St. Michaels,Maryland.–For Steve Fegan, a master woodworker and contractor, the idea of making and selling guitars was the furthest thing from his mind. However, the artistry and magic of creating a beautiful musical instrument from raw lumber had been deeply ingrained from an early age.”My father was a salesman who also loved woodworking, and he had just finished an Appalachian Dulcimer – a fretted, string instrument that’s played on the lap,” Steve said. “Shortly after finishing the piece, he died very unexpectedly, and that instrument became a lasting, intriguing, almost living memory of my dad’s appreciation for both woodworking and music… and greatly impacted my direction in life.”
A well-established woodworker with his own contracting business in St. Michaels, Maryland, it was only a matter of time before Steve would tap into his childhood fascination for what his dad had accomplished in woodworking. And now, decades later, Steve is rapidly developing a reputation as a consummate guitar maker.
“It’s very gratifying,” says Steve, who crafts his grand concert guitars out of mostly local, sustainable hardwoods such as Western Red Cedar, Eastern Black Walnut and lately, Adirondack Spruce. “Basically, I’m just creating art with strings attached… until somebody starts strumming and smiling – and that’s when my art comes to life.”
Steve’s successful contracting business pays the bills, but his dream is to eventually make guitars full time. “That’s really my woodworking passion,” says Steve, who spends roughly 125 to 200 hours on every guitar he lovingly builds from scratch.
Steve, who created his first guitar on a whim in 2006, says building a guitar is challenging balancing act. “Basically, a properly built guitar is always under tremendous pressure,” he explains. “You want the plates to be as light and strong as possible with just the right amount of vibration for an ideal sound. If the plates are too weak, the guitar will crack… if it’s to thick, it’s going to sound like your playing a two x four.”
Steve believes Laguna Tool’s service is a huge positive benefit for anybody doing business with the company. “I can’t say enough about the service I’ve received from Ben over at Laguna Tools… their service is as exceptional as their products. If I need something, or I have a question, I never have to wait for the answer.”
Steve has carved out his guitar-making reputation on providing his clients with truly original, easy-to-play, instruments that sound great. “Ultimately, I want people to pick up one of my guitars and know instantly it’s from my shop. That’s one of the reasons I use a unique asymmetrical design for the head-stock. As for the shape and feel of the neck, the customer usually has very specific ideas on how he or she wants that to look, and I’m happy to oblige.”
By the way, there’s no plastic used in Steve’s guitars – even his pick guards are made from wood.
“The first guitar I built was a grand concert with a western red cedar top, with black walnut back and sides,” says Steve, who is also planning to add classical and parlor guitars to his custom guitar lineup. “That first grand concert became my personal guitar, and potential customers love the way it plays and sounds, and very often want to order one just like it for themselves.”
The former drummer turned professional woodworker and guitar-maker, loves the art and challenge of creating guitars, but his real satisfaction comes from hearing them actually being played, whether it’s on stage in a band, or simply by somebody who loves playing for their own enjoyment. “It’s all music to his ears,” he added.
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