Upon moving to TN in 1997, I was working for a custom mill work company in Nashville. My guitar had just been stolen in a car jacking, along with several other things. Grant, my brother, had just purchased a hand-made George Lowden guitar. The look, tone, and feel of this guitar were awesome and completely foreign to me. I was desperate to own a guitar like this. However, I was flat broke. I tried to get financing, which came up about $2,500 short, and I didn’t have enough stuff to sell to make up the difference. One day, I was in the shower praying. I was giving God all kinds of great ideas as to how I might acquire this $3,800 Lowden. Well…I got my answer, ‘Build your own!’ I immediately thought, ‘What? Okay..cool!’ The custom furniture shop proved to be the perfect situation for doing just that. After all, wood and tools surrounded me.
I bought a book – Guitar making, Tradition and Technology. This was an excellent starting point for me. I had zero instrument building knowledge or experience. Within the first few weeks of this pursuit I had taken a few measurements of Grant’s Lowden to get a hands-on feel for the things I was reading about. I quickly realized the importance of precise jigs and fixtures. I recall making the rosette on my first guitar taking over 12 hours. But, I wanted to use solid black Mother of Pearl. Cutting all of those radii by hand took a while. I had never worked with pearl before but I was very pleased when it was finished. I was about 4 months into this project and decided it was time to move back home to Texas. I had finished assembling the body..and that was about it. My parents had a small garage behind their house in Taylor, TX. That’s where I finished up my first guitar and spent the next 4 years engrossing myself with researching guitars and their construction. I was determined to build a great guitar, and make that guitar cheap enough so that broke guys like me could afford a great sounding guitar. Prices are more difficult to harness than physics..
Early on, I read that the most difficult frequencies to get out of a guitar are the lower, bass tones. So, I started searching through guitars and guitar makers’ theories about creating a guitar with good bass response. I soon realized that my mind was being confused by too much conflicting information. For example, I was looking over my uncles Goodall guitar and noticed a very slight, if any back-set at the heel of the neck. I also noticed his very thin bridge. This made sense in that there was less mass weighing down the soundboard. Martin, and many others, would use a greater back-set in order to raise the height of the strings at the saddle. This makes sense, too. This gives a greater drive angle and force to drive the soundboard. But, the bridge needs to be more massive to accommodate this height…weighing down the soundboard. So each of these practices made sense but only when presented from their own perspective. The second guitar I built had a two-piece bridge. I designed it to be very lightweight while accommodating a very high string position at the saddle. The results were good, but I was just getting started! Being a drummer, I began thinking along the lines of how a drum head, rim, and stick function. The more I thought along these lines I realized that there were several things in a traditional guitar that didn’t make sense to me. I thought, ‘I’d never cut a hole in my drum heads!’ That thought took a while to come to fruition. My mind was moving at light speed, consumed by new thoughts and concepts for guitar construction. Every spare minute I had was spent building guitars and experimenting with new guitar designs. Now, back in TX for 2 years, my best friend, Marty Jaksch, and I were working together and living in an apartment in Round Rock, TX. My mom and dad had decided to move to Nashville, and with them went my work space.
I was determined to stay in Austin, TX. I spent the next 2 years working and trying to figure out how to get tools, work space, and waking up in the middle of the night with new ideas for guitar design. In 2002, I moved back to Nashville and went to work with my dad for his electrical contracting company. It was then that I was able to begin testing all of my thoughts and theories for guitar construction.
The first bracing design I tried on the ‘no-hole’ soundboard I called a ‘truss-brace’. This was born sitting on Old Hickory Blvd bridge over I-65. My dad and I were in the truck when a semi rolled by. The bridge moved nicely up and down. He and I discussed how to create that. He reminded me of the trusses he built for our carport in Taylor. He used sucker rod welded about 12″ at each end of a piece of drill pipe. Then he spread it apart with a short rod to give it shape, tension, and flexibility. That’s pretty much exactly what I did, but with wood..and they weren’t round pieces. My desire to develop my ideas for the acoustic guitar always outweighed my desire to make money building guitars. My research and development of the acoustic guitar led me down many paths. Some were good, some were bad. But, in all of them I was learning, and that’s what has fueled me.
When my mom died, I realized how short life is. I decided it was time to pursue my dream and offer my new guitar design to the world.
Since developing this design, I have only become more confident in the science behind it. There’s nothing more satisfying as a luthier, and the creator of Batson guitars than to hear the wonderful words people say about Batson guitars..and the music they create with them!
Batson Guitars, LLC