It's official. The adoption papers are complete, the fees paid. Her name is "Gigi" (my mothers "official" grandmother name). She is now an official member of the family. Dr. Harrol D Blevins finished "birthing" her in early November. She's a beauty, Fleur de Leah on her forehead, a long, bigger than normal neck, straight shouldered, slim waist and big hips. She's got a Red Spruce top and flamed Cherry sides and back.
This was a project that started two years ago with a slab of Red Spruce from Bill Fitch in West Virginia. He does custom mill work and has friends in place to find nice pieces of wood. They save the good stuff back for him to look at.
I mentioned Red Spruce to him one day at Allegheny Echoes in Marlinton, WV. I was teaching mandolin, and Bill was taking a banjo class. The next day he showed up with a beautiful piece of quarter sawn Red Spruce that had been in his barn for a number of years.
I have always wanted an Appalachian woods guitar native woods from the mountains, that would have been used in the making of instruments and furniture. Those woods were chiefly Maple, Birch, Walnut, Spruce, Pine, Cherry and Chestnut. I used to teach a non credit dulcimer building course, and we built from a pre cut "boughten" kits. The best sounding dulcimers were the cherry/spruce kits made from North Carolina cherry.
I was gifted the wood by Bill and after Echoes was over, I made straight shoot for Wayne Henderson's shop to find Harrol. After pleasantries, I told him I had something for him, and gave him the hunk of Red Spruce. The man started grinning like a mule eating green briars. Harrol showed it to Wayne, and they fussed over it a bit, checking for moisture content and it's pedigree. All said and done, it was pronounced fit to re saw into guitar tops... which we did then and there. We got six guitar tops out of that piece of wood. I gave one top to Wayne for sawing it and the rest to Harrol. One was going to be my Appalachian woods guitar.
Harrol and I communicated mainly by email. He lives in a part of the world that cellphone service is poor at best. I wanted cherry sides and back. Harrol wasn't convinced about building with cherry, since he had no experience with it as a tone wood. After some research and talking to Wayne about building with cherry, he was on board. I got an email with a picture of some flamed cherry sides and back big enough for a guitar. He said he'd almost given up finding a quarter sawn set, most were slab cut, and this was it. We started talking money. I told him I really didn't have the cash to commit to building a guitar right now, but Harrol insisted he was gonna' start a guitar and it may as well be mine. It would probably be a year, so I was going to have plenty of time. Game on.
I went up to Harrol with a mandolin repair in late November, and saw the top braced and the body in the forms. We discussed the finer points; neck size and width because my hand size, the inlay, tuners etc. I was getting excited.
I couldn't help myself. I had to call Harrol in Sept. He said he hadn't touched it, but it was together and need to be sprayed, but it was getting cold, and he couldn't spray in the cold. Not to worry, plenty of good days left. Easy for him to say! I got the birth announcement by email late October. Gigi was finished, but she needed to sit for a while to make sure the action wasn't gonna move around.
It was finished! I tried to be nonchalant about it, and go up the second weekend in Dec. Janice, sensing my impatience, suggested we hand deliver some pottery to Billy and Betty at Reed Island Xmas Tree Farm, about 30 miles from Harrol. Now then, that dog would hunt!
I put my hands on it this past Sunday night. I am THRILLED, OVERJOYED AND TICKLED, TOO.
We spent two days with Harrol and Velma. Janice and Velma worked on quilting projects, and kept us well fed. Harrol and I took sorry, and spent two days just playing, singing and admiring Gigi. I'm still smiling.
So, the young Gigi is home in Georgia. The rest of her siblings, all girls, are curious.as to why I brought her home. They already bitch about not getting out as much as they used to. I think Martina, the D-18 is jealous. Guilda, the small loudmouth M-20 ain't intimidated a bit. Ole Miss, the 72 year old LG-2, knows this little girl is good, and as much as told her that she's got a lot to learn to run in this stable.
They'll work it out.
Thank you Harrol Blevins, for making the wood come to life in such a wonderful way. May the other tops find a voice under your patient and magical touch; May the recipients of your guitar making talents be as happy with them as I am with Gigi.