TAC wraps up 10-day guitar workshop

Published 6:30 pm Friday, September 30, 2011

Dan Henson and wife, Norma, work on final touches for their new guitars on the final day of the Tryon Arts and Crafts guitar-building workshop given by Gerald Anderson. (photo by Samantha Hurst)

Experience enriches students, leads to new career
Guitars inside the Tryon Arts and Crafts workshop glistened from a freshly dried shellacking Friday, Sept. 30 as students in Gerald Anderson’s 10-day guitar-building workshop made finishing touches on their instruments.
“It’s all been very exciting for me because I’ve never done anything like this,” said student Norma Henson, as she selected cosmetic details and prepared to place strings.
Norma, or “New Hampshire” as one classmate jokingly called her after she inlayed her initials “N. H” to personalize her guitar, said she felt a real sense of pride in the accomplishment.
“It was a lot of work but when you see the final product you almost fall in love again,” said Henson.
Norma’s true love, husband Dan, took part in the class two years ago. He currently owns eight guitars and has been playing off and on since he was 12. Dan convinced Norma to travel with him from Pickens, S.C., to take part in the workshop.
Just down the road from TAC’s workshop is the shop of Tryon’s own luthier, Jay Lichty. Lichty participated in the workshop two years ago with Dan Henson. For Lichty, though, the workshop served as a catalyst for a new career.
“The workshop really resonated with me,” Lichty said. “I had made a handful of ukuleles just as a hobby before, but I realized at the workshop that I could really do this.”
While Lichty didn’t decided then and there never to build another house, as his prior profession in home building was taking a beating from the economy, he did discover his entrepreneurial spirit quickly drawing him in that direction.

Peter Robson sands out an imperfection on the final day of the Tryon Arts & Crafts guitar-building workshop. Fellow classmate Norma Henson works in the background on her own instrument. (photos by Samantha Hurst)

Anderson said he, too, has been impressed by the fashion in which Lichty’s luthier business has taken off and is glad that a former student of the workshops really made use of the skills they learned.
Anderson himself began building mandolins and guitars about 30 years ago under renowned guitar maker Wayne Henderson, who taught the class Lichty participated in.
Anderson started after college, begging his way into an apprenticeship with Henderson.
“I swept the floor – did whatever I had to do to stay in there,” Anderson said.
Since, Anderson has mentored his own apprentice and taught numerous classes on guitar making.
He said making a good guitar takes a real craft – a love for working with wood to create beautiful notes and tones.
The guitars on which this year’s workshop focused mimicked the Martin D-18 acoustic guitar style. The back and sides were cut from African mahogany, the top was made out of Carpathian spruce and the fingerboard and bridge of Indian rosewood.
Students used a variety of new tools to form their instruments. They worked with a side bender to wet and dry thin slats of wood into the curved form of a guitar. A rosette cutter allowed them to hollow out sound holes in the face of the instruments.
Each student then signed each other’s leftover wood from the sound holes, as a momentum of their time spent working together.
They also worked to sand the wood to a correct thickness, used drills to create slots for the string pins and thin slivers of bone for the strings to resonate over.
“There is a lot of carving, a lot of detailed handwork involved with guitar-making,” said participant Peter Robson. “Every step has a lot of detail all along the way from cutting the pieces, to gluing them to sanding and reaming on the right side – every step takes concentration and focus.”
Keeping such focus after sometimes 14-15 hour days of work could be difficult, but it built a true sense of camaraderie.
By the fifth day, students had completed the boxes of their guitars. It actually took them 11 days to complete their products, but they all – including instructor Anderson – were impressed with their accomplishment of creating four entirely one-of-a-kind instruments.
“It is hard to believe where we started from – that strip stock,” Robson said.
Most all the students in the class were musicians or music lovers in their own right.
The Hensons play harmony guitar, Ben Seymour is a luthier of dulcimers and Robson, too, plays around on up to seven or eight varieties of guitars.
Anderson, meanwhile, has made more than 25 recordings and has more than 200 ribbons from musical competitions; the most prestigious being best guitar player at the 2003 Galax Fiddlers Convention.
The student musicians and luthiers also experienced the opportunity to perform onstage with their mentor and other performing musicians such as Wayne Henderson and his band and the band New 5 Cents.
For more information about other craftsmanship classes at Tryon Arts & Crafts School, call 828-859-8323 or email tryonartsandcrafts@windstream.net.

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