Video Interview with Roy Bowen, Scott Leedy and Monti Weaver

Kentucky Historical Society


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0:11 - Early life and Education (Roy Bowen)

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Keywords: Art; Guitar; History; Victory Heights Elementary School; Winchester, KY

4:06 - Starting to build guitars / Apprenticeship

8:42 - Starting his business / Creating a website and gaining international clients

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Keywords: Carl's Music; internet; New Zealand; R.S. Guitar Works; website

15:35 - Choosing to be self-employed / Business strategy

21:11 - Community over competition

23:12 - Employees at the shop / Process

31:14 - Diversification / Keeping up with demand

34:32 - Customer base / Famous musicians

36:50 - Looking to the future / Using latest technologies

40:03 - Mentoring

41:58 - Involvement in the community

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Keywords: Better Business Bureau; Chamber of Commerce

43:28 - Early life / Introduction to music (Scott Leedy)

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Keywords: bass guitar; Georgetown, KY; guitar mandolin; K.I.S.S.; Lexington, KY; Louisville, KY; piano; Richmond, KY; The Beatles; Winchester, KY

46:07 - Starting to work on guitars

47:33 - Making cabinets to making guitars

49:18 - Education

50:35 - First few years in business


AF: You left that 9-5 job. How did you make the decision to go from the

basement to having a shop with five employees? How did that transition take place?

SL: Well it kind of happened and developed all on its own. When we outgrew the

basement, of course, as the demand was there to do different things to people's

guitars for them, we would have to buy tools and we would take the money we

earned from the last customers and we would go out and buy the things that we

needed and we saw ourselves slowly getting congested.

AF: So you starting to outgrow the basement, and you had to buy new tools--

SL: Right. Getting new tools and equipment in, and the basement became rather

congested and it got to the point where we had to move tools and move things out

of the way just to do one specific job that took us about thirty seconds took us

fifteen, twenty minutes of re-arranging the shop. So, that's when I decided to

go look around, to rent a building, a bigger facility and we found a bigger

facility, and we got some help from a couple of other people, hired a couple of

other people to help us out to meet some of these business demands and that's

when things just started growing and growing in baby steps. The phones started

ringing more, the website got more hits and orders, and it just kind of took off

from there. Then we kind of outgrew that last facility and that's when we

decided to buy this place and design it on our own and get it set-up the way

that we wanted for our needs. We had to hire a couple of more people. Now we've

outgrown it again. I guess that's a good thing.

AF: Well yeah, that's a good thing. I'm interested in whether or not you and Roy

have continued to be the primary builders though.

SL: Yes.

AF: Is that right? So regardless of the staff that you've hired on, you've

continued to make guitars.

SL: Right. Even though our staff will approach us at different times with

different ideas, we will still all work creatively as a whole, as a group, but

the other people will approach us with these ideas and stuff and then we'll go

to work on that from there.

AF: Will you talk a little bit about the process of building a guitar and where

your materials come from that you use?

SL: Oh my gosh. Materials come from all over. We get a lot of our woods from

Paxton out of Cincinnati. Some of it is special ordered. Roy has a few sources

online. We've made a few connections over the years and we will order some

pieces, and we will gather our material from all our different suppliers. We get

the wood in and start cutting in into the sizes, pieces, shaping it, gluing it

up, just so we can basically create a canvas for us to design a guitar on.

AF: So that's the portion that you and Roy are primarily responsible for is

shaping and painting?

SL: Right, new components, new features, new designs, just all the research and

development, trial and error.

AF: What do the rest of the staff do in the process?

SL: Well, it seems like this job has grown into many positions as it keeps

growing. We've definitely got to have an office manager now because the phones

are ringing all the time. The office manager now is also doing the shipping,

things like that. Billy, he's one of our techs in there, he does a lot of tech

support on the phone, he does a lot of our electronic components, you know, a

lot of input as far as repairs, things like that, so everybody here has several

jobs that, I'm sure that these jobs will also get busier as time goes along and

we will have to end up hiring more people to accommodate those other jobs.

AF: In what ways do you use computers in the actual building process?

SL: Well so far it's just the power of the Internet, getting the name out there,

the website, the online store. That's our main thing, the central nervous

system. And then here lately, we just got a computer CNC machine that will help

digitally cut our bodies and everything for us perfect every time versus the

variance you experience doing things by hand. Roy and I will develop things by

hand and get it to where we like it and we can program the machine to cut it out

from that point forward which we just bought that machine and are looking

forward to getting it set-up and running here really soon.

AF: So will you tell me a little bit more about that machine? Are there

differences in quality between the ones that you and Roy make by hand and the

ones that are produced by the machine?

SL: Not really. The prototypes, the ones that Roy and I make, they're very fine

tuned to make sure that we get everything, every little fine curve, every little

part where it needs to be. There is something to be said about totally

hand-made. Then, after that point, they go into production. Then that's when

they are cut out.

AF: So there is something to be said for totally hand-made versus--

SL: --versus the production line. Yeah.

AF: So most of your buyers, do they ever ask about things like that or are they

just, the name RS Guitarworks just has an authenticity to it so people don't ask

about computers?

SL: Not really.

AF: Ok. I think, for a lot of craft producers, sometimes that becomes an issue,

but that's not something you and Roy are concerned with? SL: No.

AF: Because to meet production demand you are to the point where you have to use machines?

SL: We pretty much have to. Yeah. We have someone who is doing our computer work

for us now, on the CNC for us now just because we don't have it set-up you know,

and running ourselves yet, but without those guys it would take us a lot more

time, a lot more time.

AF: So tell me a little bit more about your consumers. What countries are you

selling to? How many guitars are selling on average?

SL: Oh gosh as far as the countries go we'd have to find out from some of the

other guys. I know in Japan and Sweden and Europe and a couple here in the

States. You've got your average people that will call in, just like you and I

who are hobbyist and enthusiasts that play guitar and want to improve their tone

or a part or a repair. Then we've got you know, the celebrities who call in and

need things done. Then you've got your business people, people that want to

carry RS Guitarworks products, so it's kind of a broad spectrum of who all is

going to be calling in on a day-to-day basis.

AF: And you offer a diverse line of products and development that you can do for

a guitar -- you can do restoration, change electrical components, will you talk

a little it about that?

SL: Yeah, we can do repairs and all of that stuff, and it seems like every now

and then we are challenged with something we've never had to repair before or do

before and I think that helps to push the company a little bit more, to strive

for more, and that really helps the company as far as growth too, it just makes

us better.

AF: Now Scott, you know, you've got a unique skillset in being able to build a

guitar. Are you worried about passing that on, or transferring that skill to

anyone here in the community?

SL: Not really. We've kind of been threatened by that once before by a former

employee who is now doing his own business somewhere else. We kind of felt like

we showed him a lot of things and taught him a lot of things and he took that

information and went on somewhere else which is fine, but then he became one of

our competitors and started basically copying a lot of the things that we had,

so that was kind of a sore subject there.

AF: Yeah I hadn't thought about it that way, I was thinking more in terms of

school programs or an apprenticeship program, but no, you've actually had issues

with, it's almost like industrial espionage.

SL: In a sense, yeah.

AF: So you've had that happen once. Was that once pretty much the only time that something--?

SL: Yeah, yeah.

AF: That's interesting, Scott. So that must have been a bit of an ordeal?

SL: It was, but I don't think he's doing quit as much as we are right now so

he's not really that big of a threat anymore, but we didn't really expect it you

know, because when you bring your people in and become friends with them and

become close with them it's almost like getting a knife in the back. But then

again, it's almost like when you worked at a job before, and you take the skills

you learned at that job and you move to another job. But I don't know, it's kind

of a touchy subject I guess.

AF: Well yeah, it is, because I guess there's a push for you to transfer those

skills so that people continue to build guitars, but then when you transfer them

and someone joins the market and becomes a competitor very quickly, yeah, I see

how that--

SL: Kind of discouraging.

AF: Yeah. Well I see how that could be tricky.

SL: Kind of makes you look at the next guy when he comes through the door, you

know, and make sure-- we've even thought about making up a like a non-compete

with new employees and stuff like that.

AF: Do you ever talk to other guitar producers about this? Is this something

that happens commonly?

SL: Yeah, it's happened before. There's nothing really that you can do about it.

AF: Well how do you feel about apprenticeship programs then? Is it something

you've considered for you? Would you still be open to it if it were a younger musician?

SL: Yeah, I'd say I would be open to something like that.

AF: Ok, but so far you haven't done any actually apprenticeship with an actual musician?

SL: Not really, we've been approached by that a couple of times before with a

couple of people but we just didn't feel like it really fit the part for us at

the moment. So, we just passed on it for now, but in the future yeah.

AF: So in what ways are you working with the local community here, and is that

important to RS Guitarworks to be involved in the community?

SL: Well that's another sensitive subject too, and I don't know how much to

elaborate on that.

AF: Whatever you are comfortable with.

SL: You know, we try to do our part around here as far as the community goes. We

make donations to the local fire departments, and charities, and fund raisers,

and things like that you know, just to try to help out and stuff like that.

Everything from, we've even got a street person that lives over the train tracks

that passes through occasionally and we'll help him out every now and then with

something. We try to help out and try to do our part in the community you know--

AF: Ok. So thinking in terms of the future, five or ten years down the road,

what are some of the changes that you see for RS Guitarworks, you know, within

the context of the current economy.

SL: Wow, that's a really good question. You really don't know what tomorrow is

going to bring. Every day you just try to strive for excellence and do the very

best you can. By doing that, the company has got this far and grown this much

just by that attitude and that mentality right there. As far as five years or so

down the road, I would hope that RS would have more to offer and have more

things to be able to bring to the table and supply and help out the consumer and

the customers out there.

AF: Ok. Scott is there anything that I didn't bring up, or that we didn't cover

that you think is important for us to talk about in terms of the shop or your experience?

SL: I can't really think of anything right off hand.

AF: Ok, I just wanted to make sure I asked you in case I had forgotten anything.

So yeah, we will go ahead and stop there and thank you for setting down with me

today and giving me your time.

SL: Do you want me to send Monty in next?

AF: Yeah, send Monty in because I'm interested to see how his story and his

experience differ from you and Roy.

SL: Yeah, me too, when it's all done it would be neat to see what he said, you

know. Do what?

AF: Well Monty, thank you for sitting down with us today, and allowing me to

interview you. I thought we would start with just some basic biographical

information. So where did you grow up at?

MW: London, Kentucky.

AF: London, Kentucky, and did you stay there most of your childhood and teenage years?

MW: Yeah, all the way up through high school.

AF: So you've grown up in London. Were you interested in music?

MW: Yeah, I grew up listening to music. Playing a little bit with friends.

AF: Well Monty, thank you for sitting down with us today. I thought we would

just start with basic biographical information. So tell me a little bit about

where you grew up?

MW: I grew up in London, Kentucky.

AF: And stayed there all through childhood--

MW: All through childhood and high school.

AF: So you are growing up in London, and you are at elementary school and high

school, were you interested in music when you were younger?

MW: Yeah, I played with friends and stuff growing up, just garage band stuff.

AF: So what guitar did you play?

MW: I think my first one was a Stratocaster copy.

AF: Oh ok. So, even when you were younger you were really getting into not only

playing, but thinking about what guitar you were buying, what brand you were buying.

MW: Yeah.

AF: Yeah, and did you take music classes?

MW: No, I never took music classes. I was always a tinkerer so I got more into

trying to figure out what made them work, taking them apart and stuff.

AF: So did you take shop class?

MW: Yes. I had shop class all through school.

AF: So what skills did you learn in shop class that you think prepared you?

MW: Woodworking, all around. I used to build bookshelves and stuff like that.

AF: So that's a skillset that you can transfer easily to making guitars?

MW: Guitars take it quite a bit further. It's a lot more intricate than building

furniture and stuff.

AF: Will you talk a little bit more about that? What are some of the different

tools that you use in guitar making that you don't use in woodwork?

MW: There are a lot of specialty tools for doing the fretwork and stuff like

that, but it's a more precise woodworking I guess you would say than building furniture.

AF: Ok, so you're in high school and you are playing some gigs you're in some

bands and you are taking shop class. So, what was the next step? Did you take

that any further once you graduated high school?

MW: No, no, I got out of music for several years. I went through vocational

school and started doing bodywork.

AF: So you had been really into music in high school, and had some shop class,

did you take that any further?

MW: No, I got out of music for quite a few years. I went through vocational

school and started doing auto bodywork and painting cars. Then I got out of that

and had a few factory jobs and then found out about this place and came in,

started out here and then ended up being the painter full-time here. I guess

that's been six or seven years ago.

AF: Ok.

MW: I left here for a couple of years and got another job for a few years and

ended up coming back probably a year and a half ago.

AF: So lets talk about that transition a little bit more. So you're doing some

factory jobs, painting some cars, you are always doing something with your hands.

MW: Yeah. I built houses for a while.

AF: So you are still using those carpentry and woodworking skills too.

MW: Well here you are inside and you don't have to deal with the cold and rain.

That's the bad thing about building houses.

AF: Yeah, so did you work for RS Guitarworks for a while and then leave and come back?

MW: Yeah.

AF: Ok, where did you go when you left?

MW: I installed telemetry systems in hospitals; the heart monitors systems.

AF: Yeah. Ok.

MW: Too much traveling.

AF: Oh. So was your home base still in Winchester?

MW: It was in London at the time.

AF: In London, ok, but still you are using your hands. That's interesting that

you're always engaged in some sort of handwork. So you came back. Were you the

full-time painter before?

MW: Yeah.

AF: And then you came back to that position?

MW: Yeah.

AF: Do you do any building?

MW: Yeah. I'm back here in the woodshop a lot too. I'm all over the building.

AF: All over the building! So by the time you came to RS Guitarworks, the

location was here?

MW: No, it was on Winn Avenue then. I worked over there. I was here during the

move and worked here for about a year after we moved to this location.

AF: Ok.

MW: That was probably two and half, three years over at the Winn Avenue location.

AF: Ok. Well then let's talk about what you do here at RS Guitarworks since a

lot of that transition and moving took place with Scott and Roy. So you did a

little bit of everything?

MW: Yeah.

AF: But your primary function is to paint the guitars?

MW: Painting and building. I'm back here doing a lot of the woodworking too.

AF: You are? Ok, so you are doing a lot of the woodworking too. So do you help

with the design of the guitar as well?

MW: Kind of. In the brainstorming process everybody you know, everybody gets

involved a little bit, throwing out ideas and stuff.

AF: And do you enjoy that?

MW: Yeah.

AF: Will you talk a little bit more about that creative process and what happens

during that?

MW: Usually somebody will just throw out an idea or something different and

everybody jumps in -- try this, try that, before you know it you've got

something new you know, that we've come up with.

AF: And do you do most of that by hand? Are you trying to switch to computer?

MW: We have a CNC now, but as far as right now it's all hand. We prototype it

and stuff like that.

AF: So how do you feel about that transition, as someone who does a lot of

handwork? Is that something you just see as necessary?

MW: Yeah, it's getting to the point now where the volume is, we do so much that,

a lot of it we still have to do by hand, but there's a lot that can be a lot

quicker and easier with a CNC.

AF: Now how do you feel about authenticity or quality? Is it still the same with

the CNC? In what ways?

MW: The CNC roughs it out, but you still have to do all of the final sanding and

fitting of the body and neck together by hand. It just speeds up the process a

little bit, the CNC does.

AF: Ok, so do you, because you are still doing those key things like you are

still sanding, you are still putting frets on, you are still shaping the neck,

things like that, that still makes it authentic?

MW: Yeah.

AF: And then I guess you go into the next portion of that where you are adding

the paint? Will you talk a little bit about that?

MW: Well, I don't really know where to start. After you get the body sanded,

it's got to be smooth and stuff, then depending on what kind of finish is on it,

it's all different. For a different kind of wood you have to do a grain filler

and stuff. Sometimes a sparkle paint job takes a lot longer because of a big

flake you have to get it all smooth. Then there is a month of drying and then I

get to do my favorite job, wet sanding.

AF: So it has to dry for a month?

MW: Yeah, nitrocellulose lacquer isn't a hardened product. It has to air dry, so

it takes a while.

AF: And then you get to sand it?

MW: I hate wet sanding, but it's a necessary evil.

AF: So what does that--? Does that just make it look better?

MW: Yeah, the lacquer when you spray it, it has a texture to it. Before we buff

them out, we sand it smooth with fine grit sand paper and then buff it. It just

makes the surface flat so it reflects evenly. Looks a lot shiner that way.

AF: Well I'm curious about the colors that you use, because I walked back

through the room where you have the guitars up and there are some really lovely

colors, but colors I guess I didn't expect to see but I really like them, like

there is a sky blue one and a couple other ones. How do you determine what

colors to paint them?

MW: Some of the colors are vintage colors that were used in the 50s and 60s. The

guitar manufacturers at the time used stock automobile colors, so most of those

are 50s car colors.

AF: Now do you let people choose? Can they make special requests?

MW: Yeah.

AF: How difficult is that to accommodate?

MW: Usually when someone makes an order they just call in with the model of

guitar they want. They have the option of fret size, neck shape, what color they

want, if they want it aged or not, and what level of aging they want. It's all

total custom order guitar.

AF: But if someone had just an older guitar, and they wanted you to change the

color on it, can you do that too?

MW: Yeah, we do a lot of restoration work on vintage instruments.

AF: You think more restoration work than new?

MW: Yeah. Well no, not anymore. When I first started it was more restoration

work, but now it's a lot more custom built than anything.

AF: Why do you think that is?

MW: Honestly, I think that our guitars have just, people have seen the quality

and people are starting to catch on. More and more people are learning about them.

AF: You just think there is a better sound? Better design?

MW: It's just a higher quality product. I mean, most of the guitars, the vintage

guitars, they made them cheap to make a profit. They were factory built, high

volume. We are more of a smaller, custom built I guess.

AF: So what are some of the customer likes that have ordered?

MW: I don't really deal with many of the customers. That's the other guys on the

phone. I'm mostly in the shop and stuff.

AF: So you are rarely necessarily aware of whom you're building for.

MW: They tell me the names. I keep track of them on my records. During the

painting process I have their name and everything that is going on with the

guitar, but I rarely talk to a customer.

AF: So you are building this guitar for someone and you know that in a lot of

cases they've made this custom order and you finish putting the paint on it and

you finish sanding it. Can you talk a little bit about what that feels like, to

see that finished product?

MW: It's a gratifying, it's a very gratifying thing to take raw lumber and make

an instrument out of it. That's why I do this. I enjoy making something. That's

why I left the factory work and stuff because you know, you do the same thing

all day, but you never see the end product. Then after I get through with it, it

goes into Roy and he ages it or whatever and it gets put together and then you

actually get to play the thing that started out as a piece of lumber back here.

AF: Yeah.

MW: So yeah, it's a pretty cool process.

AF: Yeah. Does the customer know that you were a part of it?

MW: Yeah.

AF: I mean is your name included? How is the guitar sold and packaged at that point?

AF: So when you have the finished product and they give it to the customer, do

they know the individual's names that worked on it? I guess, is there a sense of

ownership for you in that and how?

MW: I don't know that the customer actually knows everyone's names. Some of them

do. We've met some of the customers. Some of them come by the shop and meet

everybody. Yeah, it's a proud moment I guess you would say when you see someone

satisfied with something that you had a big part in building.

AF: And that kind of makes it all worth it for you to be involved in the process?

MW: Yeah.

AF: So thinking in terms of the future, and where RS Guitarworks might go, what

things do you see changing over the next five years?

MW: Probably getting a lot busier.

AF: You think so?

MW: Yeah. Well, when I first started I think we built twelve guitars in a year

and did a lot of restoration. Now we do, I mean we've done fifty or sixty in a

month now. So that's been six or seven years since I first started I guess,

something like that. So yeah, it's growing pretty rapidly.

AF: Now why do you think that is?

MW: I guess more and more people are getting ahold of the guitars and finding

out. We've picked up several dealers and stuff since then. When I first started

they just sold them through the website, the RS website.

AF: I ask that question because I'm a teacher and so many of my students are so

wrapped up in their iPods, you know, the Internet and things like that, it's

hard for me to think you've got an increase in guitar sales. I think it's great,

but I wonder what age group it is, and who is buying them, and why they are buying.

MW: I don't know. There are a lot of older musicians that buy our guitars right

now. As far as kids, young people, I have no idea if that's who is buying them.

AF: Ok. Do you do anything with young musicians here in town?

MW: No, no. I have a nephew that's ten now. I've got him. He plays guitar a

little bit.

AF: Really?

MW: Yeah, yeah, he's getting into it. Big Johnny Cash fan. For a ten year old,

that's odd.

AF: So what are some of the ways that RS Guitarworks are involved in the community?

MW: You would probably have to talk to Roy and Scott about that. They do some

benefit things. We've done a couple of guitars that they are going to donate to

UK, the Kentucky guitars that Joey was involved big in that project. I think

last year Scott and Roy donated a guitar to Winchester that the city auctioned

off. I think there is a newspaper clipping of it in the gallery in there.

AF: So that's one of the biggest ways, just donating products to generate money.

MW: Yeah.

AF: Well, Monty is there anything that we haven't touched on that you think it

really important to know about the guitar making process or about your

experience here at RS Guitarworks?

MW: Not right off. I think we've about covered everything.

AF: Well I think it's interesting that you left and you came back. I think that

speaks volumes for what the community must be like here at the shop.

MW: Yeah, we're all friends, and we all hang out together it seems like. We all

get along. It's never a job when you enjoy what you're doing.

AF: You know, I think that's probably a great quote for us to end on, and we are

looking forward to getting some footage and seeing you painting.

MW: Yeah, I'll be back there.

AF: Ok. So with that we'll wrap up. Thank you, Monty.

MW: Thank you.

AF: So we really would like to film you painting. Is there like a better time to

do that?

RB: You are just going to stand there for moral support.

SL: I'm just going to stand here and go, "Uh huh."

RB: Yeah.

SL: Well, we basically get the wood in and we cut it down into useable pieces

and useable sizes like this, and then it will get cleaned up in other stages

with other machinery and down to the thickness sizes and then it will get opened

up, all the cavities, all the control templates and everything will get formed

into that, and then, the next stage will be probably the contouring, the round

over, getting all the sharp edges broke on it, figuring out where everything is

actually placed on the body, and where things actually go and, show them this

one here if you want to. This is one of our models, our solar flare model.

RB: Yeah this is actually one of our models that we call a solar flare. The

first one of this guitar was done for Joe Perry of Aerosmith and the idea of

actually inlaying an aluminum front that's acid edged. So all this has to be

routed out to allow this to fit correctly. These guitars are also; there are two

different styles of guitars that we do. One is called, "bolt-on neck," and the

other one is called a, "set neck." This neck is actually glued in the guitar

when it's actually ready to go as opposed to these where they are actually

screwed in. It's just a lot more complicated of a design of a guitar. You know,

just like the bodies, these necks all start off by just being a basic blank of

wood that we cut in size and then a fingerboard that gets slotted for the frets.

So, there's a lot of steps that go into getting from the raw wood into this step

here, and then after than, once they are all sanded up, the next step is to

actually go into paint.

AF: Will you talk about some of the differences when you shift to computer

production, so what that machine is actually doing and what portions it will be

producing and what portions will still be by hand?

RB: You can probably grab a telepattern over there--

AF: I think it's interesting that you are shifting to a CNC machine.

SL: You want to show them some of the, how we hand-make the, just flatten it as

much as possible.

AF: I promise I won't hit you [with reference to the overhead mic].

SL: El Kabong!

RB: What's different about how we are doing it now versus what we are getting

ready to move to, in the fifties and the sixties the way that guitars were

produced was to take a bandsaw, cut the profile, then you would take a, you

would make a master pattern that would get attached to the body and it would be

ran on what would be called a pen router, which you guide by hand and it will

follow this pattern to make sure that this body is cut down to this size every

time. Then once that's done, the same locating holes that mounted it will mount

a pattern that shows where all the controls and parts are going on the guitar.

This is really a time consuming process because it has to be done by hand.

Somebody has to sit here. You have to measure the depth of cut of everything

every time you do it. And it always has the variable, what if something moves?

By shifting to the CNC controlled machines, when you do this original pattern

you are actually going to do it in the computer. Then, the computer, the CNC

will follow that computer file depth, speed of cut, everything that you would

have done by hand, to make sure that every time they are accurate within ten

thousandths of an inch. It still leaves a lot of work because once the body

comes off of the CNC and it's at this step, or at this stage, the edges are

still very rough, the edges are still very square, many of the mounting holes

are still not drilled, so all that has to still be done by hand. So it just kind

of takes the guess work out of, or the risk, out of producing the guitars and

keeps their consistency very close, but they will all still be handmade because

they will have to be hand sanded, hand shaped, and that's really the most

important part, making sure that that neck feels right, because the computer is

never going to know that. You can get it close.

SL: It has to be sanded perfect too; because when they go to the spray both and

they are not [sanded well], when the finish hits them it will show every little

scratch and every little thing. Still a lot of man-hours involved even with the

CNC machine.

SA: Oh I see. So the question we asked Monty, but we didn't ask either of you,

just on a personal or aesthetic level, when you've made a guitar that's really

sounds good or you hear somebody play it or you play it, what's that like?

SL: We always refer to that as the lightening hitting Frankenstein effect. In

other words, a piece of tree that comes alive. So whenever that finally happens

that's kind of the magic moment, because when you first string it up after

you've worked on this piece of wood and you've polished it, you've got a

beautiful finish on it, and then when you finally put all the components on it

and get it set-up and you plug it in for that first time and hit that first

note, it really feels good, if you are into building guitars obviously, it's a

sense of pride in what you've created by hand. Usually from that point we will

do some refinements and fine tuning, but it's usually an exciting moment and

usually when things like that happen, usually the guys will gather around to

hear it as well and want to try it and play it a little bit too. It's a lot of

fun because it takes a good two or three months to complete one, so that's kind

of a lengthy time to wait around and whenever it's done and it's finished and

you hear it for the first time it's really rewarding for people like us who love

building guitars.

RB: Yeah, the whole time you're hoping that you've hit the mark. The customer

says, "I want to get a certain sound, I need it to do this, and you go on by

your best knowledge and choice of woods and parts and all that you are going the

direction that they are wanting, but for three months it's just a guess. You

don't know whether you are going to hit it and that first time you plug it in

you go yeah, we got what they wanted, you know.

SL: And when you miss your mark it can be disappointing. Start over and try

again. So it's not always--

SA: So what is that like, when you've done all that and it sounds, it's not right?

RB: It's heart breaking because you spent three months of time and putting the

passion into it only to find out that it's for nothing. I mean, we've had

guitars where literally we've had to bring them back here after three months and

take a bandsaw and cut them in half.

SL: If it's something like the tone or the sound of the guitar we can do

something to change some components or some features on that to make it sound

better, but if there is something wrong on the guitar physically then yeah, it's

time to go back to square one.

SL: So from there we've still got a lot of physical man-hours, hand-hours.

RB: Well that's like, we don't make, from the computer files, we don't make the

bodies fit perfectly because you want to take that down by hand because that ten

thousandth that that machine could be off could be the difference. If the body

is ten thousandths too big then the body can be ten thousandths too small then

you've got a huge gap. So it's always better to let them run oversize and then

by hand finesse it in because you know, people have always considered, they

think hand-made, and I think honestly some people have this idea of a guy with a

chisel and a pocket knife and it's really, in the music industry, it's not that

way. People have been using routers, bandsaws, table saws, and all that,

electric sanders, since the 40s, so it doesn't really matter whether it's a

computer pushing the board through that router or whether it's a guy. It's still

the router that's doing the work.

SL: All depends on your level of quality that you set for yourself as well. A

lot of people will accept other things, some things that we won't, we're always

striving for excellence and always trying to make every little detail perfect

and flawless on it, so we've got a really high bar you know, as far as quality

goes. I think that's a lot to be said for whether you are making pottery or

painting or whatever, you set your own bar for what your standard should be.

We've got a pretty high bar.

AF: Well I think that's good. I'm glad that you're willing to talk about that

because some craft producers they-- [cut in film]

AF: [resume filming] -- since the '40s, and so in some ways that is traditional

and authentic to include computers in the process.

RB: Yeah, I mean, power tools went all the way back to the '40s and I mean

computer controlled equipment has been used in the guitar industry since the

early '70s, so it's not new. It's new that the stuff is getting towards more

affordable to a small person because that machine back in the '70s might have

cost two million dollars is now down to where two knuckleheads that crawled out

of a basement can afford it.

SL: And then, I think Roy wanted to sing a little for you.

AF: You want to sing some on the camera, Roy?

RB: No, no I'm good.

AF: Well I think that's good unless, Sean is there anything?

SA: No. AF: Now you did this for Aerosmith, is that what you said?

SL: We actually ended up doing two for him, and he takes them everywhere. He

takes like 60 guitars with him on the road and that one that we built for him

goes everywhere. This guitar tech said it's like his woobie. It goes on the tour

bus with him; it goes with him everywhere he goes.

RB: It goes to his hotel room with him.

SL: He used it on the MTV Music Awards, Ellen DeGeneres, and the Late Night

Show. He's done a lot of interviews and stuff with it in magazines with it.

AF: Yeah.

SL: It's everywhere you see Joe now he's got that guitar that we built for him

and that's really cool.

AF: Yeah, that's fantastic.

SL: It's good to get paid for the job to help pay the bills, but that fact right

there is so self-rewarding. I mean, we are talking Troy, Jon Shaffer's lead

guitar player in Iced Earth and he said, "Man, the stuff you guys have done for

Jon is amazing. Tell me about your guitars." Well now we've got him interested

and he is wanting to buy two of them and they are getting ready to do a live

concert DVD in Athens, Greece this summer, so our guitars are probably going to

be in that too.

AF: Yeah.

SL: So it's like, ah, thank you. They slowly keep getting a little more

recognition, you know, getting them in the right hands.

RB: It's been a huge thing since we got them with Marty Stuart and his band.

SL: Yeah, the whole band is now using them, which is really cool and we are

talking to one of the guys now about doing an actual signature series model. So,

it's pretty cool.

AF: Yeah. [Cut in film]

AF: --At Berea, they have the student craft program and I've been working with

the director and we submitted an abstract to go to a conference at the

Smithsonian and talk about the student craft program and what some of the

difficulties are for those students to be both a studio artist and to yet be a

student who is in that position as part of a job and so, but Berea has been one

of those places where they have introduced computer--

MW: It gets pretty loud.

AF: That is loud. That's an interesting color.

MW: Burnt orange is what we call it. It's actually and old gretch color, and

that's the grain of the wood.

AF: Yeah.