We Have Been Busy!

The Routens have been very busy recently; an amazing Jars of Clay concert and VIP meeting, a superb house concert featuring Muriel Anderson, the amazing and award-winning finger-style guitarist and harp player, and much more to come.

Here are a couple of pictures from the two concerts, and if you know of any cool or exciting concerts/shows in the Tampa Bay area, please let us know in the comments below!

Muriel Anderson with her unique harp guitar.

Muriel Anderson with her unique harp guitar.

Our Luthier, Mark Routen, Bryon, and the boys from Jars of Clay--20 years and still going strong!

Our Luthier, Mark Routen, Bryon, and the boys from Jars of Clay–20 years and still going strong!

Body and Neck are Finished

The body and neck are completed and sealed and ready for pore filling and finishing.

I finished carving the bridge from Ebony and we can get an idea how the guitar will look.

I finished carving the bridge from Ebony and we can get an idea how the guitar will look.

I measure the neck angle before applying the sealer. It is spot on!

I measure the neck angle before applying the sealer. It is spot on!

The headstock has a “GV” inlaid in Paua Abalone for Gino.

The headstock has a “GV” inlaid in Paua Abalone for Gino.

The neck is temporarily attached to the body to measure the angle. It is not totally shaped yet.

The neck is temporarily attached to the body to measure the angle. It is not totally shaped yet.

A shot of the top rosette.

A shot of the top rosette.

The neck is carved to the desired shape and has a sealer of Shellac.

The neck is carved to the desired shape and has a sealer of Shellac.

This view of the body was taken after applying two coats of Shellac sealer.

This view of the body was taken after applying two coats of Shellac sealer.

Binding the body with Mahogany

Rope is used to hold the binding in the body channel during the glue up stage.

Rope is used to hold the binding in the body channel during the glue up stage.

Binding tape is used to hold the purfling in the channel until it dries.

Binding tape is used to hold the purfling in the channel until it dries.

Paua Abalone diamonds were inlaid in the fret board.

Paua Abalone diamonds were inlaid in the fret board.

I inlaid G and V in the headstock using Paua Abalone to personalize Gino’s guitar. Cauls are used to press it in while the PVC glue dries.

I inlaid G and V in the headstock using Paua Abalone to personalize Gino’s guitar. Cauls are used to press it in while the PVC glue dries.

Binding tape holding the purfling in place.

Binding tape holding the purfling in place.

Once the Mahogany binding strips are bent in the side bending jig, I keep them in this mold until ready to glue.

Once the Mahogany binding strips are bent in the side bending jig, I keep them in this mold until ready to glue.

The binding and purfling channels have been routed in the top and side.

The binding and purfling channels have been routed in the top and side.

The binding and purfling channels have been routed in the top and side.

The binding and purfling channels have been routed in the top and side.

The light hues of the Myrtle back and sides will be complemented by a deeper color for the binding. I considered Ebony but the contrast was too great – Mahogany does not pull your attention from the Myrtle, in fact it looks natural against it. It will be more pronounced once the clear coat finish is applied. MDR

Binding and purfling are next up.

The body is almost finished. Binding and purfling will be the next step.

The match test. When the body is complete, a match is held in front of the soundhole. A responsive top will blow out the match with a couple of taps on the top. It blew out on the first tap!

The match test. When the body is complete, a match is held in front of the soundhole. A responsive top will blow out the match with a couple of taps on the top. It blew out on the first tap!

This is the final preparation for the back to attach to the sides.

This is the final preparation for the back to attach to the sides.

The headstock with the Routen logo and slot head sections.

The headstock with the Routen logo and slot head sections.

The back ready to attach to the sides to close up the body.

The back ready to attach to the sides to close up the body.

The neck attached to the body for the first time and for a neck angle check.

The neck attached to the body for the first time and for a neck angle check.

It is starting to look like a guitar!

Inlaying the Routen logo in the headstock.

Inlaying the Routen logo in the headstock.

Clamping the sides in the mold lor leveling.

Clamping the sides in the mold lor leveling.

Glueing kerfing to the bent sides.

Glueing kerfing to the bent sides.

Leveling the bookmatched backs before joining.

Leveling the bookmatched backs before joining.

Using the Go Deck and Go Bars to glue the braces to the top.

Using the Go Deck and Go Bars to glue the braces to the top.

The sides glued to the top.

The sides glued to the top.

Using the Go Deck to glue on the Mahogany back braces.

Using the Go Deck to glue on the Mahogany back braces.

The guitar body ready for the back to be glued.

The guitar body ready for the back to be glued.

Progress on Gino’s Guitar

I am making great progress on Gino’s guitar. More time in the woodshop means less time for posts but I will be catching up. Enjoy the recent pictures.

Shaping the Spruce braces of the top. I shaved and scalloped the braces until a clear tap tone was achieved.

Shaping the Spruce braces of the top. I shaved and scalloped the braces until a clear tap tone was achieved.

Joining the bookmatched Spruce top.

Joining the bookmatched Spruce top.

Bending the sides using my jig with steam and heat. The Oregon Myrtle bends like a dream.

Bending the sides using my jig with steam and heat. The Oregon Myrtle bends like a dream.

Clamping the stacked heel of the neck.

Clamping the stacked heel of the neck.

Tenor Ukuleles

Three custom made ukeles

Three custom made ukeles

I had requests/orders for three custom tenor ukes so I agreed to build them and have just finished. They are actually a lot of fun to play and sound great!

The uke on the left has a Western Red Cedar top and Mahogany back and sides. The middle uke has a Redwood top and Ovangkol back and sides with a 5-piece neck. The uke on the right has a Western Red Cedar and Ziricote back and sides.

Brother to Brother – Gino and Ross Vannelli

The guitar I just started building is truly the most exciting project I have ever done. It’s for someone who is one of the biggest musical influences in my life. To understand this, you need to know a little bit about me.

I have a passion for music. Born into a family of non-musical parents and siblings, I started singing in public at age five with my parents’ urging and support. I spent years studying violin, clarinet and guitar, including jazz guitar with session player Andy Roemer. In college I studied piano with Kathleen Vadala, a gifted pianist and wife of Chris Vadala, woodwind player in the Chuck Mangione Quartet at the time.

Since the age of 14, I have played in duos, ensembles and bands. I have performed on television, radio and in many other venues. I have a song published and a self-produced CD of original music.

Did I mention my eclectic taste in music? Back in high school, family and friends were as likely to hear a Beethoven concerto on my stereo as a jazz standard from Grover Washington Jr. or a 15-minute tone poem by Kansas. My musical interest ranges from Bach to Beatles, Liszt to Led Zeppelin, and Joe Sample to Keb’ Mo’.  I can’t go a week without hearing pieces by David Benoit or Jars of Clay. If the song is great or performed well, I am likely to count it among my pleasures, regardless of genre. My wife and I attend dozens of concerts a year.

One sunny day while I was in college in 1974, I turned the FM tuner to my favorite underground college station in Virginia. I heard a song that had an everlasting impact on my musical life: Powerful People by Gino Vannelli. I grabbed my car keys and rushed down to Korvettes to buy this amazing song, but the record department clerk didn’t know anything about it or the artist. He reluctantly agreed to try to order it. Not finding it listed in his binder of printed pages, he wrote it in on the order form.

In the meantime, the radio station played several more cuts from the album: People Gotta Move and Felicia – both equally fantastic songs. When the album did come in, I played it continuously and for anyone I could get to listen. It became the anthem of my musical family.

Over the years I have seen Gino in concert many times. I have travelled great distances to see his shows. I have also read his book, Stardust in the Sand, twice. I own everything he has ever recorded.

In February 2013, Gino gave a concert at the House of Blues in Orlando. I was lucky enough to get meet-and-greet tickets. I was finally going to get to meet my musical inspiration! I practiced what I was going to say so as not to sound like a crazed fan. My son David suggested that I offer to build him a custom guitar.

The concert was simply incredible. My wife commented (several times) on just how good Gino still looks.

When we were in line to meet him, I rehearsed one last time, and I wrote out a note on my business card. Gino was very cordial, but I had only about a minute for a handshake, picture and to say, “Thank you for giving us decades of outstanding music.” I did not have time to talk about guitars or give him my business card. Nonetheless, the evening was magical and one I will always remember.

After the concert, and at David’s urging, I emailed Gino through his website and told him I would be honored to build him a custom guitar in the hope that he will continue to compose wonderful music.

I truly did not expect to ever hear back from him, but to my surprise, the very next day I received an email from his brother and manager, Ross Vannelli (who wrote Gino’s hit, “I Just Wanna Stop”). Ross told me Gino has a good guitar but it is not really ideal for studio recording; could I build him one for recording?

Over the next several weeks, we discussed the sound, action, appearance and application of a custom, studio guitar, which I am building to Gino’s specifications. He prefers a bright and balanced sound with low action for his finger-style technique.

Based on Gino’s responses, I suggested two guitar shapes and two combinations of wood. To my delight, since Gino lives in the Pacific Northwest, he selected local, domestic woods: Oregon Myrtle for the back and sides and master-grade Sitka Spruce for the top in a Grand Concert model.

And so the adventure begins….