LEFT: A Rickenbacker 730 Shiloh dreadnought with unique Acanthus leaves stenciling by Wilczynski.
RIGHT: A Rickenbacker 700 Shasta about to receive its initial varnish coats.
I once had a fellow ask me
to restore a Rickenbacker
Lightshow [which have flashing
lights built-in under a Plexiglas
top]—one of the rarest of
their guitars. They only built
them for a couple of years. If
I had to guess, I would say
less than a couple of hundred
were produced. They are pretty
pricey. This guy wanted me to
restore his Lightshow, painting it a dark red metalflake
with a graphic of a marijuana
leaf handpainted on the back
[laughs]. I refused to do it. I
said it wasn’t a dignified way to
treat such a nice old guitar. He
got pretty ticked off at me, but
in the end I wouldn’t do it.
So, you won’t do major
People will change the color.
I have also converted a couple
of 6-strings to 12-strings, and
I am busy doing an 8-string
bass conversion right now. I
don’t mess with their basic formula—it is a Rickenbacker and
that is it.
Where is your shop?
I have a shop in Sausalito,
where I do my finishing and
rough work, like sanding. I
also have a shop in my home
in Marin County, where I do
assembly and setups. I have
a third shop up in Sonoma
County, near where I store the
wood. That’s where I build the
Do you still do industrial
design for manufacturers?
No. I’m a full-time faculty
member and shop manager in
the industrial design department at the Academy of Art
University. I manage all of their
workshops, which means I run
the wood, metal, and computer
shops. I wrote all the model-making classes for the university—both online and on site. In
the evenings and on weekends, I
go to my shops and try to catch
up on my backlog of restorations and acoustic builds.
Have you thought about start-
ing your own brand?
I’ve done one archtop. John
Hall gave me some parts
and the permission to build
one 760J Jazz-bo, which is
Rickenbacker’s carved archtop.
They built two or three of them
at the factory. It’s a direct copy
of one of the designs from the
mid-’50s by Roger Rossmeisl.
At one time, they were plan-
ning on introducing it as part
of the acoustic line, and as far
as I know they still are. I do not
have the license to build Jazz-
bos, but John gave me one set
of Jazz-bo sides and said, “See
what you can do with this.” So
I built one with a handcarved
spruce top, a handcarved maple
back, the German carve, and
checkerboard binding. I stuck
to the original design. I would
love to build archtops under my
own brand, but I’m a realist and
I don’t really think this is some-
thing I want to do full-time and
struggle to make a living. This
part-time thing is working out