I grew up around a lot of trees, and enjoyed taking long walks in the woods as a child. Whenever I would see a tree that was forked close to the ground, I would proclaim, "that's my office"!
While my office may not actually be in a tree, being surrounded by wood and having the ability to make it sing has to be the next best thing.
As a maker and a player I'm rooted in the Spanish guitar tradition. I think the best guitars are still to be made by drawing on the designs and ideas of Antonio de Torres (1817-1892). Torres was a constant experimenter and inventor. The "open bar" system of top bracing, where the outer fan struts pass through openings in the harmonic bars, was an innovation of Torres. I use this idea in my classical guitars and it creates an extremely responsive, clear, even and beautiful tone that can envelop the listener in a kind of "surround sound"-- quite an experience to hear and perfect for any concert hall.
I began playing classical guitar at 17, and later transitioned into flamenco as my main musical obsession. I've studied flamenco guitar in Spain and done a lot of performing, solo and accompanying dance. Like many builders, I got my start by simply trying to build myself the perfect guitar to play. It turned out quite well, and after getting my first commission from a guitarist friend, I was hooked and decided to make luthiery my career.
I learned the craft of lutherie from Richard Cogger, a very fine classical and flamenco guitar maker in Ithaca. I shared a work space with him for a couple of years before establishing my own small shop. My setup is simple with few power tools. I prefer to do everything by hand using mostly hand tools, as I feel I have more control over the quality of my work that way. I assemble my guitars in the traditional Spanish method, by first joining the neck to the top to precisely establish the center line of the guitar. This assembly is placed face down on a solera, or workboard, and the sides are slotted into the heel block, and glued to the top with individual glue blocks called tentalones. Finally the back is fitted and the box is closed. I glue the bridge on before finishing, because I like to play all my guitars "in the white" and refine the voice by sanding the top if necessary. Finally, the entire guitar is finished in French polish of shellac, applied completely by hand with the traditional muñeca, or cloth pad.