Colin Kaminski - Luthier
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
Kerfin' Tom Peterson
Guild of American Luthiers
Please free to contact me at: firstname.lastname@example.org
Copyright © 2002 Colin Kaminski