Maketory Youtube Channel – Steering Wheel Time Lapse:
MAKETORY MEMBER – JOE CRAVER
ABOUT THE MEMBER
I started my journey in guitar making when I attended the Galloup School of Guitar Building and Repair in Michigan. After graduating I worked as an apprentice for master luthier Tom Ribbecke in Healdsburg, CA where I learned to make handmade archtop guitars and other acoustic instruments. After working as an apprentice for three years it was time to embark on my own as a tradesman and I worked briefly as an instrument repair professional until I discovered Maketory and decided it would be a perfect starting place to start a business. Currently I’m working on an electric guitar called the California, which is inspired by California-made guitars from the 1950s and I’m utilizing the CNC router to develop it so that I can produce them out of any materials that a client may want. Maker’s collectives have played a big role in providing me with a friendly space to work on instruments and get inspired by other craftspeople. Maketory is the most comprehensive and versatile set-up I’ve experienced and having the ability to have my own space is perfect for what I’m doing and plan to do in the future.
CAN YOU TALK ABOUT YOUR WORK AND HOW YOU GOT STARTED?
I started building guitars in 2015. I was living in Florida and wanted to be a tattoo artist, but I never found an apprenticeship. So I started wondering what other things I could do that would involve working with my hands and learning a traditional skill. I ended up finding a school in Michigan for lutherie (the tradition of building stringed instruments) called the Galloup School of Guitar Building and Repair and I attended a six-month course there, which was my introduction to using tools and working with wood. After that, I got an apprenticeship with a master luthier named Tom Ribbecke in Sonoma County and I spent three years working under him, where I learned how to build archtop guitars (an acoustic guitar with an arched top carved from solid wood that is preferred by jazz musicians). These days I make mostly solid-body electric guitars but plan to eventually get back into making acoustic instruments and expanding my instrument repair skills. I’ve also expanded my skills into other areas of woodworking and more recently working with metal. I rent a private space at Maketory and made my first workbench for that space, and I’ve recently got into making parts for vintage cars such as steering wheels, shift knobs and window blinds.
WHAT ROLE DOES MAKETORY PLAY IN YOUR WORKFLOW AND HAS IT BENEFITED YOU?
Maketory has been extremely helpful for my workflow because everything I need in order to build guitars in one place – I have my private workspace which I use to set-up and repair guitars as well as store my personal tools and supplies, and within walking distance is a woodshop with all the machinery I need, a metal shop where I can make my own metal parts rather than buying hardware from other sources, a spray booth where I can do my own finishes (something a lot of guitar builders outsource), plenty of assembly areas where I can put together things to large to make in my personal space like jigs, and lots of other Maketory members to get inspiration and advice from. It would be a challenge to make guitars anywhere else because it requires an immense variety of equipment which I could never afford on my own. I would have to cut a lot of corners such as outsourcing my finishing and using pre-made parts. But since I have access to a lot of machinery at Maketory, I’m able to make a guitar that is 100% my own design.
HOW DID YOU GET INVOLVED AT MAKETORY AND DO YOU HAVE ADVICE FOR OTHERS LOOKING TO START?
I got involved at Maketory early on because after a tour of the shop I knew it would be the perfect place to start my own guitar brand and I knew it would give me the ability to learn other skills and machines that I hadn’t previously had experience with. My advice for others would be to get out of your comfort zone, take classes you might think you’re not interested in and learn to use machines that you don’t think you need to use because it can add a new element to what you are making. For instance, I learned to use the waterjet to make a steering wheel and I’m now beginning to understand metallurgy and how different metals can be used in guitar making. And I learned to use the lathe which is a tool I’ve always found intimidating. But now that I know how to use it, when a machine I need to use to make guitars is occupied, I have something to work on and within a few hours have something to sell.