Guitar man

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guitar maker

When making a guitar, Dr Gilbert Burgess of National Dental Care in Erina, NSW, is fully engaged in the process.

“I’m not musical and I play no instruments but I’ve always had an interest in woodwork. I used to make cabinets and, if I was bored, I’d build another shed on my property.

“A couple of years ago, I was volunteering at a shelter for homeless people and I met Martin Taylor. He was a corporate executive in Sydney but wanted to chuck it in and become a master luthier. He eventually started a group called theAustralian Guitar Making School and I was the first person in his class. 

“While the idea of making a guitar was a little daunting, he’s an excellent teacher. It’s much like the first time you do implants—if you have someone standing next to you telling you what to do and how to do it, you’ll get there eventually.

“So far, I’ve made three guitars and as I’ve progressed, my skills have improved. I like working with exotic woods such as ringed gidgee and I’ve got my hands on some Romanian creased sycamore maple I sourced from a retired gynaecologist. About 50 years ago, he purchased a large amount of timber but never used it so it’s wonderfully aged. I also like timbers such as Australian cedar, Tasmanian blackwood and Sitka spruce.

“The most important thing in guitar-making is ensuring the timber is the correct thickness. Soundboards need to be precisely thicknessed to within a tenth of a millimetre. The joints need to be solid with flat surfaces fully joined to flat surfaces. I like to inlay mother of pearl around the edges. Each guitar takes from 100 and 120 hours to make.

“When I’m making a guitar, the troubles of the world disappear because there’s only me and that piece of wood.

“Making guitars has improved my implant work, and implant work has improved by guitar-making. Whether you’re working with timber or bone, it’s biological material that has the potential to split, baulk and stretch. Having a feel for the material is essential in achieving a good result.

“If you have an interest in making a guitar, I encourage you to give it a go. Anyone can do it.” 

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