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Who Influences You, Who Inspires You To No End?

Discussion in 'Luthier's Corner' started by BassHappy, Sep 15, 2020.

  1. So, who are your influences when it comes right down to it? Who built instruments that inspired you to become a luthier? Perhaps it was John Page, when he was at the Fender Custom shop or Roger Giffin who replicated dozens of world-class guitars for the stars? Maybe it was one of our own fine TB Luthiers, or someone world class like Jens Ritter or Paul Reed Smith?

    Yes, they’ve ultimately inspired you to reach for the brass ring on your own builds. What basses have you played, that you had no choice - but to build a similar replica for yourself? Let's call them out and honor them here. No reason not to make shameless plugs for our favorite luthiers - as they are all likely so very deserving.

    Who was it for you?
    5tring likes this.
  2. T_Bone_TL


    Jan 10, 2013
    SW VT
    Some nameless folks working away at a mandolin factory 105 years ago, not that I've ever made anything quite that over the top.


    Dang - this pic was from before I put the stainless flatwound mando strings on, evidently. Only affects the lower strings of course, but so much nicer than rounds, IMHO.

    Kubicki - the "other" headless bass bridge system.

    ...and a bunch of folks right here. I hesitate to list only because I might leave somebody out since my brain is a sieve, and I don't want to appear to "rank" people by what order I might list them in. There's gotta be 30 or more of the regulars and "used to be regulars and are not so regular lately" and at least one "shuffled off this mortal coil" former regular.

    Meanwhile, I'm still just a wood-dorker (and at the moment, plumber, and then it's turned out that my neighbor's "camp" (house) I've been crashing at while I got my plumbing sorted needs its septic tank pumped (at least, may be worse than that, hasn't been done in WAY too long...) hoping to get my house/shop habitable and workable (6000 BF of air-dried lumber can be a good thing and a bad thing at the same time, it turns out - it is in my way right now but where to put it other than out in the weather to rot...)
    Last edited: Sep 15, 2020
    teh-slb, james condino, wraub and 2 others like this.
  3. I’ve never owned one so I can’t speak to the sound but I love the look of an F style mando with a round or oval sound hole instead of F holes.

    For my part, before I ever found Talkbass I got to meet Mike Tobias and read his building stuff in Bass Player magazine so him and also some nameless people in a more recent factory since the first body I made was a copy(ish) of an RD Artist.
    T_Bone_TL and BassHappy like this.
  4. dmarino


    Jun 1, 2019
    When I was thinking about building some bass guitars and wondering if I could really build a neck from scratch, I started watching a lot of YouTube content on the subject. Eventually I stumbled across "Restrung" the documentary about how Randall Fullmer (Wyn Guitars) got started on his second career building custom basses. I don't have his level of talent and I don't aspire to turn pro or sell basses, but his story and his attitude were very inspirational to me.
    Although he is working at the highest level, he makes you feel like you can learn to do this and I found it reassuring for some reason, right at the time I was starting to think about taking on some from-scratch builds.

    Trailer for the documentary
    Last edited: Sep 15, 2020
  5. rudy4444


    Mar 13, 2012
    Central Illinois
    First and foremost, it was the day I went shopping for my first "serious" wood acoustic guitar. I purchased a new Ovation Balladeer as my first serious guitar, but gradually the realities behind what really drove the design and manufacture of the instrument left me with a desire to have a "real" instrument. When I went to my friends' Martin dealership I suddenly realized these were made by mere mortal human beings, not unlike myself. That triggered my journey into making instruments of all sorts, so in that case it wasn't a single high-profile luthier, but the nameless workers who toiled in the Martin Factory. Bless them all!

    Honorable mention to Danny Ferrington, who is just too cool as the "man behind the curtain". Anyone not having the coffee table book on his building philosophy and work is missing out.

    Irving Sloane, certainly a nose to the grindstone inspiration.

    Bob Benedetto, need I say more?

    Countless "small shop builders" who carve out a living in this niche market by specializing in the field in countless ways.

    Bass specific, Rob Allen. His Mouse short scales are simply brilliant. How much better can stellar design and beautiful figured woods intersect?
    BassHappy likes this.
  6. Beej


    Feb 10, 2007
    Vancouver Island
    When I was about 17 I wanted badly to build my own guitar. Not sure what generated it, other than being a player, but there it was. I had been to a local merchant and had seen his poster about a guitar building course. I thought about it, and then registered over the phone, but had to go down and pay in person.

    The day I went down to pay for the course, a guy working in the shop came up and did the sales thing with me, and generally speaking, treated me like crap. Sure I was a kid, but he was dismissive of my interests, criticized the guitars I was looking at in the store, made comments about my playing (one day, when you know how to play...). I was practically ready to walk, but the owner/luthier told me I'd be able to make anything he had in his shop, once I learned his secrets. He then explained how there were "a hundred ways to cut corners" when building a guitar, and he showed me some of his guitars in the shop.

    It was plain as day to an inexperienced 17 year old that they were not of the par of quality of the other instruments in his shop. In particular, he had a beautiful Larrivee, that they would not even let me hold. I ended up not registering for his course, but instead took him up on his offer to come to his shop on a Sunday for a tour and to see how the building process went. My Dad came with me, and by the end of the hour long tour/discussion, we agreed that he was not someone I wanted to spend time with. :smug: (I fully remember his name, shop and everything, but he's dead now, so I'd prefer not to name him, as I don't have a single positive memory.)

    Instead, I built my own electric - a version of Prince's cloud guitar - using scavenged parts from an old SG copy, including reusing the fretboard. It sucked, and so did the next one, built from scratch. I bought the fret-wire from the merchant/luthier. I didn't have a book, and this was pre-internet. :D

    Then, when I was around 20, I met a guy (Jay) who had taken the same course I had opted not to take, and by this time, he had done an apprenticeship with Jean Larrivee in Vancouver, and had built a handful of truly stunning acoustic guitars. Jay agreed that the merchant guy was basically a scammer, and had offered him a job, but when he saw the quality of guitars Jay was producing in his shop, he didn't follow through with the job promise. I think this experience led him to seek out Larrivee. Jay died in a freak accident (exposure to ammonia) three years ago, though I had not talked to him in over 25 years.

    I was really interested in making electrics versus acoustics, and Jay recommended Hiscock's book, which I obtained soon after. It really helped my work, and helped me to become a guitar tech just via experience, and over time, I became pretty busy working on people's guitars in my basement.

    So I guess I've been inspired by some great work I'd seen - Larrivee and Jay's guitars, and doubly inspired by what not to do, by observing that merchant/luthier's practices and work. :)
  7. I-Am-The-Slime


    Jan 8, 2010
    SW VA
    Carl Thompson!

    And this may sound weird, Steve Wishnevski. My Wishbass is what got me started. It was cheap and crude enough that I dared taking my nonexistent skillset and tool collection and have at it. It was while messing with this that I realized anything can be fixed and that I could do it. It also led me to Talkbass and, from there, here.

    But most of all TBLC. This place is beyond inspirational. So glad to have stumbled upon this wonderful corner of the interwebs!!
    Beej likes this.
  8. Slidlow

    Slidlow Supporting Member

    Apr 15, 2009
    Oshawa, Canada
    Well I started before the whole building thing took off. After I started building, along came Alembic and Odessy so I guess they may have had some impact after the fact.
    Beej likes this.
  9. Beej


    Feb 10, 2007
    Vancouver Island
    I kinda suspected you were about my dad's age. Nice to see you giving a crap about pointy 8 string instruments with onyx frets! :woot:

    If Willie Nelson doesn't play it, my dad couldn't care less... :smug:
  10. Slidlow

    Slidlow Supporting Member

    Apr 15, 2009
    Oshawa, Canada
    While visually striking that 8 string pointy thing has some interesting traits that I am anxious to try out with an amp. It's not mine though. When I was playing and writing I supplied bass for everything from pseudo rockabilly to full on neo symphonic jazz rock fusion. I don't judge by looks but only on performance. And even that is subjective as each instrument has its own voice. I started building when I was 13 so maybe not as old as you think.
    wraub likes this.
  11. Slidlow

    Slidlow Supporting Member

    Apr 15, 2009
    Oshawa, Canada
    Oh and I should mention the crappy 60s Vibra bass I had and the fact I couldn't afford anything better with prompting me to build. Also helped that my dad was an avid instrument builder in his own right (mandolins, violins and the like). I also had a great uncle,that built organs.
  12. wraub


    Apr 9, 2004
    ennui, az
    As a tech/musician/righteous dude :D I have been inspired by Frank Lloyd Wright, George Nakashima, M.C. Escher, Antoni Gaudi, Dan Erlewine, Bruce Johnson, Philip Kubicki, Ian Waller, Leo F, Alembic, Drozd, Ritter, and so many other greats... (this is just off the top of my addled post-work day brain) as well as the lesser known greats here on the LC. There is so much pure talent here it's hard not to be inspired.
    I've learned much and constantly been inspired by the creativity and skill on the LC, and I only hope I can contribute useful info.
    ...but, I think the LC crew collectively knows everything already. ;)
    dwizum and BassHappy like this.
  13. For me, it’s @Sheldon D. so I’m building this -

    Tim Barber likes this.
  14. Valvehead


    Jun 21, 2020
    I am not a luthier but one of my best friends is... and he is one of the most inspiring people I know.
    So just I'm dropping by to say you guys all are inspiring. Keep it up!

    My friend built me this because he had made me to come up with a passive design that covers a broad spectrum of tones. Jaguar style switches are series/parallel, rear coil on/off, front coil on/off for that twinjazz bridge pickup. It can blend in the mix like a humbucker, sound nasal in parallel and have two flavors of articulate single coil goodness.

    But I digress. Luthiers are awesome.


    mellowgerman likes this.
  15. dwizum


    Dec 21, 2018
    I can remember three sources of inspiration when I first started building. I'm sure there were more, but this is what I can recall. @Beej you and I got bit around the same time - I was 16 when I decided I wanted to build, but didn't really get it going for a few years after that.

    Bill Conklin was the first inspiration. The fact that he was making crazy 6, 7 and 8 string basses, with a pretty distinct style, really impressed me. Not only was he doing something pretty different, but he was actually pulling it off. His basses made sense and felt coherent. That gave me hope that it was possible to have your own style and "language" - you could be distinct from Fender and all the generic-looking basses on the wall at the guitar store, and yet still look cohesive. I don't really remember how I found out about Conklin basses, maybe an add in a magazine. But I remember a period of a year or so where I was obsessively devouring everything I could learn about them. At the time, I knew I was a bass player for life, but I felt like I had no interest in Fenders or other mainstream brands - and Conklin was the first boutique brand that really struck me. As a 16 year old, I remember trying to talk my parents into taking me on a road trip to visit their shop - somehow I had come to the conclusion that they were located in Conklin, New York (a 2 hour drive away). I was upset when I looked at their website and found out they were halfway across the country.

    The second inspiration was the Bunny Bass website. Don't know if anyone else here remembers that place. I was active on it around 1998 - 2000 or so, I think. Their forum was a tiny handful of bass geeks with a lot of positive energy. And their actual online store was - as far as I could tell at the time - the single best documented collection of exotic basses in existence. Great photos, but also really detailed descriptions from a player's perspective. I had a lot of long conversations with the crew who ran that website - the fact that they'd handled tons of high-end basses, and could talk about what made each one special (rather than just "here's another expensive bass we're selling"), really impressed me. And, in hindsight, the fact that the were willing to spend hours talking to some kid from a bunch of time zones away who had no means to actually buy one of their instruments was pretty cool, too. They were the ones who taught me to start thinking about design elements, and how they impact the instrument. "These basses have this characteristic, which means this." That kind of thing. Since I had grown up in a sleepy generic city without a significant music scene, I really had no other way to see or learn about such a wide array of basses.

    The third inspiration was Warwick. Looking at a Warwick catalog as an 18 or 20 year old felt like stepping into a fantasy world. It felt like a work of fiction - it mirrored the real world but was distinct and different. Warwick basses struck me as the kinds of instruments that Tolkien characters would play. I made a bunch of decisions for my first two basses (the ones I only recently pulled off the shelf and finished) based on Warwick design elements (especially wood choices, like Bubinga and Wenge).

    There have been a ton more along the way, but those were the ones that inspired me enough to get me started. As others have said, the whole crew here in LC is pretty inspirational. You guys are all a big part of why I picked things up again and started really building in earnest. Seeing a range of builders from casual hobbyists to experienced pros all sharing the same helpful positive vibes is a big deal. I've finished 18 instruments in those two years so I guess you could say I've been bitten by the bug.
    Not yet and BassHappy like this.
  16. HaMMerHeD


    May 20, 2005
    Carl Thompson, Jens Ritter, and Alan (@Skelf) from AC Guitars.
    Last edited: Sep 16, 2020
  17. Thumpin6string

    Thumpin6string Supporting Member

    Apr 25, 2013
    Shoals Indiana
    All of the high dollar high end builders. Since I couldn't afford any of their basses, I started building my own. I now have a "high end bass" that cost me a fraction of what they charge.:thumbsup:
  18. Last edited: Sep 16, 2020
    mrm56 likes this.
  19. First off, I am not a builder, nor a Luthier....
    But early in my playing days, I was very fortunate to know, and be inspired by two great builder/pioneers here in town. I was also fortunate to have had both men work on my instruments (and amps).
    The first was the late,great Gene Moles. Known locally as " The doctor of guitars". As a player in the 50s and 60s he recorded on many classic country and surf/hotrod genre records. Some of his coolest hand made beauty's were unbelievable double necks. His shop was a warm, inviting place that welcomed seasoned pros and fresh faced kids like me.
    The second was Bill Grugget, another local legend. He hand wound the pickups on my bass in his garage/workshop. Still around, but frail, he once ran the paint/finishing department for Mosrite, where Gene ran the woodshop.
    He went on to not only build guitars and basses under his own Grugget brand, but also co-founded Hallmark guitars. His crazy lookin reverse "V" models prized by surf bands. Junior Brown collects his guitars.
    I was very fortunate to have known, had work done, and be mentored by these builders.
    Matt Liebenau likes this.
  20. Kira Roessler, Jaco and marceline from adventure time. She played bass too :cool:

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