TOOLS OF THE TRADE
My grandfather, Reid Schaub (Dadi to us grand kids), is a preacher, musician, and a luthier from Lampasas, TX. He has been building musical instruments for decades out of his two car garage that was turned into a wood shop. He builds acoustic and electric guitars, mandolins, banjos, violins, as well as fixes and repairs used instruments. He has built dreadnought acoustic guitars for all of his kids, as well as all of his grandchildren. In 2002 my uncle Roland Schaub asked my grandfather if he would teach him how to build a guitar. Before long, his son, my father, and several other cousins were in the guitar shop building guitars. We called them Guitar Nights. Every Tuesday and Thursday night we would all get together and work on our guitars with Dadi watching over us, teaching us, and guiding us in more ways than just the advice of a luthier. Granny always had coffee, sweet tea, and those infamous oatmeal cookies for snacks. It was a time that I will never forget. What happens in the guitar shop, stays in the guitar shop.
This is a list of instruments that were built by my grandfather or myself that I have used in my musical career.
THE GREEN STRAT
In high school I never had any desire to play guitar. I was a full time drummer performing live gigs all over the hill country with the family band as well as playing in the high school jazz band and marching band. As much of a cliche as this may be, especially coming from a musician out of central Texas, it wasn't until I heard the electric guitar played by Stevie Ray Vaughn that I had to have an electric guitar. I had listened to all of the classic great electric guitar players, but there was something that struck me from SRV that I didn't get from the others... energy! The next time I saw my grandfather I asked him if he had heard of SRV, and of course he laughed at me, I had no idea of his impact on the world, or that he was even from Texas. I then asked my grandfather if he would build me an electric guitar like SRV's number 1.
Maple was used for the body and neck with the body painted green. To complete the rest of the guitar, we thought it would be cool to give it an earthy feel. Since my grandfather has for the most part steered away from using maple fretboards, we used the brownish red colored rosewood for the fretboard. As a softer wood, maple tends to wear easier, so either rosewood or ebony is used on Schaub guitar fretboards. Abalone shell, the rainbow colored shell, has always been popular in the guitar shop, so it was used for all the inlay.
The original electronics were bought from Ray Hennings Music in Austin, TX. The Fender Texas Style pick-ups were installed and it sounded very much like SRV's strat. At that time, I couldn't have asked for anything else. Years later my "SRV kick" was over, and sometime around 2008 Mark Ford introduced me to Tom Short, who is a handmade custom pick-up maker out of Santa Monica, CA. He offered to build me some single coil pick-ups to put in my strat. The SRV sound of my strat was gone and replaced with the most honest, purely traditional sounding strat I've ever heard! Since that time, I've put several Tom Short pick-ups in my guitars. Check out Tom Short's website.
THE BLONDE TELE
Around 98-99' I was finally getting to a level of being able to play guitar for some working bands. At this time I was living in Lubbock, going to Tech, or I should say I was enrolled at Tech. The Texas Country Music scene was gaining momentum and it was pretty obvious that I was gonna need a Telecaster sound if I wanted to get more guitar pickin jobs. So it was time to ask Dadi if he would mind building me another electric.
At the time there were several instruments coming out of Dadi's guitar shop using flamed maple, and it was my favorite. We decided to use flamed maple for the body and the neck but I wanted the grain of the wood to be shown through out the instrument verses a solid paint job like the green strat. So the kind of blonde color stain Dadi decided to use was perfect for bringing out the grain of the flamed maple. To be honest, I think it was more of a redish orange color in the beginning but over time it has become a blonde color. The ebony fretboard was used, but this was also one of the first fretboards where the only inlay on the fretboard was on the 12th fret. I believed this idea was inspired by some Paul Reed Smith guitars that we saw in a guitar magazine. The inlay on the head piece is a fountain made out of Gold, Mother Pearl, and Abalone shell. RioGrande pick-ups were used on this instrument as well as other electric guitars that had come out of the shop. Their warehouse is based out of Houston and Dadi had used them before and he liked the sound of them. As a matter of fact, this electric guitar was the only one without Tom Short pick-ups because I love the sound of this guitar just the way it is. Dadi built this guitar in under 3 months! I remember talking about ideas of what I wanted and before I knew it, the guitar was finished!! This guitar became my number one guitar. It plays beautifully and sounds great.
In 2003 I was living in College Station, TX and I decided to move home to join my family in building guitars. Around this same time I had just heard Alison Krauss and Union Station's "Live" album. The performance by Jerry Douglas, A Tribute To Peader O'Donnel/Monkey Let The Hogs Out, floored me!! I had to learn how to play dobro.
Maple being my favorite wood, it seemed only natural to build my dobro out of that. However, If I had some insight or knew what I was doing, I would have gone with Mahogany. Maple is a bright sounding wood, and when you add the steel woven speaker cone on the inside of the body, it's overkill! Since I don't play with finger picks it works out ok, and over time, the maple wood is getting less bright and warmer. The cool thing about building this instrument was Dadi had never built one either. So together we had to start from scratch. The first version of this instrument had a square neck on it, which was later replaced with a rounded neck so I could have the versatility of playing it like a guitar or play it with the action raised with a slide. Since most of the time the dobro would be used with a slide I built the fretboard out of maple, with mother of pearl inlay. All of the hardware was ordered through Stewart McDonald. A spider cone was used along with a Jerry Douglas pick-up. Unfortunately, this instrument has never been used live because the instrument is so bright, loud, and hot, it will feedback on too many frequencies, thus limiting it's playing time to picking circles and studio sessions. My favorite part of the instrument is the back. The back comes in two separate pieces that mirror each other. When these pieces are glued together it is very slippery and it takes a second for the glue to catch so it is very difficult to line up the grain. I got lucky, the mirror pieces of wood lined up perfectly.
This instrument was handmade by grandfather in 1994. In 1998, I started showing interest in playing the mandolin so my grandfather gave me this one. The mandolin came very easy and fun for me because it is such a rhythmic instrument. In bluegrass, the mandolin very often accents the upbeat of a song, simulating where the snare drum would be. Being a drummer all my life, this little sucker is fun!
Being such a small instrument, the work my grandfather does on his handmade mandolins is meticulous and astonishing. I don't know a lot of details about the building of it. I know it was made out of maple and at the time it was built, the frets were spaced out by his own measurements. In 2004 I was tracking for the McKay Brothers album Cold Beer and Hot Tamales, with Lloyd Maines producing. Lloyd's ears are so sharp and precise he could hear that the intonation was out. I adjusted the bridge up and down and I could never find the sweet spot. The session was stopped and I headed to the guitar shop. As it turned out, the fretboard had to be rebuilt. The spacing of the frets was inaccurate, and now we had new equipment in the shop to get it precise. As Dadi took the original fretboard off, I built the new one. Three days later I was back in the studio and we finished the tracking. Above all of the instruments my grandfather or myself have built, this one is my favorite. Because of this instrument, I became a full time musician playing stringed instruments. It is also the reason I got to go to Europe for the first time while playing with The McKay Brothers. It has been used on countless sessions and albums, it is one of the best modern sounding mandolins I have ever played, and sometimes I get called to do a session primarily because of the instrument over my playing!
I started building this acoustic guitar not too long after the dobro. I wanted to try a different wood that hadn't been in the guitar shop so I did some research and picked Lacewood. Lacewood had a strange cool figure to it along with a reputation of having a natural warm, aged sound. I decided I had used enough maple, so I used mahogany for the neck. It took me 12 months to build this instrument, finishing it in 2004. I wanted a full size dreadnought cutaway. Again, not knowing what I was doing, when it came time to bend the cutaway, the lacewood split on the sharp radius turn. Apparently it is not recommended to build a cutaway out of Lacewood. The grain of the wood itself is laced together, thus the name. So when the radius of the bend is too great, it splits. Luckily my grandfather, being the master luthier that he is, reinforced and fixed the split, and I didn't have to order new wood. I also wasn't quite sure how much to sand when it came to the back of the neck. So when I finished and glued the fretboard on, the neck was a little wider than most acoustic guitars, and I love it.
THE LES PAUL
I had been wanting to build another instrument, and after playing several of Mark Ford's gibson guitars, I had to have a Les Paul! I built this Les Paul within a couple of months, and between tours back in 2009. I based it off a 54' Les Paul schematic. I also wanted it to be a sunburst as well as showing a very similar resemblance to my Blonde Telecaster. I wanted it to look like it came from the same shop. This was a fun project because my grandfather was about to build the same guitar. Tom Short custom built me some P-90's to put in it. This is a fantastic rock-n-roll sounding guitar which has been used for a lot of slide guitar work while touring and recording. One of my favorite solos I've recorded was done with this guitar.
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