People often ask me what is the difference between one of my guitars and one they could get in a shop.
Not many people these days make guitars the way that I do.
In fact, nobody makes guitars exactly like mine. Each one is a completely unique creation - the end result of many hours of focused, absorbing, skilled and specialised work - almost entirely done with hand-tools.
And that is where the difference lies.
It's not a difference that's easy to describe. It's in every aspect of the instrument. It's in every part of the construction from start to finish. It's in every detail. It's in every fiber of the wood. Sometimes it's subtle, but to anyone with a keen eye and a keen ear, the difference is very plain to see and to hear.
If I was tempted to look into it deeper -
(what makes a entirely handmade guitar quite
different from a factory or machine made one?) -
I would say it's all about vibrations...
All matter is actually energy which is vibrating at a certain level and a certain frequency. This is scientifically understood to be the case. If you take a close look at anything, you will find it is almost entirely composed of empty space, yet with a certain energy level and vibration.
This is as true of a single atom as it is of a star or galaxy, Looked at in a certain way, everything we see and hear are in fact wave forms with their own distinctive pattern, in constant interaction, movement and change.
A Rock will have a certain energy level, a distinct vibration. Water, air, fire will have theirs. A cypress tree growing on the dry rocky slopes of Galilee will have a certain type of energy. A rosewood tree from the lush forests of India will have another.
Some might call it the soul. Some might call it the essence, but there's no doubt - all this stuff is connected.
It's the same stuff really - constantly flowing from one form to another.
Now, imagine yourself standing deep in a forest of ancient trees. Take in your surroundings and you'll notice a certain type of energy about the place. In fact, think of any place in nature. A lake, a mountain, a waterfall, a desert. It's hard to say exactly what it is, but there is a certain distinctive feel to each place, but a certain quality which they all share in common. If you compare it, let's say, to a busy city, or a factory, an airport or a motorway - you'll understand what I'm trying to describe.
Natural frequency and machine frequency are very different, obviously.
A tree swaying in a breeze will have a different kind of energy than, say, a fire engine - even though they're about the same size. Obviously. It will also have a different kind of energy than a wardrobe, for example - even though they're both made out of wood. And an Ikea wardrobe will have a different kind of energy than a handmade antique wardrobe. Likewise, an ancient cathedral will have a different kind of energy than a multi storey car park. Much of this is because of the handcraftsmanship.
When we're talking about furniture, there is the question of whether it actually makes any difference. Of course, it does and it doesn't. In terms of function , both wardrobes will be as good as each other if all you need is a place to hang your coat.
Then again, to some people the difference is very important and significant. And when we're talking about musical instruments - even more so.
Essentially a guitar is an elaborate box - but you know it's much more than that.
You can probably tell I get a lot of time to think about this stuff!
Like when I'm sweating away for hours with a hand plane, thicknessing the soundboard for a guitar, thinking 'why don't I just get a sanding machine and do this in five minutes?' - but then I put on some music and get into a kind of meditation as I work - thinking about life and love, art, music, alchemy, spirit, the universe... with no machines to shatter the peace with their alternating-current, electro-magnetic engines, with their noise, dust, speed and danger...
...so I put off my drive for greater mechanical efficiency for some future time - and keep on making musical instruments the way musical instruments have been made for centuries.
What is music, after all,
but vibrations in the air?
Much more than that, obviously. It goes much deeper and far beyond anything I could put into words - so I put it into my guitars instead.