To Make the Wood S
It’s a small circle of elite builders,
luthiers who, in the modern era, have established their names in the annals of guitar
building. Names like Buscarino, Monteleone,
Sadowski, Benedetto. Add to that list the
name Mark Campellone and the fellowship
grows in stature. Over the past thirty years,
Mark has carved out a place for himself in guitar history as a builder of fine archtop guitars,
and has become a well-known name, especially among jazz guitarists and those who trade
in the vintage guitar market.
As is true of any modern heavyweight in the
building game, those who are successful
have been able to craft the finest instruments
while at the same time put their unique artistic stamp on each work. Mark’s instruments,
while relying on the style and tradition of
earlier Gibson archtops, incorporate a well
thought out artistic design that spans tailpiece
to tuners. A blend of traditional hand-crafts-manship and modern technology, Mark’s guitars – at least for the moment – may be the
last of affordable, high-end, handmade acoustic instruments. The following conversation
with Mark offers unique insight into how he
thinks and feels about his development, the
design of his instruments, the current market
and his vision for the future.
You’re going to have to educate us a little
bit about this business. How do you see
your type of business in the guitar market?
How do you define what you do – a “small
builder” or a “boutique builder?”
[laughs] Micro-manufacturing. I’m not really
sure what “boutique” means. There are guys
making boutique amplifiers, but they’re not
really “custom made,” in that they’re not making a different amp for every customer. There
are a lot of guys that do what I do – small
independent builders and one-man shops that
build whatever a customer wants. Some of
them have a loose model structure, but a lot
of them will build whatever guitar a customer
wants, customizing it in any way.
I used t o do that, but since work has backed
up, I have kind of gone in the other direction,
basically doing what manufacturers do, offer-
ing three strictly delineated models. I offer
some customization in terms of dimensions,
but basically I have been trying to make the
building process as efficient as I can to try and
get guitars out on time. I kind of shy away
from custom work now, so I’m not building
a different guitar for every customer. In that
sense [my process] is very much like manufacturing, but on the other hand, since I control
every operation, the quality and the attention
to detail are always there.
There seems to be a new interest in small
builders. If you look through this magazine,
for example, they often spotlight a lot of
these builders. It seems that many new ones
have emerged in the last few years.
[laughs] Tell me about it!
Why is that?
I guess it started as far back as the seventies,
when some of the manufacturers were dealing with huge demands for guitars and began
spitting them out of the factory as fast as they
could – Gibson and Fender were cranking out
some really crappy stuff. Around the same
This C F Martin Custom Shop D- 41
has an Adirondack spruce top,
1/4" forward-shifted scalloped bracing
and a Geib-style hard case.
629 Forest Ave., Staten Island, NY 10310 ~ Phone (718) 981-8585