At 12, I was in my first rock band playing my red very cool 62 Gibson SG. (Believe it or not, I bought it from the first owner for a mere $225. I sold it for $250 when I was 15 – a cool $25 profit. I was no fool!! Clearly I was, but I digress) I decided I also better have one of those amazing 12 string guitars. My parents would have none of it. "You already have a good guitar, you don’t need another one." To a 12 year old rocker, this was war!! I planned, I schemed, I threw them a complete curve. "How about if I buy the wood and make my own 12 string guitar?" They seemed helpless in the face of such a bizarre request and said yes. I fearlessly went for it. I ordered a variety of wood from a hardwood supplier, tuning pegs, pickups and electronics from this small mail order company named Carvin. I purchased fret wire from a luthier supply house.
My guitar teacher sensed that I had way more enthusiasm than knowledge (how could he have known such a thing?). He introduced me to an old country western player named Tom who made twangy telecaster style guitars and really gutsy fiddles. Tom thought I was the coolest 12 year old kid he’d ever met and invited me to come over to his shop and he’d share some hard won guitar making experience with me. He taught me how to thread my own truss rod and how to wind my own pickups. How to select the best wood for a good neck, how to carve with a spoke shave, and of course the most important thing, he introduced me to red sparkle paint in a spray can. To a 12 year old, that red sparkle paint was worth the price of admission!
So I made a 12 string guitar with a tear drop body shape that was guaranteed to slide off your lap and tip over if you didn’t put it on the guitar stand just right. I hand sawed the fret kerfs and pounded in the frets. I drilled holes and glued in abalone markers. Shockingly, I used Brazilian rosewood for my fret board. Makes me a little sick that I was using Brazilian rosewood as a 12 year old novice luthier, but that was a common fret board wood at the time. Yikes!
I put an oil finish on the neck and painted the body a nice creme color. Tom helped me wire up the pots and pickups and without giving it a thought, I strung it up with heavy gauge Gibson strings. I tried a bar chord and couldn’t push all 12 strings down. Tom took me aside and sort of explained the concept of light gauge strings to me. I restrung and it actually played pretty well. It was the best magic trick ever. To do all that woodworking and end up with a nice looking piece of sculpture that’s a playing musical instrument? I was hooked!!
Over the next 5 or 6 years I made something like 30 guitars. I gave them to friends, I sold the better ones, a couple of them went right to the trash when I got a little too daring in the designs and they just didn’t work. But through a lot of trial and error, I learned the craft and they kept getting better.
I don’t know why, but it never struck me that I could make a living making guitars. I continued playing and building as a passionate hobby, but as for a "real career", I studied art and architecture, eventually graduated as a fine artist from the California Institute of the Arts. I was hired by the Walt Disney Company in their Feature Animation unit. No complaints there, a great place and a fantastic job. I animated on "Roger Rabbit", "The Little Mermaid", "Beauty and the Beast" and "The Lion King". I coordinated, then supervised, and eventually became a Producer, producing the features "The Emperor’s New Groove" and "Chicken Little".
But after almost 20 years at Disney, one day I woke up and said, that’s enough, it’s time for a change. Through hard work and some very good fortune, I was able to take my passion of guitar making off the back burner and again put it front and center. Within a year of leaving Disney, in addition to writing and recording music, I found myself building up my wood shop, buying quilted maple, cocobolo, ebony and wenge. It was time.
I called my friend Carey Nordstrand and told him I’d work for him for a week for free if I could ask him any question that came to mind. He was amused and said, "Really?" But some how he agreed and in December of 07, I did it. Re entry!! I was to the moon!! Carey is a high end bass guitar and pickup maker. Perfect, as this time around I have found myself drawn to the bass.
I find the sensibility of most bass players to be in tune with the beauty and sound of the same exotic hardwoods that interest me. In my experience, bass players tend to value individual one of a kind guitars as compared to guitar players who are more looking for that perfect early Fender or Gibson. Also, besides the deep expressive tones, bass guitars are just plain bigger and offer a larger canvas for design, shape and beauty.
After months of prototyping, both fretted and fretless models, I’m currently at work on a production run of 25 – 10 four string, 10 five string, and 5 six string basses. I will list these basses on my web site as I complete them. I am also of course happy to fold in custom orders as they come in.
After years at Disney, working with literally hundreds of artists on each project, I have naturally amassed a very large staff for Wyn Guitars. You guessed it, it’s me!! I do everything myself from design through completion assuring complete quality control to my standards. I wouldn’t have it any other way!!