of time, but big time – of chapters, of distance come and ground gained. Taken by itself, one may look at this first attempt and say, “Why would you waste your time building that when you could just go buy something?”

But in the context of what has happened since, I can tell you this – there is never any wasted time when we’re chasing our little dreams. We might now handcraft the fine Islay single malt of what we do, but it evolved to this; it climbed to this. Eager yet unrefined, the long journey begins with one step, or it does not begin and leads nowhere. So I for one raise my wee peaty dram of charred oakwater in callous-handed salute – here’s to all the rough, ragged, raunchy first steps… it’s the nuts that make you.

Your humble wood gnome,

Listening to: Van Morrison acoustic demos, Reggae compilations, &  Grateful Dead Dicks Picks Vol. 1