So as not to be depressed by whatever my family puts under the tree for me, I’ve been thinking what to get myself for Christmas this year.
I’ve decided I want to get a couple of my guitars repaired.
One’s a mid-1960s Gibson J-50. The other’s a Harmony Cremona VI archtop from, far as I can tell, about 1942 or so — the pickguard and floating tailpiece are both made of wood, meaning it’s most likely a WWII-era guitar, when almost all available plastic and metal went to the war effort. My neighbor’s daughter, who knew of my guitar hoarding ways, gave it to me when her father died a couple years ago at 87.
Both are beautiful, and great players (here’s Dylan and his J-50; Johnny Cash played a Cremona VI). But they’re beat up, too, and need substantial repairs: The Gibson has a very visible crack running down from the sound hole and some new tuners. The Harmony needs a neck reset and some binding help.
In other words: I can’t turn ’em over to the kid at Guitar Center. I’ve got to find a luthier. These guys are such old-school tradesmen that, despite the presence of as many as a hundred thousand guitars in town, I’d bet the number of working luthiers is in the single digits. And, like cobbling, this is a trade that’s not coming back.
As Asian production took over the instrument market in the last couple decades, the price of decent new guitars (like decent shoes) dropped like a rock. One can be had for a fraction of what it would have cost me when I was growing up in the 1970s. New guitars are almost disposable, in fact.
But my Gibson and Harmony are keepers. So, does anybody have any luthier references? I’ve only got three self-shopping days left.