Unhurried. That’s how I build my guitars. They first take shape behind the eyelids, in that limitless expanse of possibility. Once upon a notion, I sought to build the first one, and quite imperceptibly that notion became a pursuit of passion in all those that followed. I build my guitars unhurried. They contain my thoughts. As songs or poems do for others. The images arrive as if through mist, milky-grey imaginary figments. Step by step, I select my materials. They are fairly traditional – spruce, cedar, rosewood, sycamore, mahogany, ebony – nothing too fancy. Oh, and silver, too. I used to make jewellery. In that previous life of mine, silver was most often a regular companion. Then there is amber, and all that jazz. With some help of friendly jewellers, I try now to intertwine my old life and this new one. Wood and metal, wood and stone, wood and amber. A new chapter. Limitless expanse of possibility.
I build my guitars unhurried. My instruments are madman’s kin. Unbridled at times, they explode at first touch, freshly strung, yet there some among them that could conceal their singular sound for months, years even.
When I sit down with my tools, I can never be absolutely sure of the outcome. Nothing is certain, barring the previously set course. Limitless expanse of possibility. To record my ideas, I have made many templates of various characteristic features of my instruments, but I see them as nothing more than a decent constant. The shape of each headstock, bridge or fretboard bears a unique resemblance to nothing else but itself. Each element of every successive instrument is different and corresponding to that specific moment in time when a piece of wood had found its way into my hands. Limitless expanse of possibility.
Children dream they can shape the future. And so do I. Some people fish, others charm their luck in casinos, there are those who go ice-skating and others who put their trust in a length of cord to jump out of an airplane. I lock myself, with a dog to keep me company, in my workshop to build a future for someone. And for me. Each of the instruments brings new inspirations. I find mine, you find yours. Limitless expanse of possibility.
Sometimes when I look upon the works of my fellow luthiers, I envy them, because they can spend time in their workshops doing what I do: objects of beauty. I wish you can find your own haven to work miracles therein. In particular those miracles that are inside each of us. If my work helps you achieve that – another one happens.
I am not without flaws. One of them is that I hate cleaning up. I take that after my beloved Master. I have learned to navigate among discarded pieces of equipment, planes, chisels and tubes of glue that just lie around, everything that I had no time to put in its right place. I can weave my way through that disarray, trusting that my inner (and unpaid) cleaning lady will one day unclutter that space for me. Despite the ubiquitous untidiness I can find anything and I never waste time tracking any necessary tools, because I keep almost all of them handy almost all of the time. Limitless expanse of possibility.
Another thing I am not too fond of is sharpening my tools. Before I commit myself to another instrument waiting to be made, I always set aside a full day for that particular chore. No craftsman can overestimate the value of a sharp tool and that’s the only reason I do it. Once it is done, work becomes pleasure and the processed material yields without a fight. To live to feel the pleasure I must survive that day when tools are being sharpened and machines (few as they are) calibrated and cleaned. Once my Master (we used to live under one roof for over ten years) gave me a knife as a birthday present. Handcrafted by Himself, hilted with exotic timber, I have it to this very day. When I sit down to sharpen that knife, I recall the day I got it. And I try to think of what connects me to that object, which can be so much of a nuisance at times like this. Years later I returned the favour with a similar knife. I gave it a hilt of ebony, black as night, to commemorate all those late-and-early hours we spent in the workshop. The blade was cut from the same piece of steel. For apart from instruments, I enjoy knifemaking, too. Limitless expanse of possibility.
And so, I have the idea to make an instrument. That is a lot. Enough to sleep in peace, with an easy conscience. Come morning, I usually have a plan at the ready, complete with that feeling when my hands are itching and my mind is on the new project. The young one to kindergarten, the canine to the park and off we go. It takes quite some time to select materials, but have no fear – that time will not go down the drain. No minute of conceptual work is a minute wasted. As they say in the Lutherie School in Poznań: Easy to thinnen a rod, hard to thicken it back. So few words, so much meaning. Being well-prepared for work really is a lot. That and my philosophy, which I got a degree in after I became a steadfast guitar adventurer. It comes to my side in those moments I can afford the time for reflection.
I build my guitars unhurried. Following the idea, my tools are set in motion. My tools and my hands. I used to dream to have everything in my hands. I almost do. Almost, because I’ve got just a few basic tools to aid my process. My plant is twelve square metres occupied by two band saws, a drill press, a drum sander, two belt sanders, two hand-held random orbit sanders and a thickness planer to machine bigger chunks of wood. That’s it. Oh! The most important: a dust extractor, which is essentially an oversized vacuum cleaner with a system of hoses to collect and bag up all the industrial dirt. Twelve square freestyling metres. Limitless expanse of possibility.
I lock myself in the workshop only when my dog is not around, because Norwid barks whenever someone touches the door handle, and if I’m working with my earphones on, I easily get scared stiff. It has happened a number of times, so I won’t risk it anymore, preferring to part with this world in a more tolerable fashion. If I had it my way (which terrifies my loved ones no end), I would never leave my workshop. I have a fairly addictive personality and I’m prone to becoming dependent on some repeated activities, e.g. I have been an RPG junkie for a long time and therefore I don’t play RPGs any more, for there was a time when they used to take up a big part of my life. Guitars are not so much different. I got addicted in a flash. I build my guitars unhurried. As of today, a single project had taken anything from three months up to four years.
The worktable is a quite separate subject altogether. To get my first one, years ago, the Master and me visited a nearby primary school’s technology teacher, the lord of files, callipers, hammers and vices. We used to know him by sight and from elsewhere. Four brews changed hands and we were good to go. The table, a tad worse for wear, though still more stable than its seller, has not fallen apart to this very day. The second one that graces my workshop is made by me, a vast, heavy frame of welded iron which I covered with waterproof plywood, four centimetres thick. The frame I bought once upon a time at scrap price in one of Warsaw’s declining technological institutes that used to have a manufacturing facility, for the aces of engineering to try and bring their inventions to life. It is irreplaceable. A penny a kilo, times thirty. Cheaper than anything sold by the weight, I would have sinned to miss such a bargain. Limitless expanse of possibility.
The design of the bodies in my guitars is consistent, based upon the figure of eight – it’s how my Master taught me. What I sincerely detest in a guitar profile are any straight lines, irrationally annoying to me. It beats my understanding why still some guitars keep being designed to be straight at least around one of the blocks, either neck or tail, if not both of them. I guess that’s traditional. There is literally no other explanation. And speaking of tradition – I often wonder what would happen if Martin took their otherwise magnificent guitars and changed the shape of those dreadful, axe-chopped headstocks. How many traditionalists would then clamour over profaning the canon and the custom. I don’t think I will live to see it. And that’s all right. To each his own. My headstocks are different. Feisty. Apart from gentle curves, their outline features two crooks that come out a little different every time. I like them. The tail of the fretboard is harmonised with those crooks and curves up at the headstock, in order to form a unity. That is my guarantee of visual coherence in the composition. It makes me calm, too. I cannot work otherwise, and when I’m calm, working seems to be a gift of adequate place, adequate time and adequate motive force on every subsequent stage of making an instrument. It may well be getting out of hand, this wordage of mine, but how else does one avoid banality saying “I more than like what I do”? That’s how, perhaps. There would be so much more happiness in the continued existence on Earth if everyone could find fulfilment adequately to their predisposition, knowledge and passion. Limitless expanse of possibility. A wonderful utopia. Concordantly, the shape of the bridge in my guitars is never accidental. Its lower curve mirrors the bottom edge of the soundboard, which is why the bridge always fits so harmoniously in any guitar that I make. To me, the headstock, the fretboard and the bridge constitute a three-piece set that should be made out of one kind of wood. Ebony or rosewood, usually. Nothing too fancy. I build my guitars unhurried.
SEGA – a proper name that came to mean me years ago. Conceived by one of Warsaw’s percussionists, when our paths had crossed in time. He kept calling me that and eventually I figured it’s a fitting name for my guitars.