Top Luthier Secrets Revealed
by Simon Higgs
often get asked what it was like working with Roger
Giffin. Just to clarify,
I didn't work in custom shop, but I worked next door where I maintained
the guitar collection in the Artist Relations showroom. As a result,
I was able to find an excuse to pop my head into the custom shop just
about every day and learn something new - mostly by just watching what
was going on.
not and don't profess to be a luthier like Roger, but I do know quite
a bit about guitars. Thanks to what I've learnt from top luthiers like
Roger and others like Mike Lipe and Jonathan Wilson (and Hugh and Andy Manson who let me bug them when their shop was near me), I've designed
several guitars for my own use which have been outsourced to the professionals
to get them made properly. As Roger kept reminding me, I don't know enough
to be a really good luthier, but what I do know makes me really, really
So with all this dangerous knowledge in hand,
I can, for the very first time, reveal some of the trade secrets of one
of the world's top luthiers - I give you "Mr Griffiths"...
Actually, Mr Griffiths is one of Roger's pet peeves. It's
what a lot of people think his last name is, probably because he's English.
Consequently, he gets called it a lot. He hates it.
As you can see from the photos, Roger's technique
involves very fine and delicate precision as he carves out the cavity
for the bridge pick-up.
is a very safe builder. He always wears eye protection (he calls then
"eyelids") and knows exactly which tool to use for every job. It's
a professional wood worker, Roger frequently assembles odd-shaped pieces
of wood together using said hammer. As you can see from the pictures, Roger
has a technique of storing spare nails in his hand for later use.
If you've always wondered how guitar builders prepare their
finishes, note the similarity in the colour of the deep red sunburst
on the guitar and the colour of the blood seeping through the bandage on Roger's left hand. Now you know.
Roger has been known on rare occasions to use a another
precision tool - a baseball bat - to swat away annoying pests (such as
an over-tightly strung musician) from his workshop.
You'll find that Roger, like many other luthiers-to-the-stars,
performs very craftsman-like work.
In the the picture on the left, Roger is holding a bit
of wood that "fell
off". He's trying to figure out where it goes back.
And yes, that is Jimmy Page's new Les Paul that he's
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