The first year, I ran the company from my
garage, and the plan was to just make bodies
and necks. I wasn’t planning on being a guitar
manufacturer. What fed our family that first year
was that Schecter Japan needed American-made pickups. The American Schecter factory
closed a few months after I left, and nobody
knew how to make pickups. Schecter Japan
contacted me and we sat down at Carl’s Jr. and
made a deal for me to make them 300 Strat
pickups. I set up a little pickup-making shop in
the kitchen of our house. After I got through
making necks and bodies in our garage during
the day, we sat up making pickups every night.
That first year we lived on those pickups—we
still make them to this day.
things we buy are metal parts like tuners and
bridges—but we’ve been able to have bridges
made the way we want them.
How has the custom market changed
since you started?
Back in the middle ’80s, the custom market
was small. The big guys owned the guitar
business. There was Schecter, and Hamer
was still smallish. Nowadays there are tons
of small builders, whether it’s a one-man
shop or a three-man shop. In part, that’s
because information is so much more acces-
sible, a guy can go on the Gear Page and
show his stuff, whereas in the old days it
was all expensive print ads, so it was tough
for someone starting out to get nationwide
exposure. Trends have changed, too. When
we started in the ’80s, almost every guitar
we made had a Floyd Rose tremolo on it.
What was the inspiration for your new
24 ¾"-scale Short T model?
What prompted you to start
It soon became clear that if I was going to do
this on a serious level, I needed more space.
After a year, I moved into a 1500-square-foot
industrial space just across the parking lot
from where we are now.
I was selling bodies and necks to John Suhr
at Rudy’s Music Stop, Roger Sadowsky, and
Jim Tyler—a bunch of guys that didn’t have
the facilities to do it themselves. We were
doing a lot of OEM small manufacturer stuff
and selling to stores because people were
building parts guitars.
I had a local dealer in Hollywood who said,
“You know, if you assembled some guitars
out of these parts, I could sell them.” So
we did a few pieces here and there. At that
point, there were just four of us here at the
shop. I realized that it was more rewarding
to make a complete guitar. A lot of times
you make a body or neck and send them to
a store where the guy who strings up the
guitars puts it together. He doesn’t do good
fretwork, so the parts you worked so hard on
turn into a mediocre guitar. That was frustrating, so we started putting them together
and doing all the detail work ourselves. It
was a lot more fun, and we felt really good
about the end product. In 1990, we stopped
selling parts to people and just focused on
making complete guitars.
At that point, we weren’t painting our guitars—Pat Wilkinson was doing it. About 1992,
we started the painting process ourselves, and
by ’ 93 we were fully internalized. We start with
lumber, do all the woodworking and finishing,
and make the pickguards and pickups. The only
New for 2010!
fishman.com Programmable Aura Imaging Pedal Restore a studio-miked sound to your acoustic instrument. Now includes the Aura Image Gallery software featuring over 800 Images available for download. Image is everything. Image is everything. ® Aura Image Gallery III now available for Mac and Windows®
PREMIER GUITAR JULY 2010 137