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On the Bench

     I’ve played music since I was a kid. I took a class at the schools library for guitar one summer with my brother’s guitar. I was 8, I think. Since then I have never put down an instrument and have been in bands consistently. The next school year I was enrolled in the music class. They made me play the violin, right handed, so I learned to play the “correct way” without ever knowing there was an option, to tell you the truth in a formal situation there really was no option. Soon after I moved to upright bass and have been a bass player ever since. This is the one thing that has been a part of me my whole life.

          I guess my natural tendency to putz around with stuff worked its way into this aspect of my life and now I just love building instruments. It a format that allows me to use most of the skills I have learned. Nothing quite like playing an instrument you’ve made yourself. Whether it’s a bolt together electric or a hand carved ukulele it provides such a sense of accomplishment. I'm just getting started, though much of my time is spent repairing and setting up guitars it has been my schooling in the construction of the instruments and the inspiration to build from the ground up.

One of my first instrument related projects was started in 2004. A guy I played bass for gave me a nice chunk of Cuban Mahogany and told me to make a bass guitar. This is what I came up with. I have a web site set up that covers the construction of this instrument. Mike's Project Page.

     This bass turned out fantastic, I couldn’t have gotten any luckier, I had a lot of help from guys on the FDP and my buddy Maury. This bass is known as the “Cuban”.

Then in Dec. of 2007 I started the Banjourdlele project and finished it up on Jan. 02 2008. This was my first acoustic instrument other than simple drums and rattles. In this project I incorporated things I hadn’t done before, as I try to do with each consecutive project, I made the neck out of a beautiful piece of Honduran Mahogany I found in a pile at the local lumber yard, it was highly figured and the closest piece to quarter sawn they had. I bought the rosewood finger board pre slotted for frets. This was the first time I fretted a fingerboard. 

            The gourd was found at a road side gourd market in Georgia the year we attended the Southeastern Rendezvous. We filled all the spare spaces in the pickup with gourds, I still have about 7 or 8 from this gourd binge my wife and I indulged in. We have since added to our pile of gourds and many projects wait in that small mound of dried vegetables.

     This picture was snapped at the Newport Guitar Festival Miami. I meet Robert Benedetto the day before when he was setting up for the Festival, I told him what an inspiration he was and gave him one of the rawhide picks I made.

     I asked if he would mind signing his book "Making An Archtop Guitar" for me. He said he would be glad too and I brought it to the Festival the following day. I smuggled the Banjourdlele in with me early Friday morning along with Bob’s book to sign. The coast was clear and I got the instrument in, hidden in side its gunny sack, with out any one noticing. I walked into the room I was working out of and who but Robert Benedetto was sitting there watching his guitars being photographed. He smiled as I walked in and said “Hi Mike, what’s in the bag” so I showed him my attempt at making an acoustic instrument and handed it to him. He was all smiles, in this hall of the countries best luthiers he got it, the irreverence of it, the fun of it, he liked the way is sounded and I snapped this picture of him with the Banjourdlele. 

This unique little instrument was built on a Chinese Bottle Gourd.

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