In this age of digital relationships, digital sound, and immediate gratification, we often lose sight of the hands-on nature of the arts. To me, guitar making is more than technique or science, more than just the finished product. It is an experiential, hands-on relationship one develops over years of trial and error, and comes to life when one develops a deeper insight into the medium with which one is involved.
These days, many builders feel it is imperative to maximize one's time; time is money. By designing a better jig or router combination, luthiers hope to make each part of the instrument more precise, more quickly. While I understand the need for efficiency, my experience tells me the more one physically removes the hands from the wood, the less one understands what that particular piece of wood needs.
A truly great guitar needs the human touch, intuition, and insight; therefore, I still primarily use hand tools so that I may feel the wood as I work with it. Moreover, I still use traditional glues and finishes, for I believe this helps the instrument maximize its potential. I try to build each section of the guitar in such a way that all its parts work together, and the instrument becomes a unified expression. This, to me, is the art of luthiery. When a guitar becomes a "product", it ceases to be a true expression of musicality.
That is not to say I don't experiment and try to broaden the potential of the modern guitar. I do; however, I do this by increasing my understanding of what the wood can musically produce. My guitars are considered among the loudest, yet I know I can build guitars that are louder still; however, I am more concerned with whether or not an instrument is musical. With this in mind, I try to find the guitar's voice rather than just make an instrument based on scientific theory.
To this day I find the guitars that inspire me the most are those made by some of the past masters: Torres, Esteso, Hernandez, Hauser, and Rodriquez. These guitars have definite personalities, unique voices, and most importantly, they are undeniably musical. These are the qualities that inspire me to keep building. For me, the true art of luthiery is creating a guitar that is first and foremost musical.