Art of Making Handcrafted Guitars & Ukuleles
an Introdution by Stuart Yoshida
Blue House, Brown Roof, Black Dog
on a trip to the Big Island in 1999, I was in search of someone to make
an ukulele for me. I was determined to find an artisan who would craft
an instrument that I could aspire to play. I had no idea who I would
find, but I felt that somehow an answer would find me.
when the threads of synchronicity wove their way into my life, and I
received the name of a luthier named David Gomes. He was the brother
of a friend of a co-worker of my sister. These tenuous connections are
always amazing and yet always predictable when you are following your
Gomes to arrange a meeting. After giving me directions to his shop in
the lush Kohala mountains, he ended our conversation with a description
that he was certain would help me out: “Blue house, brown roof,
black dog. You can’t miss it.”
words were good and true: I found his shop just as he had described
I met Gomes, his laid-back attitude belied his love and dedication to
the art of creating beautiful stringed instruments. As we toured his
workshop, I could feel the specialness of this place nestled high above
the rugged volcanic coastline.
the tour was over, I had decided that Gomes was the one who should build
an ukulele for me. By the time I left, I had put a down-payment on an
instrument that would become an incredible work of art.
of the mission of “Book ‘em Danno” to promote the
music and culture of Hawaii, we bring you the words of David Gomes on
the art of creating fine handcrafted guitars and ukuleles.
Art of Making Handcrafted Guitars & Ukuleles
odd years ago I was learning the Spanish approach to the art of guitar
performance in Madrid, Spain. I was fortunate enough to have been able
to spend many hours near the workbench of the master, “guitarrero”
Paulino Bernabé. I was by no means an apprentice; guitarists
naturally congregated at Paulino’s shop to converse and to play
music. Nevertheless, the scent of Cuban cedar curls scattered on the
centuries old floor, freshly and cleanly cut with a drawknife, the sweet
fragrance of Spanish cypress and Brazilian rosewood waiting to be transformed
into Flamenco and Classical guitars, and with this, the master’s
understanding and deep reverence for wood and what can be created with
it, are all impressions that evidently deeply affected my life. Returning
to my island home, the tropical beauty of so many shades of green and
the rushing warmth of endless tradewinds seemed so far removed from
the tradition and formality of where I had been, yet the curious need
for my own hands to transform wood into musical instruments was irresistible.
From that exquisite inspiration, to the present level of my art were
two decades of determined struggle, and always, the ever deepening love
and understanding of wood and strings and beautiful music.
the past twenty three years, in the Kohala district of the Island of
Hawaii, I have been producing fretted stringed instruments. I build
all sizes of ukuleles from standard, or soprano, to the baritone; and
guitars, from the three quarter size, or requinto, to acoustic basses
and large bodied steel strings. I consider Classical guitars to be the
highest and most demanding form of instrument building. All instruments
are assembled from premium aged hardwoods and softwoods in a humidity
controlled workshop. All of my production is specifically designed for
the musicians who commission it. String lengths, fretboard marking,
all dimensions, and choices of woods are worked out for each individual.
Virtually any species of woods are available from my inventory, from
brilliantly flamed Koa wood of Hawaii, African ebony as black as night,
to mahogany from the forests of Central America. Selecting suitable
quartersawn material, whether it be from a dimly lit and dusty warehouse,
or under the windswept and cool upland skies, or the stifling heat of
the coastal Kiawe forests, is an art in itself as difficult to master
as any. The joy of sensing the brilliantly flamed grain of a wood under
its grass covered, cracked and gray exterior is a sublime experience,
one that takes years to cultivate.
section of wood must be matched with an equally high level of craftsmanship
and a constant focus on an instrument’s final tone and appearance.
From selection of each piece of wood, to the final finishing and polishing,
all work is done by myself.
I have set
prices for specific sizes of instruments and for types of inlay with
abalone shell, mother of pearl, and wood. Please feel free to telephone
or write for further information, pictures of specific instruments,
or to make an appointment to meet me at my shop.
For more information,
please write or call:
Box 5, Kapaau, Hawaii 96755