Just when we thought 2018 couldn’t get any better for our lineup (we hit the ground running by recruiting Stuart Day), we landed a gorgeous guitar from Santa Cruz-based luthier C.F. Holcomb. This Kodiak resonator comes with more bells and whistles than a steam engine train–“The Tree” Mahogany body, Lollar P90, spider cone bridge and bone saddle, one-piece Cocobolo neck (the first one we may have ever seen), Christopher’s signature emblazoned across the headstock plate. This beautiful example of his prowess will be available soon, and in the meantime we had a quick chat with Christopher about life & lutherie, and of course dogs. Check it out!
LW: Many of the photos of your shop and those you post on social media have at least one dog in the frame. What’s it like to have canine companionship in lutherie, a famously solitary profession?
CF: I am lucky in the sense that I live above my shop with my wife Kira and two dogs, Penny and Greta. As peaceful as you would think working by yourself might be, I am surrounded by constant activity and I wouldn’t have it any other way. It is pretty common for me to find focus even when the dogs are howling.
LW: Who are some of your favorite guitar players? Have you built instruments for any of them?
CF: I don’t know if I have a favorite guitar player. I’m constantly finding new music to fall in love with, but it is always nice to turn on the radio and hear one of my guitars. I feel a close bond with the people I build guitars for, and that is even stronger with those who make their living making music. Some of my favorite musicians and bands I’ve worked with are Lech Wierzynski (the California Honeydrops), Sam Chase, Aaron Lanes and Thomas Beneduci (The Good Bad), and Ben Morrison (the Brothers comatose). There are several other amazing musicians I’ve worked with, but it would be ridiculous to list all of them.
LW: You’ve been able to work with some industry giants like Scott Walker, Rick Turner, Jeff Traugott, and Richard Hoover. In what ways has that exposure impacted your approach to lutherie?
CF: Each one of my teachers has shown me their approach to the guitar building world. I don’t know if it’s luck persistence or both that put me in a situation where I was able to learn from such amazing luthiers. Collectively I would say the best gift they gave me was the guts to take on a project that might be outside of my comfort zone. Building solid bodies, acoustics, arch tops, semi-hollow, and Resophonic guitars is a tall order. I can look back on what I have learned over the years and not only design something that works, but every once in a while come up with something truly innovative.
LW: Please describe your approach to voicing an instrument. How did you first find your voice, and how do you continue to experiment?
CF: As a luthier working alone, I think it’s difficult not to experiment. When voicing an instrument I try to think about who will be playing it and how they play. It is great to think that you can build an instrument as light as possible but in the hands of certain musicians they will destroy something like that within months. If I am working with someone who is into playing with a light touch, I will make the instrument as light as possible.
LW: You offer quite an array of models. What sets them apart to your eyes and ears?
CF: Usually the reason I design a new model is because someone is looking for something that isn’t out there. It’s not so much what sets the guitars apart to my ears as much as the musician. I like starting an instrument with a sound and look in mind. It gives me focus and intention with my work rather than just pumping out the same thing over and over.
LW: Any interesting facts about your voicing technique or shop arrangement that you’d like to share?
CF: My shop is relatively small, but it works out great for one person. To me it’s just a room full of toys. This is my second shop (the first was a one-car garage), and there is something special about being the one who sets it up. It’s like an extension of my body. There are also a bunch of surfboards and bikes floating around which add their own little charm to the place.
LW: What do you enjoy doing outside of building instruments?
CF: Kira and I are always diving into projects in Santa Cruz or Sebastopol on my family’s ranch. We go surfing, hiking, and all of the other stuff that goes with living in Santa Cruz. It’s pretty nice.
LW: If you had not become a guitar maker, where do you think life would have led you?
CF: No idea.
LW: What music are you listening to right now?
CF: Charlie Parr, Gregory Alan Isakov, Jason Isbell, etc.
LW: Here we are at the start of the new year. What are your goals for 2018, in lutherie and life?
CF: I recently started an apprenticeship with a Timber framer in Bonny Doon. I’m learning how to make buildings with traditional jointery, hand hewn beams, and sustainable logging techniques. To me guitar building isn’t just about guitars, it’s to gain as much knowledge as I can from as many different masters as possible. If I’m lucky, I will be a lifelong apprentice.
Christopher’s Kodiak resonator has been difficult to put down since the first day it arrived at our shop. Stay tuned, this gorgeous guitar is coming soon to a Dream near you!