In the summer of 2010, The Wild Earth School in Hudson, Wisconsin, combined 100-plus volunteers, 20 steel-string guitar kits and two days to create 20 acoustic guitars for Guitars for Vets (G4V).
The mission of G4V is to provide an acoustic guitar and lessons for vets with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). As the organization says: “the healing power of music in the hands of heroes.”
I’m only a marginal “picker,” but it was easy to see how playing might help a vet event, skill levels varied from those who had never done any woodworking to advanced woodworkers and luthiers.
Our goal for the first day was to have the fretboards and bridges on. Leading up to this, the guitars needed a fair amount of sanding, fret markers had to be installed, and the truss rods had to be suffering from PTSD. For our fitted. Volunteers also wrote messages on and signed the back of each guitar.
The next day, we needed to ream for the bridge pins, drill holes for the tuners, and do a light finish sanding on the entire instrument. Volunteers accidentally drilled a few tuner mounting screw holes all the way through, from the back of the headstock through the front. Out came veneer, and a lesson in veneering.
I had chosen shellac for the finish, knowing it was easy to apply and would dry quickly. After a short lesson in spraying (using aerosol cans), we started finishing guitars at about 11:30. After a rain delay, the final coat was dry enough to allow us to handle the guitars by 3:00.
With 20 guitars complete, and about 50 volunteers still on hand, we broke the guitars in with a rousing version of “This Land Is Your Land.” Knowing these instruments would soon be helping vets with PTSD, emotions ran high, and a few tears were flowing.
Build A Vet A Guitar was one of the most rewarding things I’ve ever done. Kudos and many thanks to all the volunteers.
For more info about Guitars For Vets, visit guitars4vets.org. For more info on The Wild Earth School, visit www.aboutwildearth.com