Woody Woodcasters – Tonewood Masters

By Caroline Paone

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When you think about the variety of woods used to make guitars, the sonic possibilities are pretty endless. That’s the concept behind Florida-based Woody Woodcasters Guitars, a company that builds multi-wood instruments for folks craving a specific sound and tone.

It all started when owner Woody Woodcaster – who ditched his given name for a woodsier one – and a couple of his friends were discussing the tonality of playing all-wood guitars.

Fast-forward 10-plus years and they’re building guitars and basses from some of the most exotic varieties of trees under the sun. So, whether you want a warm, bright or fat tone, they can help you find it. As far as shape and style, Woody Woodcaster makes rustic as well as more sleek looking models with one-of-a-kind details.

Not surprisingly, he’s also a long-time musician. When not working, you can find him rocking his custom guitars in the blues band Woody & The WoodTones. It’s the perfect venue for showcasing these unique guitars in all their glory.

We caught up with the always humorous Woody to get the story behind his custom guitars.

How long have you been in business?

Around 2005, I was sitting in the guitar room upstairs and wondered why there was so much plastic on my guitars. A few friends and I started asking ourselves what would happen to the tone if the plastic was exotic hardwoods instead. We searched the country for fine American craftsmen and started building the first of six, one-of-a-kind instruments.

Were you always a craftsman?

I still have the first guitar body I ever made in high school, but I was a Safety & Loss Inspector for most of my working life as well as a touring musician.

How did you start building guitars?

After a year of playing golf every day when I retired, I decided if I was going to do something that hurt my elbows, I should try to do something that would make money rather than cost money. (laughs)

Where do you get the exotic materials?

The individual craftsmen who make the raw pieces get the wood from their suppliers. Many come from Central and South America as well as all over North America. The body is cut into a raw piece that hasn’t been sanded, filled, or finished yet. Our finish master is a blueberry farmer!

Do you combine different textures in one instrument?

Every time! Each wood resonates at a different frequency.

How do you decide on a style of guitar such as body, headstock shape, etc.?

For the most part, I build guitars that I want to play but might not have liked the color choice or just wanted something a bit different with richer, more focused tones. So, if ya can’t afford to buy ‘em, build ‘em!

After a while, folks started calling and asking if I could build some guitars for them:  double necks, headless, basses, restoration work; we pretty much do it all these days.

You have various designs such as the light-colored explorer style guitar. Very nice!

Yeah, that is the #0037, part of the Seafoam Green collection! That one is all mahogany under the old-school Nitrocellulose lacquer finish. There are matching Trini Lopez 335, Jumbo 175 style jazz box, a 24-fret Woodybacker, and a Woodybird in that color too!

Your WW logo is pretty distinctive. Is it metal or carved into the body of the guitar?

Yes and No. In the beginning, we used the hot brand to burn the logo into the wood. We now add the metal chrome, gold or black inlay into the brand.

Where do your ideas for designs come from? Do you work with a customer/guitar player to create according to his or her sound?

If it’s not a customer spec build, I build what I think will look, play, and sound good. I don’t build duplicates! Customers are secure in the knowledge that they own a one of kind instrument. Customers get to choose EVERY aspect of their build. Body style, neck, types of woods used, frets, type of wire and magnets the pickups are wound with, hardware colors and styles, everything!  If You Can Dream It, We Can Build It!

How many people do you work/create with?

As few as two, me and Rick our finish master, and as many as six.

You are also in a band where you get to play your custom guitars, correct?

I am! In the beginning (2005), I had left Diamond Gray, and since Randy, Craig and myself were tweaking guitar stuff, we formed the blatant-marketing-wing with our blues band, Woody & The WoodTones. The idea was that the band would play out live so folks could see, hear and touch the instruments for themselves.

Do you work locally as far as guitar building?

Yes, but our custom wood and aluminum flight cases are made in New York City. They get here raw wood then I stain and finish them to match the instrument inside. So even the cases are different! The cases come to us completely assembled but with bare or raw wood facing-out instead of the plastic color panels; each is as different as the guitar or bass inside!

As far as restoration projects, what is something you are working on?

I have a 1970s Gibson EB3 Series-2 long-scale bass we did a full restoration on for our finish master – who doesn’t play bass – all original hardware, pickups ABS 4-way varactor switch! In a Gator hardshell ATA flight case. It came to us sanded to bare wood, except the headstock and all the hardware, in a Piggly Wiggly bag. We put the period-correct nitro cherry red finish back on her.

You seem to love what you do. It must be rewarding?…

It’s grueling work! Day in, day out having to drag myself upstairs to the guitar room or out to the garage to stain a case…HAHAHAHA!  It has been a lot of work – shameless self-promotion – but when some of the guitarists you grew up listening to like your work, it sure feels good. Growing up I thought I’d make small wooden wheels for furniture, but with the demise of the furniture industry in the Carolinas, choosing to make custom instruments in the 21st century has turned out to be the better choice. That’s my story, and I’m sticking with it!

View Woody Woodcaster Guitars on Instagram @realwoodywoodcasters

Check out an interesting interview with Woody Woodcaster from a PBS WEDU ArtsPlus program (August 2018)

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