2017 - What a Year!

Wow! 2017 will be going in the personal record books around this little workshop. It’s trashed, I’m thrashed, and every tool needs a bit or a blade… but after 13 ½ years of “Official, no safety net, all-in” Birdsong and 20 years since cutting my first body THIS was the year I felt it all really come together. This was the year I pictured in the dream of being a luthier and having a little guitar company. Thank you for being with us, in whatever way, during it.

The last two basses out of the workshop for 2017 leave today – a special order 5-string “Rat Rod” and a rear routed Cbass of striped poplar with spirit motifs in turquoise. These two speak volumes about the wide range of instruments that sang their first in here over the past 12 months – this rack is empty, finishing rack is empty, and my assembly bench looks like an earthquake happened. We ran it hard through every gear and never lifted. Now? Heavy duty sweeping up starting at one corner of the green shop over by the door and working my way to the opposite corner of the assembly shop where the tin of files and flat hammer is. At least I think it's over there somewhere. You know you’ve been busy when you look around, cussing, unable for the life of you to find the screwdriver you use all the time… then you realize you had actually put it back for the first time in months. “Oh yeah. That’s actually where it goes!” 

As usual the tidying up will include some model shift on the menu of what’s available. Nothing really goes “Out of production” because there IS no production, just a bunch of plywood body shape templates and some jigs & parts specs. A BUNCH from 20 years of design & building, some offered now, others I’d like to build; but only so much of a main menu we can serve up and this year has shown me where the song needs a verse or two less and maybe how to work that bridge in where it fits with what’s already there. Think of it as a favorite band changing its setlist. It has to happen for the band to have fun, for new ideas to bloom, and for it all to stay fresh and exciting. Any questions, just call me. 

For those wondering what it was like in here, I stopped in the middle of it this past Wednesday and jotted down exactly what was happening and my thoughts at that time. I think this is the beginning of a book…

By my left on the bench is a freshly made & loaded control plate to wire for the 5 string I’m looking for the pickup for. That’s going out Friday if it works; I didn’t buy the pickup. I have most of a woodcraft package from scraps to sign, wax and bag to ship with a bass tomorrow that is getting its fret ends dressed before it goes in the case but not before the last little box I just sanded gets finished. I’ll do that and get my hands all oily at once with the rosewood truss rod cover and rear control cover plate I just drilled & countersunk that need sanding – so that’s next as soon the #10 glue I rubbed into the grain on the undersides by the screw holes cures up and I carve the truss rod cover like an arrowhead.

So while that’s happening I’ll go crush a little turquoise into powder for a last minute inlay touch up so I can put that bass back together right after I sand this stuff but before I oil anything. On the way into the woodshop I’ll tape the ship labels on the two boxes for the two basses ready to go this afternoon and on the way back in I’ll bring another case. After all this I’ll rough out some nut blanks for the two hopefully leaving Friday that I’m in deep with today, working towards stringing them and doing initial setups and neck adjustment. But first the pickups will get fit into the routs. They’re both P-style pickups and that’s why they made it right here right now at the same time. I’ll mark the edges, dremel the corners, dress and drill them in, wire them both all the way… after I pack the two going out this afternoon. OK- so it’s carve, tape, turquoise, fill, drip glue, sand plates,  sign & wax woodcraft, oil that stack of pieces, de-oil my hands, reassemble the Cbass, pre-wire the 5, fit pickups in both then wire, then pack today’s two - then cut nuts for everything left. Got that? Good. Since we’re stopped let’s check if H85 confirmed address, balance payment for two others hit, that delivery exception got taken care of, answer this inquiry, grab the spec change from this starred email and write it on that order sheet, pop another vitamin C and this? I just wrote this week’s update! OK, back at it. Where’s my list and my red sharpie?

That, my friends, was the closing week of 2017. The lists were unbelievable all year but it built to this and it built me as its vehicle as it did. The years made my hands to fit these tools and my eyes, with a little help at this point, to see the half millimeters and how every motion fits the task and feeds the progress and really it’s been one long motion these 20 years, one conversation with the wood and the vibrations, one long piece of improvisation on a theme growing deeper and more kinetically instinctual and connected as we dance. I am the man who works with the wood I was sent in search of decades ago. I was told I'd find him. That's what 2017 was.  But in life even a well honed player running the game of his life is still only a quarterback of a team though. There’d be no game and no glory without the helping hands who managed to stay on this ride until we got here. We’re just a small guitar company but remember – we started with nothing almost 14 years ago; a dream, a futon, a month’s worth of bill money and some borrowed tools; and this is our lives right here. For a long time it was all we had and 2017 was a banner year in so many ways. So let me have my Superbowlean moment – for my wife and co-founder Jamie, for those whose hands touched the wood or the parts or the paperwork in 2017, and for those who lost their heart or minds or just ran out of time as they helped it happen between what was then and what is now. Thank you all for all you gave.  

As we prepare to leave behind whatever we can carve off of whatever burdens us, entering this new year aimed and centered a little better than the last year’s model of ourselves, which is what new beginnings are for, on behalf of everyone in our circle to all who we were honored to serve in some way this year through the wood & the wire, or even here with the words, Happy New Year! May your life be full of music and blessings and may you live it with the strength of springtime whatever your season. 

See you in 2018. I can’t wait.

Listening to: Lots of live Dead, lots of jazz, the space heater’s whisper and the sounds of tools of creation coming together.