How do CTEs differ from your other designs?
They have the same cutaway, and they have
the neck pitched back like an archtop. They
look just like a jazz guitar from the top, but
they’re only 14 ¾” inches wide. Though they
have the same body I use on the mahogany
model NSE, I put the back panels in a different place to access the electronics.
Is there a standard pickup?
No. Paul Yandell had an old Ray Butts pickup
he wanted on his guitar, and another guy that
I just made one for wanted Seymour Duncan
’59s. I use Gibsons, Duncans, Fralins—
anything you want.
So, what’s left for you to build now?
I love working with guys on their guitars, doing
little things. Guitarists usually only have con-
cepts or guidelines, they don’t have too many
specific design ideas, so they let you mold
them. Like the guitar I just finished for Paul
has a special pickup on it, and the fretboard
is designed so the bass strings are higher off
the soundboard to prevent his thumpick from
tapping the top. The pickup is a Prismatone II
made by Sam Kennedy, and it’s a remake of an
old pickup Chet Atkins and Jerry Reed used on
their nylon-string guitars. It has huge bass and
crystal-clear treble, and it’s Paul’s favorite nylon-
string pickup. That guitar also has a special
24. 9"-scale length that’s very short for a nylon-
string and makes it really easy to play because
the frets are closer together.
So I just enjoy building other people’s fantasy guitars. Email and digital photos have
made things so much faster, too. A guitarist
can think of a design, and then I’ll lay it out
on my workbench and take a picture of it
to send to them. Two seconds later, they’re
looking at it. It’s fantastic. Technology has
sped up the design process tremendously. I
take pictures as I’m building the guitars and
send them to the guys who ordered them.
They love it. At the end of the day, I’ll send
pictures to each of the customers, and they’ll
put together a little scrapbook.
It’s kind of like getting an ultrasound image
of your baby.
In fact, it takes about nine months to deliver a
guitar. Depending on the model, my backlog
is nine months to a year-and-a-half. Anyway,
I hope to be just a little old man building 10
guitars a year, selling them for $50,000 apiece,
living in my little house in Laguna Beach. I’ve
got a cool little private workshop, about 800
square feet. I’ve got all my machines here.
I can spray lacquer here. I’ve got a big flat-screen TV on the wall. It’s like that fantasy I
had as a little kid, when I was so into artists
and composers and I thought, “What a life!
They just sit around and write music or paint—
they don’t have to go to work everyday like
my dad.” And now I’m doing exactly what I
fantasized about. I’m not sure what I’m going
to do when I grow up.
PREMIER GUITAR SEPTEMBER 2010 105