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A Tale of Two Schools

A Tale of Two Schools

by Fred Carlson

previously published in American Lutherie #53, 1998

In 1975 I was a skinny nineteen-year-old with a small beard and a big passion for making wooden musical instruments, living in a commune in northern Vermont. That fall, I had an extraordinary experience. It was one of those experiences that we are blessed with once or twice in our lives if we’re lucky. I had the opportunity to spend six weeks studying guitar building at a small school devoted to that art, run by a man named Charles Fox.

Nearly twenty years later, in the spring of 1995, I found myself on the other side of the continent in Santa Cruz, California, my beard shaved off, still building guitars, and still using those few simple, elegant techniques I’d learned twenty years earlier. I’d long ago lost touch with Charles Fox, but in a very real way he was with me. For many years I had a tattered old blue notebook, my guitar-building bible of notes taken during those six weeks spent with Charles and five other young, crazy, would-be guitar builders. I had referred to those notes time and time again. I’m sure I had parts of them memorized. During my big move west in 1989, the notebook was misplaced, and I have yet to find it. Although I lost an old friend with the passing of that worn volume, I discovered that I had learned its lessons. I could build guitars without it!

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