Having owned and played guitars for over twenty five years I have owned lots and lots of different makes and models of guitars, some good, some awful but the acoustic slide weissenborn still fascinates me quite beyond comparison. Why is that? Well, the sound is really quite like nothing at all, nothing compares. These guitars stand up, make a statement, "Here I am, I'm different, play me if you can, I'm a sonofabitch to learn but if you can get your head round this, then I will sing for you and make you days happy!" Think I'm joking? go and try one, you will see what I mean.
then after you have made a goose of yourself in the music shop, go down the road and buy a Jeff Lang Cd or Bob Brozman album and just check those dudes out!!! Humbling or what? I must say I had my eyes on some really top level guitars over the years and I reasoned "Well, there is only a pound or two of timber in there, surely? "How come they are three grand? Well, it is the knowledge that hundreds of luthiers have passed down over the years that gives these things the tags they have isn't that right? However, I did read a book on inlaying and in there was a bit about how extensively that the millionth Martin was inlaid.Wait a minute. a MILLION Martins? Inlaid with a computer?? Whoa, that's not exactly painstakingly hand crafted is it.that's mass production more like.
so how come they are still three grand a piece??? Surely mass production makes things a lot cheaper, dont it? Is it me or is there something not quite right here? Well, don't get me wrong here, most modern guitars are factory made and to be honest there cannot be much difference in the technique for making these guitars in the factory, can there? Ok that leaves only a couple of things, the material quality, better fret wire, better machine heads, better timber, aha, the timber. But surely that cant make it a couple or three grand difference between a production Ashton or a series seven Taylor? Ok so the cheaper ones use ply, we know that!! Ok, the name maybe,could be a big part of it? When I decided to build my Weissenborn, I decided to get some really good quality timber, Australian Maple, but boys and girls, it wasn't a grand. I wont say how much, but it was even cut to size and thickness for me!l Labour, makes up a lot in the price, of course, for a hand made non- factory guitar, and it makes a huge difference to the cost these days. So what if your time is free? Well, we could argue for hours about all the differing factors but in the end in fact, it really does pay to make an effort and build your own guitar. I started off with a weissenborn because quite honestly, the fretboard spacings are nowhere near as critical as a normal fingered acoustic guitar.
so its a good one to start with! I did discover something when I had finished my guitar that when I put my GOTOH machine heads onto the guitar it is really critical to have them tightened up as much as is practical. They are not the best machine heads but are acceptable for the job. After all, the machine head post really is one of the only things that transmit those vibrations down the headstock of the guitar. I actually didn't realise it but I allowed the machine head nuts to loosen without realising it.
Naturally, they need to bed in to the timber and once it is squashed down somewhat, the machine heads inevitably loosen up. I had begun to wonder why the guitar sound and brightness had 'gone off' I mistakenly thought it was the strings getting a bit older but when I tightened up the machine head nuts the guitar sprang into life again. it honestly sounded like a different guitar.
So, if you do have a guitar that you have played for a while and its 'gone off' replace the strings and while you are at it tighten up those machine heads and fixing screws! You may be in for a bit of a shock!.
Terry Buddell, a freelance writer, lives on board his yacht in Australia. He recently built a weissenborn acoustic slide guitar on board and you can see photos of the build, buy the book on how to build it, listen to a sound clip of the guitar or even buy the plans for the guitar on www.buildaweissenborn.com or simply have a look at the yacht where it was built at www.dolphinboatplans.com .