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How did Jeff learn guitar building?

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How did Jeff learn guitar building?

Postby Black Beauty » Wed May 28, 2014 6:54 am

Hi Mark, from what I've read you learnt how to build guitars from Jeff - do you mind also sharing a bit of background surrounding Jeff's guitar building history? We all know the stories about how Bob Taylor and Richard Hoover got started... How did you guys at H&D get so good at guitar building?
Huss & Dalton TD-R Custom (Adirondack / Rosewood)
Martin J Custom (Italian / Mahogany)
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Re: How did Jeff learn guitar building?

Postby H&D » Thu May 29, 2014 7:26 pm

A quick history on H&D. While he was still employed by Stelling Banjo, Jeff started to read the few texts that were out there on building guitars. Pre-internet, there were a few and he read all that he could on it. He also had his experience at Stelling which was very valuable, especially concerning the neck, as a guitar neck is not that much different from a banjo neck, simpler if anything. He then started to make a few guitars mostly at the Stelling shop. His early guitars were marked by the usual trial and error, except as a professional luthier, he was able to make the guitars much better much quicker than someone who started from a total lack of experience. He built several Huss guitars, and then built a few with the Stelling name on them for re-sale by Geoff Stelling. Then, he decided to move into his home shop and build guitars full time. Some with his name, and some under the Stelling name. This is when I entered the picture (Summer '95). I had gone to work at Stelling when he left the previous year. After he had built on his own for a while he came to the conclusion that it wasn't working for him. The single person few tools and jigs method was slow and cumbersome, and he could not make any money. So, the two of us decided to put a system together that could do a more production-type thing and try and make great guitars, but make enough of them to earn a living. So, he and I deconstructed the whole process and started to jig up. This took about 6 months during which time we finished the "Huss" guitars that had been started and made 2 per month under the Stelling name. (There ended up being 10 Huss guitars of which Jeff or some member of his family have 4 and I have one. There were 100 Stelling guitars before that was halted.) At this point, we were both re-learning to build. We basically threw out his old way and started from scratch. By the time 6 or so months rolled around, we had a decent system going and started to make and market the H&D brand. We have been learning ever since. Most of the old jigs have since been scrapped and new ones made on the CNC. We continue to learn, and are continually pushed by all of the great builders against which we compete for sales. I think to answer how we learned, the fact is that we were always professional guitar builders and were counting on our income from that to feed ourselves. So we HAD to learn and learn quickly. I can't believe it's been almost 20 years.
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Re: How did Jeff learn guitar building?

Postby Black Beauty » Sat May 31, 2014 4:00 pm

Thanks for the detailed history Mark! And very impressive how you Jeff literally started from scratch by reading textbooks. I can't believe that you've been able to reach your current status when it's only been 20 years - shows that you're a very talented team.
Huss & Dalton TD-R Custom (Adirondack / Rosewood)
Martin J Custom (Italian / Mahogany)
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