February 2004 Meeting

Masters Class presented by Fred Carlson

Fred Carlson is a longtime innovative luthier, now living in Santa Cruz, California. His designs are anything but ordinary. He explained that his creative spirit drives the design process and he allows it to refine itself.

Fred demonstrates his Sympitar to members Mike Roach, Moses McKnight, Bob Harris, Chris Jenkins and our host, Lewis Bauer.

During the lecture, he showed sketches from a number of his designs. He focused the discussion on the “Sympitar”. This is a six string guitar with 12 sympathetic vibrating strings, which extend through a hollow channel inside the neck. He carefully located the internal 12 strings over a special sitar bridge mounted inside the body. This instrument had an internal damper on the sympathetic strings which could be activated by a lever reached through the sound hole. The entire concept was very intriguing to all in attendance. Other new concepts were discussed such as materials, finishing and custom jigs.

Fred shown here playing the Sympitar. To hear such a unique instrument played by it's creator was truly an amazing experience.

Over the years, Fred developed a sensitivity to conventional lacquers and realized he needed to change his finishing methods. He told the group about his experience using water based lacquer, various old finishes and wax.

He also has a very funky, yet elegant hat.





Jigs and tools are, also, part of the building experience. We were impressed with the elegant simplicity and function of Fred’s adjustable work board.

An example of Fred’s innovative bracing pattern is shown on the right.