Aisle L. Always a joy. Two years have passed. People browsed, flirted, exchanged glances. Plans made, advances ignored. There is always love in Aisle L of our local library. Requited, engaged, spurned, savored.
Since my last visit Jeffery Lent has published another book. Mr Lent is a time traveler. He closes his eyes, fiddles with levers and dials in his imagination, arrives at his destination and time, then opens his senses to new surroundings. And writes. Beautifully. We see, smell, and hear small town America a century ago. Before automobiles, electricity, or telephone.
The Lenten tornado of imagination plucks me from my routine and drops me within his world. Late 1860s in rural New York. Small town courthouse. Country lanes. Hard farm work. Simple murder, anything but simple. You are not reading. You’re an observer, tagging along, wondering what will happen over yonder hill?
When you buy well made items and take care of them, they will typically last. A mid-1990s leather jacket makes good example. Lands End, expert stitching, made in Korea, a solid product. I had to have one! At $157, the most expensive article of clothing I’d bought to date! Who would have known I’d still have it? Glad I ordered a size larger!
After two+ decades my coat remains perfectly serviceable. Garnering accolades from all, the well-worn leather garment has been a solid investment. Life, however, is not without maintenance. A button resecured. Pete expertly replaced pocket linings ~ I scratch my head over his magic. The leather? Dry here, cracked there, discolored in areas.
I tried a few reconditioning products. Foam had its chance. Expensive and uneven. A couple of years later, liquid spray. Well, that was a mess. Oversaturated, gummy, plus the spray gets everywhere!
Pete inadvertently provides the solution. I repaired his bouzouki and was most happy with Behlen’s nitrocellulose spray finish used on the instrument top. An American Toolbox article ensued. Behlen parent company Mohawk became aware. Their social media guru reached out with thanks and offers of sponsorship and product. Banner ad? Sure! Product? You bet.
I chose products for which I had use. Mohawk dropped them on my doorstep. No strings, no expectations, no editorial review. Except badgering from their legal eagle, who wants me to stress I received FREE PRODUCT FROM MOHAWK. A subtle reminder I pass on to you.
Mohawk leather products come different ways. Leather Protector Wipes are chosen. At this point, keep it clean and let it age. The protector is delivered via pre-moistened towelettes. Easy to apply, good coverage, nice smell. Perfect amount of wetness. Very neatly done, Mohawk!
Wow, WHO KNEW the leather was so filthy! My jacket gratefully sheds misapplied waxes, dirt, grime, and oils. Absorbs the Magic Mohawk dose of goodness. I’m GENUINELY pleased with the reborn look and feel of the leather. Maybe I’ll wear it one more time this season. Soon my beloved coat shall pass to the next generation. My nephew will look so cool in it!
By popular request, a few words about Pete the tailor:
Pete the tailor has been a friendly acquaintance for years. The first time? Bringing in a treasured garment for repair, I politely ignore his “No new customers, please” sign. We share bonds of musicianship and craftspeople. I fixed an old guitar his kids trashed, two hours on a $5 guitar. He was ecstatic. He’s Greek, from Greece, and owned a genuine bouzouki bought in the home country decades ago. I was asked to fix his treasured bouzouki after years of hinting and delay.
So Pete, he finally let me give it the old college try. Unlike college, I did finish the bouzouki. With its cracked top requiring a new lacquered finish, I tried a nitrocellulose spray made by Behlen. Parent company Mohawk came into my orbit while I spread the word on social media. Then came more product after, actually, I wrote a second materials-related piece, Behlen Hide Glue. Then came Buffer’s Polish, Fingerboard Oil , and now, the leather conditioner.
“Jed, gimmie two toilet seats, elongated, open front, less lid. Please.”, I tell the shuffling counterman at our venerable plumbing supply. He reaches under the counter and PRESTO there appears before me one of America’s finest. All plastic, ADA compliant, stainless nuts and lock washers, ready for my 9/16″ hollow shaft nut driver to bring it all home.
Nothing says “I love you” to a new toilet like a new toilet seat. Some customers want a newish old seat swapped onto a new toilet. I am not a “seat jockey”, but I keep that to myself. Easier to explain of buggered threads, damaged hinge, unsanitary practices, or if all else fails, It’s on the bill already. I can leave it here for later if you like.
With features I want and an American flag on the box, I know I’m installing a great product as well as keeping our economy rolling. For an item which gets as much use as this, buy the best. Mainline.
His world is clay. But to us, he is rock. Rock Star of the pottery world Jim Sudal continues to amaze. While other artists rest at their benches, content to watch understudies handle production and reproduction, Jim continues to design and produce.
Careless for my own safety, I venture another visit. Pushing into hordes ten deep, from screaming jumping teenagers to powdered octogenarians, I secure two tables for local friends. Perfect for the patio, outside or in.
A few wall tiles completes my purchasing experience. There is something for everyone. It is always a pleasure giving my hard-earned money to Jim. Because he earns it!
Jim Sudal Ceramic Design 7037 E 1st Ave Scottsdale
There is always a story behind the story. Smells of clean sweat and grass at twilight on the ball field. Echoes of Widow Baxter next door reciting her daily Rosary. Seeing the bent man uptown most days as he stops to gaze wistfully at an old mansion just off Main Street.
Every guitar tells a story. One glance at an old guitar speaks volumes. Years later, a few strums can recall times past. Adolescence. High school. Slow afternoons at the feed depot. Waiting for an infant’s birth, dropping your guitar by the fence to run inside at the newborn’s first cry.
Even before high school, I knew my cousin’s Gibson was special. It sounded better than guitars on the records he played. Jeff claimed he bought his guitar from Keith Richards; Aunt Joan said it was her father’s guitar.
The clocks’ century hand has now completed a quick four decade sweep. I find myself before a WALL of Gibsons! At the finest music store this side of Planet Earth, Acoustic Vibes Music. Some of these sound exactly like Jeff’s guitar. But that was years and years ago …. How did Gibson make a new guitar sound like an old guitar? Investigation time!
Repeated visits to AVM, I enter Room Gibson and sample each of twenty-two on display. A plush Cadillac with the sleeper screaming motor, the soft cowboy crooner, a punchy piece that looks 80 years old … and sounds it! The Vintage series Gibsons receive a proprietary Thermo Cured top – well worth 25% more. No doubt, Gibson has made an amazing return to top-flight build quality from near bankruptcy in the 1980s.
After playing all these guitars, to which do I return? An unlikely mating for a man convinced a smaller-bodied short scale acoustic would be his one and only guitar love. The Super Jumbo body of the SJ-200 is a perfect fit, with curves in all the right places. The SJ-200 Vintage has the tone I can grow old with.
The SJ-200, like all my favorite artists played from the ’40s to now. Now with a premium Vintage top. The Adirondack red spruce top is Thermally Aged giving the look and sound of a seasoned SJ-200. The SJ-200 Vintage is my pick!
Tight body, no doubt. In the silent Gibson Room, I can feel the guitar coming to tune via harmonics between adjacent strings. As tones oscillate closer toward unison, Gibson build quality becomes unmistakable. Solid guitar, solid tone. With sound so clear, so crisp and exact, you’ll think you’re in a studio atop two million in equipment, recording your next Platinum Record. The one that should have been.
Ray Whitley went to Gibson in 1937. He asked Gibson to create their biggest acoustic guitar. It was given the name Super Jumbo or J-200.
Wartrace, Tennessee Stephen Gallagher’s 2002 GMC Duramax ignored the horse trailer behind it. 368,000 miles, and just getting started. Another customer delivery for Mr Gallagher. Grandson of J.W. Gallagher and heir to a guitar-making dynasty, Stephen splits his time between family, horses, pushing livestock with Waylon, and building some of this country’s finest guitars.
J.W. Gallagher, with only a 7th grade education, was the smartest man in the country. When the Army gave him an intelligence test in the 1930s his result was so high the Army gave it to him again. J.W. scored perfect the second time. He went on to spend his military hitch learning everything he could about everything. Engines, construction, woodworking, machinery, everything.
Slingerland, the percussion company, asked J.W. to set up a guitar production line in 1963. J.W. had a history of reproducing any bit of woodwork necessary; he promptly cut a dreadnought in half to figure it out. J.W. soon applied a second element, that of physics – sound and vibration. He went on to build his own line of acoustic guitars.
J.W. Gallagher never intended to own a large guitar-making concern. Family lore has it that 1,000 units was his goal; he had so many other interests, he once plainly told a customer a special order guitar was not done because there was a river full of fish nearby just waiting to get caught.
But continue and prosper it did! The famous Doc Watson received a Gallagher early on; in 1974, Doc made a request for a different shaped neck. The result is a guitar named after him, and a Gallagher best seller.
What brought on my new fascination with Gallagher guitars? After spying an image of James King on the D’Addario twitter feed, I ask the bluegrass circle of his attractive guitar. Turns out, Gallagher guitars have been nearby all my life, as close as my turntable and stack of Doc Watson records! I had to find one of these guitars …
We visit the finest music store west of our Atlantic seaboard, the inimitable Acoustic Vibes Music. Jeff Looker has two Gallagher guitars in stock, including a Doc Watson model. Over several visits I become acquainted. First impressions? Very solid. Durable. Not a dainty boutique guitar; rather, built for tone, year after year. Decades of on-the-road touring? This is the guitar you want. Reminded me of an old Gibson I played years ago …
A guitar of persuasive warmth, the Gallagher is a picker’s delight. A clear, mellow bass, uncluttered of unpure tone, accompanying a punchy upper end. As J.W. Gallagher’s website puts it, you get a deep bottom end perfect for playing those hard G runs. Which I love ❤ to do! From Tyler Grant, flat picker extraordinaire, the Gallagher is a perfect country guitar … not pop country, but an old country blues.
I begin with a typical bluegrass rhythm, an alternating bass in front of a strum. With clear full tone, the room disappears, I’m on stage, the Gallagher is doing all the talking.
“Gallagher is a builder in the great tradition of independent luthiers, that were way ahead of their time. Before Taylor and Collings and Santa Cruz hit the map, Gallagher was building guitars that rivaled the mainstays of Gibson and Martin. Notables such as Doc Watson were early adopters of the Gallagher “mojo” that still provides an appealing choice for guitarists around the world.” – Jeff Looker
With little keeping me from a custom Gallagher order, I email 3rd generation Stephen Gallagher to enquire, “Can you make a 000 short scale Doc Watson model?” I’m surprised to get a call back so quickly, not about the order, but with additional information for this article. Thanks, Stephen!
A few tidbits: On the headstock is a stylized “G” for Gallagher? That Olde English G came from the Shelby Times Gazette newspaper … pre-internet. The Gallagher headstock design is called a French Curve. J.W. was looking for something original. This simple design spied on an obituary spawned another weekly installment of American Toolbox!
At the time, it was unneeded by me. In a drawer it sat until my decades-old wallet was deconstructing. Out of the drawer, loaded with a thin stack of plastic and business cards, with cash folded between, this Bosca became the perfect minimalist wallet. Fine leather, super thin. Easily a $90 bifold card case.
But when this “wallet” can no longer take daily abuse, I find it is no longer manufactured! Bosca now does all their assembly in Asia. Thank you, no. My American cash is more comfortable in an American wallet.
Michael Hicks Design
Within the orbit of American Toolbox the right craftsperson enters. Michael Hicks Design, starting up his leather craft business in ernest, listens to my needs. Offers multiple combinations of the finest ¾ oz Horween Chromexcel horse leather. Sends a couple sample card cases for comment. In no time, the finished product. How timely!
The USA-made Bosca, no longer available, gave a final rip along the seams mid-week. Without hesitation, my gear slipped into the Hicks. A perfect fit. This card case / wallet will work forever. Plus, it is completely recraftable. Like my Aldens.