24: Tom Bills: Guitar Maker

After investigating The Sounds of Making in East London, we were inspired to undertake a project of our own. Tom Bills creates custom guitars in his basement shop near St. Louis. Hear the sounds of the guitar-making process as well as stories of his most famous client, his family’s woodworking legacy, and the mighty Gorlok.

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Guitar care and maintenance from Tom Bills:

Gorlok Mascot

The Gorlok – Credit: Susan Polgar

5 thoughts on “24: Tom Bills: Guitar Maker

  1. When tuning the body, Tom taps the guitar body multiple times to produce the resonance whereas the comparison “game” only used single taps to the guitar body. This probably explains why it was difficult to tell the difference between the thick sounding body and after it was planed. Whether planing, sanding, or tapping, Tom stokes the wood multiple times to produce those subtle sounds repeatedly bringing the wood “alive” as Tom puts it.

    • Hey Wayne, I really appreciate your comment! You are right. But I also think it is important to understand, as they mentioned in the audio clip, I carved it for 3 min between tapping the guitar. To finish the voicing and carving process I might spend 3 days repeating this process until I’m happy with the final thicknessing of the guitar top.

      Since they couldn’t stay for days recording, 3 min was all we had to get a small glimps of that process. They did a great job though, with the time we had available.

      You can learn more details about how to make guitars by hand here: http://theartoflutherie.com/

  2. But they got the origin of the Gorlock wrong. I was a student at Webster when the Gorlock was invented. Although the school denied it at the time, it seems reasonable to believe that the name comes from the intersection of Gore St. and Lockwood Ave. where the main campus is located.
    A contest was held to determine what a Gorlock actually is. My own entry, a blank sheet of paper, took third place. The winner came from a friend of mine named Larry Underwood. Every year at Halloween the theatre techies built the Haunted Theatre. Larry’s costume was a dirty, ratty, bunny costume that he had found in costume storage. He entered an 8×10 glossy of himself in the “Demon Bunny” costume wearing a fedora and smoking a cigar. It was the Demon Bunny that took first place. The current Gorlock image is a strange bastardization of that photo.
    Yes, Webster used to be a weird place…

  3. Guitar is a very famous instrument and every one like its sound. And most of the people like it very much, Generally the young generation using this instrument for impression. And if you really make a good guitar than I also interested to buy it. Because I also like to play the guitar.

  4. I’m doing just a rebuild and would like a 24 fret(honestly I was wanting 26 feet to be more of a me thing to grab higher notes for leads)…what would something like that cost without breaking the bank or is this something I’m stuck with.

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