Altman Handcrafted Mandolins and Guitars

 

About Carl R. Altman:

Born in 1945 in Bartow, FL, I grew up in central Florida. I was always mechanically inclined: my sister gave me a pocket watch when I was about 7 or 8 years old. I immediately disassembled it! Of course, there was no putting it back together again, but I wanted to know how it worked. Coming from a family of carpenters (my father built our home and a rental unit next door), mechanics, etc.; I was always under the hood of a car with one of my brothers asking questions a mile a minute until one of them would run me off. I guess it was inevitable that I would start out doing mechanic work. By the time I was 12 I had rebuilt my first engine in my mother's '53 Ford. I also installed dual-carburetors for a friend and wonder of wonders, when we pushed it off it ran! This was my initiation into being the neighborhood mechanic for friends and relatives.

Also, I grew up around guys who were always playing a guitar. So I owned acoustic guitars since I was about 14 years old. I always enjoyed singing and playing (very amateur) for/with my friends and family. However, I never could afford a good guitar, there were always more important things we needed. So that was another good reason to build a fine guitar. As I grew older I held several jobs; from working in a citrus plant to drilling water wells, to assisting on a phosphate mining dredge. Tiring of shift work, I started working as a service writer at a Ford dealership, then to a paint store, then as a painter. Tiring of working for others I started my own paint contracting business at approximately 30 years of age. This was the line of work that would help prepare me to be a luthier. As I painted for various customers they would say, "I need a piece of facia board replaced". Or "Can you hang a screen door for me?" There I went doing things I had never done before, buying various tools to do the jobs. Eventually I started making bookcases (very crude ones at first). As time went by my wife would say "Dear, we need more room." Eventually, our family grew to one girl and four boys.) So there I went again, I took out a drawing pad, ruler, and pencil and drew out a plan. Then I racked my brain to figure out how to do it. Evidently my persistence, and a bent towards perfectionism, got the projects finished. I built some additions and as the years went by several houses. The years of painting and paying attention to detail (since as the last one on the job as the painter, I had to make all the other worker's jobs look good.) helped prepare me for my current career of building musical instruments. I guess the real clincher that got me into building acoustic steel string guitars, was the evening I visited a friend, Weyman Dantzler, that was building violins. As we were sharing some very fine homemade muscadine wine, he brought out a violin he had built. It was complete but still in the white (unfinished). He handed it to me (Have you ever held a newborn baby in your hands? Four of our children were born at home.). As I held that beautiful, delicate, light creation and heard it whisper from the friction of my fingertips moving over its surface, I knew I had found something I would love and could pass on to my family, ( 7 children and 8 grand-children) designing and crafting fine musical instruments.

I would very much appreciate the opportunity to create one for you, so that you too can experience the joy in owning and playing an exquisite instrument. From Holding That Violin To Now Late in 1995 I purchased several books on building steel string acoustic guitars. I read night and day for approximately a year. Finally I thought, "Well, here I go." I ordered wood, supplies, tuners, fret wire, etc. I guess you could say building your first instrument is kind of like having a baby. There are months of anticipation and a tremendous amount of work. But what a glorious day when it arrives! However, getting to that point took many excruciating times of me thinking, "Now don't let that dremel tool slip and put a gouge in the soundboard that just ain't gonna go away." There just isn't any margin for error in many steps of musical instrument construction. (Neck and shoulder pain from tension is something I had to live with for about 1 year.) Again, determination, hard work, and some German ancestry (some of the finest musical instruments are of German origin) seems to be coming together. Many aspiring luthiers either give away, or have to sell their first instruments very cheaply. I was very happy to be able to start selling my guitars for approximately $2,000 each. Along with building new guitars I have also been doing some repairs and restoration. It is a joy to repair someone's guitar, especially when it has sentimental value.

One of the most often asked questions is how long does it take to build an instrment? My answer is, "It takes as long as it takes." Every piece of wood is different, every Altman instrument is unique. We give it however much time it needs for it to be, not only something we can be proud of, but something that anyone becoming the owner of one will cherish and enjoy for a lifetime. You will never need another guitar or mandolin. All you need is an Altman. Here's hoping you can get your hands on one.


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Copyright 2009 by Bob Altman.