Colin Kaminski - Luthier

Kasha Theory

I started making guitars in 1988. I had been working as a motorcycle mechanic and wanted to make something instead of repairing. I started working on a front swing arm motorcycle. After refining the drawings I decided I could not afford to undertake the task alone and enlisted the help of a friend. He really was more interested in the project than I so I let him take over. It took him about 6 years but he ended up with a pretty cool prototype.

I on the other hand started building a guitar. Ralph Novak had done a repair to my acoustic and the improvement in sound was tremendous. I was so startled by the improvement that I decided I need to understand the acoustics of guitars. I had been playing guitar for 8 years but realized I did not know anything about how they worked.

Guitar number 1 was the first thing I ever made from wood. It took me about 600 hours over the course of a year. It wasn't very pretty but it played and was made completely by me by hand. I started with raw wood, built a thickness sander, built bending forms, designed a novel bracing system (based on the Bochet' system) and completed the project.


The next guitar I made took 160 hours and took one month.


The design was more to explore Kasha bracing than to look pretty and it was not very pretty. A friend politely named it "wolf-kitty". After reworking the bracing several times I sold the guitar to a friend. He asked me to install a cut-away.

I then built some dreadnought copies. About this time the Oakland Hills fire happened and I happened to be talking to Ralph on the phone. The conversation went something like this:

Colin: Hey, Ralph what are you doing today.

Ralph: I am going to Ervin Somogyi's new shop to wire it. Did you know he lost both his home and shop in the Oakland Hills Fire?

Colin: No, that is terrible, can I help? Who is Ervin Somogyi?

That day I went to Ervin's new shop and started volunteering to rebuild his shop. I donated 600 hours. After 600 hours we had rebuilt and redesigned much of his tooling. I asked him for some work as I was out of money and he hired me. I worked for another 6 months and was itching to start working on instruments instead of tooling. This was my first experience with tooling and I was able to take Ervin's wonderful knowledge an put it to work to this day.


After I left Ervin's one of his apprentices from 10 years earlier heard I was looking for a job. John Jordan hired me to build him a pantograph router like the one I had built with Ervin. When we were done with this project he hired me to repair violins at Jordan Music part time. I was building guitars at home and had designed my next generation Kasha guitar.

A few months later I wondered into Steve Klein's shop and asked him for some part time work. I was working on guitar number 6 and I showed Steve some of the parts. I managed to talk him into letting me work there. Working with Steve was wonderful. He has the best eye for design of anyone I have every worked with. I have worked with at least 20 designers in my career so I hope that means a lot. Steve was expanding production of the Klein Electric guitar and I used the experience I had gained at Ervin's to build tooling to Steve's designs.

I then started making the wooden necks for the Klein Electrics. Steve was busy with the acoustics and I spent as much time as I could learning about his Kasha developments. Steve makes some of the most beautiful acoustic guitars I have ever found.

Colin with his Kasha Guitar with Novak fingerboard, Klein Electric Bass and Klein Electric Guitar
at the 1st Bay Area Stringed Instrument Craftsman Show.

This whole time I continued working for John and after about a year and a half Steve had burned out on having employees and decided to stop making the electrics. I was very sad to leave Steve's but I understood his desire to make acoustics. It is what I wanted to do. I also picked up a little work with Luthier's Mercantile as a product developer. I only did this for about 6 months or so. I did not have my own shop at the time and it was a 2 hour drive to get there.

Kerfin' Tom Peterson hired me one day a week to help with his thriving kerfing production. To describe his operation would make it sound tedious but I loved working there. Tom is one of the most friendly and happy people I have ever met. I worked there for about a year or so and his tooling is extremely impressive. The tolerances and speed we were making wood parts at was stunning. I'll have to ask him for sure but I think we were making on the order of 4000 feet of kerfing a day with just the two of us. This is the same kerfing Luthier's Mercantile sells.

I had many responsibilities at John's. Over the years I repaired 1000's of bowed instruments. Did a few long term restorations, preformed many neck resets on acoustic guitars, designed the tooling he used to pin rout the electric violins, made a system to steam bend the peghead angle into 1" thick maple necks and preformed a large portion of the customer interface. (Steve Klein taught me about pin router tooling and steam bending.)

This is me playing the Klein Electric I made for myself while working for Steve.
John Jordan is seen in the back ground.

I worked at John's until 2000 when the need for money got me out of the trenches of repair and I got a job as a product designer for a homebrewing company. I ran my own repair shop for a little while but having people come to my home was not really my thing. When I am home I like my privacy.

I now have an apprentice who comes by one evening a week. He is working on a 3/4 size guitar for his son. It is nice to keep my hands in things a little. I have 3 guitars that are nearing completion but I don't take repairs or commissions. I like to build to my schedule, slow as it may be.

As I get time I will load in some images of my tooling and my guitars. I don't have any photos of my repairs but John might.

Ralph Novak
Ervin Smogyi
John Jordan
Steve Klein

Kerfin' Tom Peterson

Luthier's Mercantile

Guild of American Luthiers

My Bibliography

Please free to contact me at:
Copyright 2002 Colin Kaminski