July 7, 2005
Moultrie-- Lots of people work with wood, building tables and even writing pens, but we know of only a one man who uses his wood working skills to help others make beautiful music.
Late in the evening with a thunderstorm approaching, with lighting just beyond the pine trees, with crickets and frogs playing a nighttime concert, a human musician often joins in. "As far as playability, this is the best of them all," says Rand Regan.
He won't play just any guitar, but only a bass guitar, but why? "The rhythm in the low notes, the groove," says Ragan, practicing in what he calls his sound room, filled with amplifiers, speakers and two bass guitars that sit in a rack.
Rand has played at least a hundred bass guitars, owned 40, and finds one that rates as the favorite. "It was hand crafted for me," says Ragan. A high quality carpenter built the love of Rand's musical life, a carpenter who feels right at home making custom shutters one minute, who can instantly put his talents to work making a guitar.
"Pay attention to the details. The most difficult thing I've ever done with wood," says Steve Kudela in a small metal building with a red awning on the outskirts of Moultrie.
In here, time goes by in a hurry when he builds a guitar from a piece of wood that looks as if destined for somebody's floor. "It takes approximately 80 hours over the course of a month," to build one.
Steve Kudela doesn't get in a hurry when making his high quality, custom guitars where one little mistake could mean instant disaster. "You could be all the way down to the last step in the process and make a mistake and the whole thing is rendered useless," says Kudela, who won't touch the bare wood with his fingers for fear of leaving an unsightly print that would take hours to remove.
His guitars sell for $2,500 to $7,000 each, about twice what one off-the-shelf would cost. He finds making them is relatively easy compared to selling them.
The guitar must visually appeal to a musician. "Nothing to do with the sound. It's strictly visual," says Kudela as he sands one of his newly created guitars. He creates a visual magnetism, an irresistible appeal. "Not unlike a beauty queen. Want to look at it. Want to touch it," says Kudela, with three finished guitars sitting in stands. Their wood patters something to behold.
Steve uses decorative woods and concentrates on highlighting the natural beauty, sanding the wood for what seems like an eternity. "Ten to twelve hours of sanding," says Kudela. Slowly, but surely, he reveals the wood's deep, hidden pattern. "They have a tonal quality all their own," says Kudela.
Steve makes four, five, and six-string guitars, whatever the customer wants in a woodworking shop where his big dream could come true. "I want to build the finest musical instruments in the world," says Kudela, who would like to build them full time, instead of when he can.
So guitarists, like Rand Regan, can make their best music, can play as long as their hearts' desire with instruments unlike any other in the musical world. The Association of Stringed Instrument Artisans estimates about 2,500 builders like Steve Kudela in North America.