Today we are dissecting 30 full view by ~vankuilenburg
First off, please introduce yourself?
Hello, my name is Grey Van Kuilenburg. I grew up in Michigan, but I've moved around a lot since.
Please explain what we are viewing.
You're looking at a Stratocaster style piece I made from scratch with my good friend Jerry Kaisersmyth (he's the one resposible for that rad fretboard). Jerry sent me the roughed out pieces, and I went to work. It's a solid flame mahogany piece that I shaped and carved over a series of months. The neck is also flame mahogany and the fretboard is ebony with a great deal of abalone inlay. It has 21 frets, ceramic pickups, and old school strat tuners that I mounted upside down on the 3 and 3 headstock. It's a fairly radical piece, so I tried to use very traditional parts (like the old school plain speed knobs, the tuners etc.) and accents on it. It has huge tone because it's such a monstrous heavy beast of a guitar.
Can you describe for a layman how its made?
The process is a long one, but the readers digest version is you select the tone wood, find the centerline, route out the cavities for the pickups, electronics, and the neck pocket (lot's of slow caution there. it needs to be as perfect, as straight, and as tight as possible. This is where a great deal of tone is either lost or gained.) Do whatever drilling is necessary for the bridge you're using, I do a lot of mock ups with the parts to make sure everything fits and has room. You cannot measure enough times, or be careful enough!!! Then shape it, and break out the chisels. After its finished, I do a great deal of sanding, then finish it or send it to the paint shop depending on the piece. In this case I went with a three part oil finish that I like to use. It's very protective, but it feels like raw wood so it plays fast and feels more natural.
What tools did you use?
I have a workshop in my home. It's indoors (spare room) so my wood is always maintained at a nice even dry temperature. (ehehehe eeeh ...wood.) and it's always cluttered. No one is allowed to clean or move anything in there but me, haha! I have a system, and I am probably the only one who would want to understand it haha!
I have a great deal of tools that I use. I have a band saw, and oscillating spindle sander (one of the greatest inventions of all time if you ask me), a drill press, a belt sander, angle grinders, bench vices, lots of chisels and files, a dremel, hammers of all kinds, handsaws and all your basic hand tools. I have quite a few old beat up ones, and those are the ones I mostly use. My shiny, fancy, new fangled ones sit around most of the time. I just feel more connected to my old splinter handled hammer, all those old tools have love and history in them. and I tend to anthropomorphize inanimate objects, haha!
What was your inspiration in creating this?
Inspiration? Well, this may sound a little artsy-fartsy, but it is true. I usually stare at the wood, and the patterns in the grain, and it kind of tells me what it wants. I sometimes have a texture I want to incorporate, but for the most part, I don't really plan much at all. I let my hands do their thing on their own, and my mind wanders. Everything I feel goes into it, and that tends to show up in the designs. It's one of the few places my emotions are ever really let out.
Also, for some reason, I became very obsessed with 3's during this piece. There are 3 of just about everything in it.
How long time did it take you to make this?
This one was a bit of a bastard. it took for-freakin'-ever! I wanted to push myself on depth, so I started with an extra thick piece for the body. And every time I'd get a layer roughed out, I'd see something else hiding in the wood beneath it. There were several times I thought I had bitten off more than I could chew.
I couldn't tell you how many hours...
Did you run into anything unexpected while creating?
Well, as I said before, I went extra thick, so I had to dish the back of the body out to take out some of the extra weight (it's still pretty heavy). The carving in layers (usually 3 deep) got pretty hairy at times, and there was a lot of cussing in a few spots, haha
One of the challenges was finding a good jack plate for the face, I couldn't find anything that I liked that would tie the wood to the pickguard, so I made one from scratch from some bull horn I had laying around and shaped it so it contours the knob there. then I polished the crap out of it. That jack plate is actually my favorite thing about the piece.
Are you happy with the result?
Whoo! There's always something I would do differently. I'm usually not completely happy with my pieces when they're finished, I just work on them till I know that if I do any more, I'll ruin it - then I call it done. I've been satisfied with one or two before, but it only lasted a few days (till I started looking at them closer and picking them apart!).
Where have you learnt your skills in this area?
As far as carving, I taught myself. I just picked it up, I'm not really sure how. Over the years I've learned new tricks, and slowly discovered tools that make the job easier and the finished product nicer, but I've done it by blindly flailing around in the dark haha. That's how i learn most things! My grandfather was an accomplished woodworker, but I was very young when he died. Maybe it's hereditary?
The guitar building part I've learned mostly by reading, then trying things to see what works. The internet is an amazing resource for learning. I also did a piece with Gene Baker (Baker guitars) a few years ago, and I learned a great deal from him in a short time. That man has forgotten more than I'll ever know about luthiery!
I learned a lot of new things recently about setup from Christina Hudson of Fender Guitars as well. She is a bad woman! Jerry (Kaisersmyth) has shared a lot as well. I try to learn from anyone who'll let me. I'm really still a baby in the learning process of it.
Do you take your own photos? Any tips you want to share for presenting your work?
I do (poorly) take my own photos. The only tricks I've learned so far are to find a nice dark background, and to use harsh light from the side and above to bring out the texture. That's worked well for me so far, though I wish I knew more about photography. I was given a nice camera recently by one of my clients who's a photographer, but I still haven't learned how everything works on it. I need to pester him, haha!
What is the best tip you can give to others wanting to test this craft/material/technique?
Send it to me and pay me to do it!!! haha
I would say practice on scraps. A lot. No really, a lot. Don't try it on anything of value for a while. The best and most important tool in your shop is sandpaper. You can do or fix just about anything with it. Play with different wood blocks to get new contours with the sandpaper. Honestly though I wouldn't recommend learning the way I do, you should try your best to find someone who knows what they're doing and learn from them. Clean their shop, and pester them till they break down and apprentice you!
The other advise I would give is once you have a fundamental grasp of the tools, don't think. I see a lot of people over think things, then if a section doesn't come out the way they intended, they think they've ruined it. The truth is most of the best parts start off as accidents or mess ups. No piece of art is ever going to be perfect, realize that, and flow with events. Feel, and just let it happen. I guess that's my advise: don't think, just do. That, and practice a lot.
Are you selling your work?
I am!! I have several pieces for sale (#17 for 3500$, #25 for 3200$, #23 for 2500$ etc.), several more in progress, and I am down for commissioned work as well. I can carve the clients guitar or start a piece from scratch for them. Just let me know if you're interested, and we'll get the ball rolling.
Thank you ~vankuilenburg for participating and taking the time to answer my question!
I'd love recive suggestions for next "victim" to interview! Note me with a link to the deviation you'd like to know more about and I'll contact the deviant.
Also, let me know if there are any questions you are missing in this type of interview!
The blueprint of... Spippo's 'My Little Alien'
The blueprint of... Devil Claw Gargoyle