James Einolf makes guitars in the basement workshop of his Forest Park home. He is pictured here with three of his babies, including his cat “Felix Mendelssohn,” named for a famous German composer.
By Lisa Crockett; photo courtesy of Jeff Warner
James Einolf has done a number of things in his life. At the age of 15, he built a solid body electric guitar. He then went on to do a number of things related to music – rock’n’roll lead singer, bass player, and movie sound mixer. He also did a number of things that had nothing to do with music – computer programming and flying as a commercial airline pilot. He currently serves as a member of the Castle Pines City Council. But after all those adventures, he’s back to his first love, building guitars.
Einolf builds roughly a dozen guitars a year in the basement workshop of his Forest Park home. “It’s partly a hobby and partly a business,” said Einolf. “It takes me about 200 hours of work to produce one guitar.”
These days, Einolf doesn’t build electric guitars; he’s settled on an acoustic guitar in the style of the Gibson L-0, a model favored by blues guitarists – notably Delta blues player Robert Johnson. The L-0, which debuted in 1926 and was produced by Gibson until 1929, were made with light wood, and produced a warm tone well suited to finger picking and blues style music.
And while Einolf enjoys playing the blues, he focused his guitar making endeavors on this particular model for mostly practical reasons.
“These guitars are small, so mistakes are cheaper,” said Einolf, who typically uses mahogany and maple for the back and sides of the guitar, and either Adirondack Red Spruce or Colorado Englemann Spruce for the top. “Spruce sounds great; it’s a nice resonant wood.”
Einolf crafts each guitar by hand, spending about 200 hours to complete one guitar.
Today, mass-produced guitars are mostly made overseas and use synthetic glues and finishes, but Einolf usually sticks to more traditional materials to hold his instruments together.
“Hide glue is harder to use than modern glue,” said Einolf, “but that’s what would have been used in 1926. It has to be heated to the right temperature and used quickly, but if you get it right, the glue will hold forever.”
Einolf is now sharing his knowledge as a luthier – the official name of a person who makes guitars or other “fretted” instruments like banjos and lutes. He recently taught a class at the Penland School of Crafts in North Carolina with famed guitar maker Wayne Henderson.
His teaching and the guitars themselves will serve as his legacy – with proper care, one of Einolf’s guitars will last 200 years or so. “I plan to do this for a long time,” said Einolf. “It’s very satisfying.”
To learn more about James Einolf Handcrafted Guitars, visit www.jameseinolf.com.