Monday, June 29, 2009

More Interview with the Cit Pat

Area guitar makers get to see -- and hear -- the fruits of their labor
by Bill Chapin Citizen Patriot
Sunday June 28, 2009, 6:00 AM

By Michael J. Metts Jackson Citizen Patriot
Stephen Ziegenfuss works on a cutout in an acoustic guitar in the basement of his Jackson home. An acoustic guitar can take up to 150 hours of work to complete.
Manufacturing in Jackson isn't exactly booming, but there's one small segment that is growing: hand-crafted guitars.

The Jackson area has at least two custom guitar-makers. After their day jobs, both of them spend their weekends and evenings in home workshops, turning simple planks of wood into musical instruments.

The more recent newcomer to this craft, Stephen Ziegenfuss of Jackson, has completed 10 guitars so far and has another six or seven in progress.

Ziegenfuss, 25, got into guitar-making while he was attending Cedarville University in Ohio. There was a certain bass guitar he wanted, but he couldn't afford it, so he decided to try making a similar one on his own.

"Applying woodworking to engineering has always been a big passion," said Ziegenfuss, a mechanical engineer at SeaLandAire Technologies Inc.

Though he had experience building cedar-strip racing boats at the university, he didn't know anything about building instruments other than a few things he picked up on Web sites.

"That first instrument fell short, but it created a passion to keep working at it until I could create and instrument that I, as a player, could really appreciate," he said.

In addition to bass guitars, Ziegenfuss also has tried his hand at making regular, six-string electric guitars and — with some mentoring from the area's other guitar-maker, Lance Kragenbrink of Vandercook Lake — acoustic guitars.
Like Ziegenfuss, Kragenbrink got into building instruments to replicate a guitar that he couldn't afford. That's a common story among guitar-makers, he said, but they rarely end up saving money in the long run.
"Next thing you know, you've got a lot of money in wood and tools," Kragenbrink said.
Kragenbrink has made about 25 acoustic guitars since 1998, mostly on commission. This year he has to make a few extra to take with him to a pair of guitar shows in Montreal and California.
He also owns and moderates a Web site for guitar builders,, with more than 4,000 registered users.
He said he has heard several people say that we are in the middle of a "second golden age of acoustic guitars," with a shift away from cheaper, mass-produced guitars as more small-scale manufacturers spring up.
"The bar for excellence continues to be pushed higher and higher," he said. "A lot of that has to do with the ability to share information over the Internet."
Kragenbrink's guitars start at a base price of $4,650, with extra charges for more exotic wood and other custom requests.
Ziegenfuss had been making guitars for customers who covered the cost of materials up front, ranging from $300 to $600 depending on the type of guitar. Only recently has he started to feel confident enough "that I can warrant charging for labor," he said.
His electric instruments start as thick planks of wood that are cut into pieces, glued together, carved and finished.
"With instruments, people tend to hear first with their eyes," Ziegenfuss said, "so you have to work so you present a project that is blemish-free."
Kragenbrink said the process is unique for each guitar.
"Sometimes they almost seem like they build themselves and you're just assisting the process," he said. "Other times you have to fight them tooth and nail.
"The hardest thing is trying to make my guitars sound different from everybody else. ... What I try to shoot for is a guitar to have a nice, even balance across the spectrum — low strings, high strings, and all up and down the neck."
Both said the reward comes in delivering the instrument to a customer.
"When you actually get to play it and hear it, there really is something to that," Ziegenfuss said, "and then when you give that instrument to someone that knows how to play it really well," it's exciting.
That makes one business where picky customers aren't such a bad thing.

My Interview with the Cit Pat

Guitar hero

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Monday, June 22, 2009

Zebrawood SingleCut Getting Close

I need to finish fretting, and get everything installed. Then give it a final setup. Then she will be ready to go out the door. This will either be going to a friend, or a store in Cleveland, OH called the Music CoOp...A pretty cool place owned by an even cooler dude.

I did an interview with the local paper this past week. Aside from sounding like a floozy with my talk of "the tactile sensation of engaging with wood during the build process" I think it went pretty well... But seriously, this is my expression. It is hard to explain to people what is like to open up a set of wood and just see it s potential - wherin the build process all you are trying to do is realize the full potential of that wood. I know that I am not where I want to be yet, because I still see so many areas in which I fall short is advancing the rough materials to what they are truly capable of being. Each guitar gets closer to my goals. Each guitar gets my hands during the whole process - hands just as easily capable of completing something amazing as introducing flaws that were otherwise not there. A bit of a life lesson.

Grace and Peace,

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Getting Close!

Well, I still have a significant amount more of sanding and buffing to do, but this is zebrawood singlecut will soon be available! I am setting it up with set of 62' classic Fender singlecoils, 1 master volume, push pull series/ parallel, blend pot, and master tone...should be a really nice instrument.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Acoustic Progress

I got the backs on two of the acoustics I am working on...These are for family. I have a third being made with someone else's wood, so I am going through all the steps with these guys first -refreshing my memory so that I do not make any mistakes....

Thursday, June 4, 2009

This is what's new...

I got some work done on the zebrawood singlecut...
I also have some work done on the cocobolo WLG, and the honduran RW LKE2, but I do not have pictures now. I will post as soon as I do.