Count the Frets on this Fender

What do frets, fenders, and this Friday have in common? It’s National “Get Out Your Guitar Day!” #GuitarDay What better way to celebrate than with one of our own guitar-making-enthusiasts: Upper School history teacher, Josh Mattingly. 

With Tennessee-swagger, Josh’s love for guitars, music, and woodworking have always been a passion, but crafting a guitar from scratch started four years ago. “Eventually I decided to try my hand at lutherie. It’s by far the most difficult form of woodworking I have ever attempted. I enjoy the challenge of such detailed and complex work.” Fire up the band-saw, dust off the chisel, guitar-making is not for the faint of heart. It takes about 100+ hours to make a guitar from scratch, and the best part is being able to hear the notes coming from the finished product. Josh fires off, “You could take three guitars that were made by the same person in the same factory and all three would sound different.”

Those practiced in lutherie [SAT bonus points to get that definition] know that the species of wood has a huge effect on the tone and character of the guitar. Says Josh, “There is something more intimate about building a guitar from Pennsylvania wood that was harvested and milled within a few miles of my house.” So, get out your guitar today! What ‘wood’ you play?


Guitar Q&A with Josh Mattingly:

Q: When did you start making guitars?

A: I have been making guitars for about four years now. 

Q: What drew you to this hobby?

A: Woodworking has been a hobby of mine for more than a decade. I started by making simple picture frames and boxes, then graduated to larger pieces such as furniture. Eventually, I decided to try my hand at lutherie. It is by far the most difficult form of woodworking that I have ever attempted. I enjoy the challenge of such detailed and complex woodworking, and I get to enjoy the fruits of my labor for years after I finish a project. 

Q: Can you give us a glimpse into your favorite part of the process?

A: My favorite part is hearing the guitar for the first time after it's completed. It takes me about 100 hours to make a guitar (give or take depending on the amount of detail involved). When I put strings on the instrument for the first time and strum the first chord, I'm overwhelmed with a feeling of accomplishment. All of the time, hard work, and attention to detail pays off. 

Q: Any fun guitar-making factoids you'd like to share?

A: So many factors affect the sound of an acoustic guitar that every instrument is different. You could take three guitars that were made by the same person in the same factory and all three would sound different. I would never advise anyone to buy a guitar online. Go to a store and find your guitar. No two are the same. 

Q: Tell us a little bit of how and where you source your wood and what that means in the process.

A: The species of wood has a tremendous effect on the tone and character of the instrument. I have made guitars out of exotic hardwoods from around the world, but I am increasingly drawn towards domestic species that are sourced locally. There is something more intimate about building a guitar from Pennsylvania wood that was harvested and milled within a few miles of my house. 

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