From Pallets to Guitars
I knew I was in the right place when I turned the corner and heard the mellow strum of a guitar. I had come that morning to see a very unique instrument and to meet its creator. With my ears leading the way, my anticipation was put to rest as I stepped into an office and was greeted by John Sargent from the Plant Operations Air Conditioning Shop. Seeing John with guitar in hand made me eager to hear his story.
It all began with John’s love of music, a desire to own a “really nice” guitar, and a how-to-book. After investing in some woodworking tools and converting his garage into a workshop, the first John S. Sargent guitar was born. “After the first one I got hooked”, he admitted. The first guitar and the one that followed have remained in his family and belong to his two daughters. Since his first guitar was completed in the spring of 2001 he has built eight more and, of those, sold four.
I was quickly caught up in John’s enthusiasm for his craft as he described some of the processes he uses to make each guitar. As he held his guitar across his lap, he pointed out the double cutway design of the body, the hand-made fretboard, and described how the bracing of the guitar will determine the sound produced. He is passionate about his newfound art and has created his own style by using the methods of more experienced and world-renowned private guitar builders. After listening to John and seeing the guitar sketches that adorn his workspace, it wasn’t hard for me to believe him when he said, “I can build them in my head”.
John isn’t looking to become rich and famous from his hobby and says, “I won’t quit my day job but would like to sell five or six guitars a year.” With each guitar, he is honing his skills and can build a guitar in his spare time in four to six weeks. His business card describes his instruments best as “handcrafted, thin line and full-bodied arch top guitars”.
The guitar that had raised my curiosity and the one I had come to see was the guitar John had made out of a wooden shipping pallet. Although every guitar that John creates is one-of-a-kind, the pallet guitar had its own unique qualities. I was in awe of what he had created. I could hardly believe the beautiful smooth wood instrument I was holding was once a wooden pallet. John noted there were a few challenges in building the pallet guitar since the pine wood was softer and inconsistently weathered. The knots in the wood were difficult to carve through yet it was those very knots, that have since become knot holes, that added to the pleasing tone of the guitar. John’s artistic reuse of East India Rosewood, Honduras Mahogany, and Ebony wood scraps from other guitars produced a beautiful contrast of color against the light pine body. Upon closer inspection of the guitar body, the nail holes become evidence to the wood’s previous use. I was most impressed with the signature “S” he designed into the peg head with a nail from the pallet. As I admired the workmanship of the guitar, I noticed John had signed and numbered the instrument inside the body. This was guitar number 9. I parted company with John with a great admiration for the talent he possesses. I could sense that each guitar he creates is imbued with John’s passion for his craft, and resonates with enchanting sounds at the hands of an appreciative musician.
John S. Sargent is a luthier, a craftsman of guitars.
John Sargent can be contacted at
734-434-5338 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org
~ Sarah Archer
Waste Management Services
A Luthier In Our Midst
John Sargent and his signature guitars.
Photo by Sarah Archer
Note the signature “S” created with a nail from the pallet.
Photo by Sarah Archer