The Strolling with Bones acoustic Parsons built for Page features a Sitka spruce top with Kasha-style bracing and an ebony neck (left) and an embedded silver “spell coin” the luthier has had
since childhood. “I figured it couldn’t hurt,” he says. Bones’ interior is supported by four flying braces tied together with waxed leather (right).
How did you get into luthiery?
I had given up the guitar. I had been that kid
in high school that everyone thought would
be a rock star. But deep down, after much
soul searching, I just knew it wasn’t going to
happen. I gave it up in my 20s and went a different direction altogether. I don’t even think I
owned a guitar. It was the furthest thing from
my mind. But when I was 28 years old, I was
taking a shower one day and I got hit with this
vision. It was so strong: I saw myself making
guitars for my idols—like Jimmy Page—and
having a business and doing the whole thing.
It was just a fraction of a second, but it was like
an instructional video inside my head showing
me how to approach this new life. I remember
getting out of the shower—I was shaking—and
I couldn’t dry off fast enough. I got in my little
Jeep and went down to the hardware store. I
had about 300 bucks and I spent it on a band
saw, woods, some glue. I had no idea what I
was doing, but I was just like, “This is it—this is
my life,” and there was no stopping me. It just
felt so right and I just went for it.
You have jokingly said you almost flunked high-school shop class. So your wood skills weren’t
exactly outstanding. How did you go about
the process of learning to build guitars?
I locked myself in my basement for two years.
This was before You Tube, so there really wasn’t
a lot of information out there. I just started
cutting wood and trying to invent how guitars
were made based on what I knew. I would buy
some crappy guitars and take them apart, but
I was just a madman. I think I made over 100
guitars in those two years in my basement.
They were crappy and I didn’t even finish a
lot of them, but I was on this mission. I told
myself, “I need to spend two years and learn
this craft the best I can.” That began this serendipitous journey where the right things, the
right materials, and the right people just came
into my life at the right time.
Who were some of the folks that helped you?
Well, there was Boaz Elkayam. He’s this under-
ground gypsy guitar maker and he’s well known
in the classical world. He would travel from
country to country and build guitars with small
tools. I was so obsessed with building guitars
that I decided to build some flamenco guitars,
and I thought, “If I’m really going to learn how
to make these, I need to learn how to speak
Spanish.” A Spanish instructor introduced me to
Boaz, and it began this friendship. Boaz actually
lived with my wife and me for a year. We would
stay up at night and drink wine and talk about
guitars. The most important thing he taught me
was when he pulled out this Mexican knife he
carried around with him everywhere and said,
“This is all you f-ing need. Learn to make guitars
with this and this is all you will ever need.” And
that began my relationship with low-tech tools.
And he was right—technology really gets in
the way. If you can make your guitar with hand
tools, then you’re better off. Famous people will
contact a major company and say, “Hey, I had
this idea…” and the manufacturer says, “Geez—
no, our computerized machines aren’t calibrated
to do that.” But I can do anything, because I
can make a guitar with a hand knife. I can just
conjure up a way of approaching any request. In
my shop, there are no CNC machines, there are
no Plek and fret machines. There’s none of that
crap. It’s all just small tools.
Some of your current work—like the
Diablo—uses unusual materials such as
bones, skulls, and other organic materials.
What led you to incorporate those into
That started all the way back with Boaz. We
were staying up all night, thinking about what
materials we could use for frets. The steel or
nickel fret makes sense from a manufacturer
standpoint, because you can hammer them