Munger Place resident BOB HARRIS has a shed full of exotic odds and ends from all over: ebony from Africa, Koa wood from Hawaii, Everclear from the liquor store, and even the shell of a beetle’s backside. Harris uses all of these seemingly unrelated items in his process of creating an instrument many of us use, or at least hear, every day: the guitar. Would you believe the finish on his guitars is a mixture of Everclear and a Lac beetle exoskeleton? Who knew?
WHERE DID YOU GET YOUR START BUILDING GUITARS?
I started repairing guitars in 1972 and then made electric guitars through the ’70s. Then I took a course on making guitars in 1998. I’ve made 20 guitars, five acoustics. I’m making two right now, one of which will be the first I have for sale.
WHAT MADE YOU WANT TO GET INTO MAKING GUITARS?
I think it’s the highest level of woodworking, because you are making something that makes music. I love the sound and the way the wood smells when you work on it.
THE SMELL OF THE WOOD?
Do you smell the cedar? The smell is one of the things I love. I can come in the shop, and it’s an aromatic nirvana!
DO YOU HAVE TO WARP OR ALTER THE WOOD IN ORDER TO GET THE CORRECT SOUND?
I tap the top, and sand or scrape so the taps are just right. You want it to be a long, sustained tap — they call it tap tones, and that determines the sound of the guitar.
HOW DO YOU CUSTOMIZE GUITARS FOR DIFFERENT STYLES OR PEOPLE?
Guys will come, and I listen to them play and ask what they like about the different styles. And I check out their hands so I can determine what size neck would work for them.
DO YOU EVER DECORATE THE GUITARS FOR CERTAIN STYLES OR TASTES?
I used to make upright basses with flames on them, but the wood is the prettiest part. I don’t want to cover that up.
YOUR MOST DECORATIVE GUITAR HAS A GECKO ON THE FRONT. WHY?
My wife and I went to Hawaii, and I found out that the gecko is a sign of good luck. — LINDSAY WILPS