What electronics do they use?
It varies. They used to use what was called a
3200 System, which had no battery, and then
they went to systems that use a battery, the
EQ300 system and EQ100I. They have an
A3 system that’s been used recently, and all
these are battery-oriented systems.
Well, you know, I was always an electric guitarist, and when I made the decision back in
the ’90s to buy a nice guitar, I thought, “Well,
why don’t I just go ahead and buy an acoustic because I do flatpick and I use a three or
four finger roll method to play, similar to a
classical guitarist.” And what I learned about
acoustic guitars is that tone woods really do
make a difference. You know, you hear people say, “Well, what do you mean that instrument is hand-voiced?” Well, the wood really
does make a difference on the guitar, as long
as it’s not laminated.
Well, my peak motivation is that most of the
Washburn product line is well made, most
of the product line is imported, and the few
American made lines are exceptional—I
don’t care who made them—they’re exceptional acoustics … the information on when
a model was made and the specifications is
almost impossible to get through US Music
Corp. People are constantly coming across
Washburn guitars and can find no specifications on it, and that’s sort of where I come in.
Jim Smith Sr. playing his Dana Bourgeois-built Washburn Paramount, one of the most valuable pieces in his huge collection of Washburns. On the left is a Washburn Presentation, also built by Dana
Bourgeois; on the right is a Washburn Victorian with bolt-on neck made by Tacoma Guitars. The Acanthus Vine inlay on the Bourgeois models are a combination of Abalone and Mother of Pearl.
And the ones that had no battery systems
had a transducer?
Yes. And all of them had tape under the bridge.
What have you learned from having so
many Washburn guitars?
I think the most important thing that I’ve
learned about Washburn guitars is that most
of the product line is rare. And the reason I
say that is they sell guitars differently than
Gibson or Fender. They will order 200 of a
particular model or of a particular series and
they’ll hold them at the warehouse until they
are sold. And if they don’t sell, they don’t
order them again, and that holds true for
probably 60 percent of their product line
since 1974. A lot of the models they ran for
four or five years probably had a total production of about 200 pieces.
Do you have a favorite wood?
[Sigh] There are so many woods that I haven’t
tried yet! Manufacturers get into the habit of
using specific woods like Brazilian rosewood,
koa and maple. There’s not a big diversification there. But I can definitely tell the difference between a solid-wood maple guitar and
say, Brazilian rosewood, which rings the best
for me. Now there are lots of other up-and-coming luthiers in the United States using off-the-wall woods, like pine. I haven’t tried that
yet. But I’d like to see what a real pine guitar
would sound like!
And what have you learned about the acoustic
guitar as an instrument through this process?
Is it easy to stay motivated and
Sounds like an expensive hobby.
Yeah, right, it is an expensive hobby, but it’s
a hobby that I truly love because I get something out of it. First, I get a great instrument
that I didn’t know anything about, and as
soon as I’ve got it in my hands I learn something about the instrument, like where it may
have come from. And we archive the instrument so we can forward that information on
to anybody that is interested in the product
line. And we do it for free. There are certain
websites that will charge you to look at a
catalog. I understand that business model,
but that’s not our game. Our game is to try
to give a home to some of these fine instruments, and preserve them for future generations. I know that sounds like a lofty idea, but
that’s kinda what we had in mind.
138 PREMIER GUITAR DECEMBER 2009