View Full Version : James E. Patterson guitar

01-14-2009, 07:54 PM
I just got a custom guitar made by James E. Patterson from 1987. It is based on the OM body style. Man, I have owned a lot of guitars over the years and still have 3 high end Martins, but this thing is unbelievable.

I am posting to see if anyone knows anything about Patterson's guitars. I know that he has written a book on Pearl Inlay that is considered the bible, but I can't find much info on his guitars.

I am told he was a consultant to Santa Cruz guitars when they first began.

Anyone out there know anything??

01-14-2009, 08:14 PM
I don't know anything about Mr. Patterson, but I have been fortunate to
talk to Richard Hoover on several occasions.

Richard is a really nice gentleman, a well of information, and he loves to
talk about guitars. :up:

I would suggest you e-mail him through Santa Cruz Guitars, and just be
patient for a couple of weeks as he is at the NAMM Show this week/weekend
He is very good about replying to all correspondance.

Also send him a couple of pics of your guitar with the e-mail.

Oh, and how about posting them here for the rest of us to see :D

01-15-2009, 12:57 PM
I would do so, but I don't know how you go about posting pictures here on the forum.

01-15-2009, 01:13 PM
OK, I found the instructions. Hopefully, this will work. Here is one image.http://i582.photobucket.com/albums/ss270/cregan77/IMG_2638.jpg?t=1232047300

01-15-2009, 01:16 PM
OK, I found the instructions. Hopefully, this will work. Here is one image.http://i582.photobucket.com/albums/ss270/cregan77/IMG_2638.jpg?t=1232047300
Hi A-kat...
So tell us more about the instrument, please...


01-15-2009, 01:30 PM
Here is another photo.


In regard to telling you more about the instrument; that is one of the reasons I posted was to see if someone else out there was familiar with luthier James Patterson and his guitars.

All I can tell you is that I came across the guitar a few days ago and immediately bought it so no one else would get it. The tone was that good.

I had been looking around thinking of getting an OM-42 or 45 from Martin. But, this thing blew me away. I've owned and played a lot of high end Martins, and love them all. But, this one is special.

The tone is rich and very evenly balanced across the strings. The bass is deep with some power--which I haven't heard too much from the Martin OM's. (again, that is relative). Each string is very individual--i think they call that notational separation.

Nicely, the strings play clear as a bell from the top of the fret board all the way down to the body. Clear, full and without any non string sound.

I am sure there are many other custom made guitars that are equally great. All I know is that the tone and workmanship are far better than any "line" model I have played--no matter the cost. (maybe excepting the tree of life anniversary model Martin had some years back that I had a chance to play).

All I know about Patterson is that he is about 80 years old now and that he wrote a book about pearl inlay that is considered the bible of inlay work.

01-15-2009, 01:38 PM
Another photo


02-26-2009, 10:15 AM
I also found one of these guitars. What do you think these should sell for? I've been told that one sold for $2k on ebay. I emailed Mr. Hoover at Santa Cruz guitars and he said:

Jim is indeed a pal of mine and was an important mentor to me before I started SCGC in 1976. I know that he was building as early as 1972 when I first hit town.

I found a book called "the Directory of Contemporary American Musical Instrument Makers" (By Susan Caust Farrell) and it showed that he made at least 50 guitars by 1981.

I found another reference (http://www.a1musicforum.com/showthread.php?t=153757) that showed that someone sold or attempted to sell two of them together on eBay for $5k. The link doesn't show if they actually sold or not. From what I've been told, Mr Patterson is alive and in his 80's.


PS: See attached pictures.
http://farm4.static.flickr.com/3578/3311163429_004e0c97e8_o.jpg http://farm4.static.flickr.com/3128/3311988148_eddaa9797e_o.jpg http://farm4.static.flickr.com/3580/3311978746_f5a3b352b4_o.jpg http://farm4.static.flickr.com/3663/3311981336_49e7494363_o.jpg

02-26-2009, 11:02 AM
On Youtube this is a Santa Cruz Richard Hoover History video. Its actually 5 youtube video's but its its a good watch!! Richard talks about the start with Patterson in the video. I have heard from a local expert that these guitars are very nice for the time they were built but that they don't stand up to the newer Santa Cruz Goodall Collings guitars. I have never played one personally but I have seen a lot of them on ebay.

02-26-2009, 12:16 PM
I have never played one personally but I have seen a lot of them on ebay.

Do you remember what they sold for? There aren't any on eBay right now and there are none in their searchable history of closed auctions. I'm surprised that you have seen "a lot of them" on ebay considering how low of a quantity he produced.


02-26-2009, 12:47 PM
Yeah PM me at one point there was like 4 or 5 different ones that were being sold about maybe 4 or 5 months ago I'd say. I keep an eye on the Santa Cruz guitars on ebay pretty closely. They were being listed with the name Santa Cruz in the title because thats where Jim was from I guess.

02-27-2009, 11:28 AM
I have heard from a local expert that these guitars are very nice for the time they were built but that they don't stand up to the newer Santa Cruz...

I wonder what the "local expert" with the opinion on these guitars meant by "very nice for the time they were built". James was making guitars in Santa Cruz before SCGC opened shop in Santa Cruz in 1972. So, was "the time they were built" referring to the earlier guitars that James made in the 60's, 70's or 80's. The one I just purchased was made in 2004. The headstock and other features look a lot like the SCGC guitars. James is now in his early 80's and so this guitar was made when he was in his late 70's. He must have been living right. Anyhow, I don't wonder if like other luthiers, he didn't improve over the years and his work from the last 15 years may be even better than his early stuff. I've let two guitar players (that also collect guitars) play the James Patterson guitar and they both gave it glowing reviews.


Also: James Patterson also goes by Jim Patterson and he is mentioned on this SCGC webpage... http://www.santacruzguitar.com/tour/customacousticguitars.html

02-27-2009, 11:38 AM
Yeah I think the ones he played were from the 70's or 80's. Richard Hoover says the same thing about Santa Cruz guitars. He says the ones built in the 70's couldn't compete in todays market on his youtube history video.

Wade Hampton
02-27-2009, 12:49 PM
I know a bit about Patterson, though it seems as though you've already got most of that information already. But to sum it up:

He's an older gentleman who lives in Santa Cruz, and who was in fact one of the first handbuilders making reproductions of vintage-style Martins. He was years ahead of the trend on that, no question about it. He also wrote the first usable how-to book about pearl inlay (a copy of which I own.)

The comments made by "a local expert" are in fact quite accurate in regards to Patterson's earlier instruments. I've seen and played about five or six of them (mostly heavily inlaid dreadnoughts, a couple of OM's) and they are, as stated, superb for the time they were built.

But there's something about '60's and '70's-era handmade instruments that you can spot from across the room once you've seen and handled enough of them. There's something about the lacquer finishes that has generally aged differently than a factory-made instrument from the same period, and the inlay and detail work looks, well, hand-made (which of course it is.)

It's interesting that this guitar dates from 2004. When I visited Santa Cruz in 2000 and again 2001, I had hoped to meet Patterson but was told he really wasn't building much any more.

By a complete coincidence, I've seen his backyard and the back of his house! He's an across-the-fence neighbor to Steve Yetter, a Santa Cruz musician who used to be quite active on RMMGA and whom I spent some time with on my visits to the area. Didn't get to meet Patterson, though.

Anyway, congratulations on a nice guitar.

Wade Hampton Miller

03-19-2009, 12:47 PM
He was making them in 2004 ...at least from what the maker's label says. See attached pics.





07-27-2009, 07:41 PM
I had a beautiful small - parlor sized - Patterson guitar that he made for me in the late 70's. In 1980 I took a long trip to Quebec, and I loaned that guitar to a fellow who also played Irish bagpipes. It was never returned, and the fellow denied ever having it. I sure hope I see it again someday. Rosewood, piano soundboard spruce top, all the pearl inlay one could want, a beauty - with a very sweet voice. Sigh.

wiltner trudy
08-11-2009, 09:50 PM
I guess I've known Jim since the early sixty's' I bought a Gibson Country Western in 67 and had him replace the neck as it warped almost as soon as it left the store. He made it wider and inlaid it with a torch and snowflake fingerboard. It was about 25 years later I thought I wanted a smaller guitar and asked to make me a 000 sized guitar. While I was hanging around waiting for the Koa with redwood top guitar that he was building me I bought three others, one east indian rosewood, one yellow/brown walnut, and one with a split faced top(redwood and spruce) with a rosewood and walnut back and sides. that was around 1996/7. Since then he built me a Madacascar rosewood, vine inlaid ebony fingerboard 000 and with a piece of Koa that I brought back from Hawaii a 00 sized beauty. The last two guitars were built in 2005. Jim has a heart problem and (although I haven't been by for a while) I don't think he's doing much work these days. One of a kind, working out of his garage, with handmade jigs and a determination to duplicate the old Martins, grinding abalone shells to make his inlays, Jim has produced a small amount of top flight guitars over the years

08-11-2009, 09:56 PM
Real cool story - thanks for adding your recollection and experiences to this thread. Jim sounds like quite a guy, and you have had him build you some beauties!

08-17-2009, 08:54 PM
I have had the pleasure of Knowing Jim Patterson for several years as well as owning several of his instruments.

The following is a list of facts about some of his guitars.

Jim has made 301 Guitars in his career, number 300 was skipped so 301 was finished before 300.

A few dulcimers and classicals as well.
(note classicals are in the 301 count dulcimers are not)

He has made guitars for over 40years.

The Book

Jims reputation as an artist in Pearl inlay stems from writing “the book” on pearl inlay. One should note Jim published the first five editions himself then took raw material in trade (from Stewart MacDonald) for publishing rights for his book and really did not get anything after that point.

Jim has always taken the shell from its original shape and cut, sanded, sliced, and inlayed all of the red abalone he uses. In fact Jim has traded red abe slabs for black and white mother of pearl from shell suppliers. This in part is one of the things that has made his book and his work so famious.

As a side note Jim has produced 2 videos on pearl inlay that were entirely shot and edited by him at home. I have a copy of the first one as far as I know I am the only one with a copy in existence.

“the Six”

Jim has made a total of six "45style" guitars with a full abalone border on the top back sides and the "key hole" around the edge of the finger board and sound hole. One of these guitars has an inlayed neck with a border running up the side of the finger board. three have ebony inlayed pick guards. Two have inlays on the heel plate and all have stunning inlay variations of the marten flower pot inlay, or some sort of vine.
Of the "45 style" guitars only two are Brazillion rosewood, an om and a dreadknot (dreadknot is a slab cut) one is East Indian rosewood, one is African Jara wood, the number 300 is Madagascar ebony. At least one of "the six" has a redwood top. One is a slim Dreadknot experiment that is an inch thinner than a standard box.
I mention these six guitars because these would be considered the highest level of art guitars he has produced and therefore the most valuable of his instruments.

The Sound

The truth about Jims Guitars is they are built bomb proof you could sit on one of the top of one of his dreadknots without damaging it.
Simply put Jims guitars are almost entirely over built in the later part of his carrier
(#260 on up or so) the bridge plates are too large, the braces need to be scalloped more and the bridge needs to be thinned out. That being said once this has been done (I own some that have had this work done) his guitars are better sounding than they look. And to quote a friend who’s been in the musical instrument business in Santa Cruz for 35years
“absolutely stunning”. I have compared and Jims modified guitars will stand up to any vintage instrument under $35,000.00USD as far as new guitars it probably won’t compare quite as well to a new Trogot or Somogyi but that’s not the sound a paterson makes. Jims guitars have the materials and craftsmanship to be the best made; but you will need to unlock the sound.

The price
As was mentioned by a few other members right now if your lucky you could get a Patterson for less than (price removed) on ebay. Now your not going to get one of his six for that price but hey it’s a Patterson Jims waiting list has always been closed to outsiders and if you asked he would say “well I’m all tied up right now and I’m not really making guitars anymore” the only way to get a Patterson from #220 on was to have a friend who was a former client or a close personal friend of his. Basically by recommendation only.
Because of this, all of Jims guitars were labors of love he charged so little for his instruments full well knowing that they were worth ten times that just a block down the street. What this means is most Patterson’s for sale are from third hand owners who never had a relationship with him or people who own more than 3 of his guitars and fell on hard times. This is why the people who have them have no idea what they are really worth because there is no point of reference other than sound, and good sounding guitars can be had very cheap these days as well as CNC inlayed instruments so there is no basis of comparison.

All I can say is Jim Patterson;Very famous amongst very few people

11-23-2009, 03:42 PM
I am so glad I this thread on James A Patterson and his instruments !!

Back in 2007 I got married and to finance my move from California to New Jersey I sold most of my gear, including a 1977 Alvarez Yairi DY96 which was my acoustic pride and joy at the time. While selling off the last minute gear I went to Real Guitars in San Francisco to do some business. While there I saw a 2003 James A Patterson that really struck me - being my wife is a pet lover I worked out a trade/cash deal for the Patterson for my gear...

My newlywed wife and I call this one my Dolphin Guitar because of the lovely dolphin theme - as newlyweds we were particularly enamored by the double dolphins on the headstock... As I said this guitar was built in 2003 and is Number 264. Abalone shell trim around the top and headstock, wood bindings and lovely inlays on the fingerboard and headstock. It's got very nice action and lovely tone... I hope you enjoy these outdoor photos, when we get a really clear sunny day I'll replace them with better close ups.

I got it for about XXXX in amps and guitars I was moving.

I apologize in advance for the washed out detail in the inlays - all the dolphins and the conch shells on the bridge have very tastefully done scrimshaw work. Also you can't see the lovely wooden binding detail... I remember seeing a couple of these in 2007 on eBay and then briefly on GBase for sale by a dealer


12-21-2009, 07:59 AM
Any thoughts regarding this Patterson that just sold on eBay?


Ebay item #250547670752

It is #198 built in 1997 so it may be built a little "lighter" than some of his later ones.

random works
12-21-2009, 11:39 AM
cool thread. Congrats to the OP for getting a great sounding guitar and thanks for bringing this up. Mr. Patterson sounds like a talented and interesting individual. Sounds like he made some heirloom guitars for sure.

02-06-2010, 09:49 AM
Any thoughts regarding this Patterson that just sold on eBay?


Ebay item #250547670752

It is #198 built in 1997 so it may be built a little "lighter" than some of his later ones.

I looked at it and the truth is there are hard times everywhere right now so I'm not surprised, I just sold a 1968 Brazilian rose wood Concert Classical on E-bay from a famous Madrid maker for xxxx!
That said If any one sees a Paterson in any condition for less than 5k they better snatch it up as quick as possible. there will not be any more made and whats out there is around 260-275 steel strings and that's it. I own 4 of them (including two of the 6 most decorated, and one of the 3 made from First growth quartersawn Brazilian Rosewood ones, Not to brag.) And they are not for sale! I hope all the Paterson find there way to great homes where there owners will truly appreciate and cherish them for what they are: Some of the most influential instruments in the lives of California Luthiers to date. But what I will remember most is the man himself, Jim, the kindest and sweetest man I have ever met.

10-05-2010, 07:51 PM
Jim's 84 now.

Still building (slowly), and soon to be profiled in Santa Cruz Magazine (an addition that comes in the Santa Cruz Sentinal newspaper on alternate Sundays).

I'm the next-door neighbor Wade talked about a couple years ago in this thread: our backyard is visible from Jim's shop window.

Shortly after moving to Santa Cruz, in 1974, I looked up from mowing the backyard and saw through his window a dread body hanging from his garage ceiling. Pretty sure the lawn never got finished that day as I walked around the corner and introduced myself.

By 1984 I had arranged for a German spruce/California Black Walnut OM pattern with very simple appointments, which I gigged exclusively for about 10 years (it got beat up and eventually needed a neck reset). I sold it eventually to Sylvan Music, who has a couple of Jim's guitars in their archives.

Jim always maintained that a simple proven design like a Martin couldn't be beat, only refined a bit if you could feel the wood and go thinner because it was stiff (as-in the top wood), etc. Factories set their minimum top thickness based on the weakest wood their mill will accept and must design for strength: also being sent around the world to various climates.

Over the years I saw most every future first generation Santa Cruz guitar maker in Jim's shop picking his brain from time to time. These included Richard Hoover and his early company partner Bruce Ross, as well as Bruce McGuire and several others.

In the 1990's Jim began using adjustable trussrods in the necks (my '84 OM had a 1/4" X 12" piece of keystock for reinforcement: he later sometimes used 3/8" square tubing).

Jim once owned a '30's OM-45 Deluxe he sold to Hank Rison. Maybe that guitar was the inspiration for his building.

Today in his shop I saw a half a dozen guitars of various patterns and trim levels (all spoken for long ago), as well as a ukulele: all in various states of completion. I played a couple. He still builds to the same standard as always, even if he has been surpassed now by the young lions he has helped get a leg up.

He has health concerns: so does his wife. He accepts that he will not be here forever, and states that without fear or regret.

He is aware that there is information around the web about he and his guitars, but can't seem to access the first part of Richard Hoover's video history (where Jim is mentioned I guess). Though he recently upgraded to DSL so maybe that will help. I'll share this URL with him.

He remains the "father" of guitarmaking here is Santa Cruz as far as I'M concerned, though others have certainly taken their expertise and execution farther along (as well as their reputations, and prices).

I've never played an OM I liked the sound of better than the one I used for 10 years plus, even though as a non-player Jim's necks tended to be beefier than many players preferred (I got used to it).

Having known him as a neighbor for 35 years I can attest that he is a gentle man (for an ex-Marine that served in WWII AND Korea!), who always freely gave of whatever information he could share with other luthiers, and always gets a kick out of the many players and multiple owners of his work.

Long may he sand... :)

-Steve Yetter (AKA Backliner)
Santa Cruz

Edit: I believe I saw #304 today in the shop.

Idaho John
10-05-2010, 08:04 PM
well written. Enjoyed the chance to meet Jim through you! And to the OP, what a beautiful guitar!


10-26-2010, 05:37 PM
I have #229. It's been stored away for a while, but I remember that it is really a beautiful and great sounding instrument. Thanks for reminding me!

05-02-2011, 09:34 PM
I have a couple of Patterson acoustic guitars from 1999 and love em. Both are 12-fretters. Sorry for bad pics, just signed up on forums and all the pics I have atm. Will take some more soon.....


05-03-2011, 12:00 PM
After editing several posts on this thread for rule violations, this would be a great time for a rule reminder.

2) NO GUITAR PRICING DISCUSSIONS: We respectfully ask that you keep guitar pricing discussions offline. We think pricing discussions in this forum can hurt dealers and ultimately hurt customers. When someone posts that they bought a guitar for XXXX, that suddenly sets the price for a lot of other dealers to have to match to stay competitive. It doesn't matter if the more expensive dealer offers better service or value-adds, has a nicer display room where the instruments are better cared for, etc.

Prices of guitars will change substantially over time while a post about a guitar's price would remain on the AGF indefinitely. Therefore, pricing information in old posts becomes an incorrect reference over time and this causes confusion in the marketplace. We don't ask much from the members here, but we will probably always ask you to use email if you want to discuss prices. Besides... How hard is it to post "Need pricing advice on a 714CE. Email me at blah@blahblah.com"?


wiltner trudy
01-13-2012, 06:45 PM
I have a few Patterson guitars,see #17, and age and arthritus has caught up to me. I must divest,Email me at [email]moodcon@comcast.net/email] If interested.

wiltner trudy
01-13-2012, 06:46 PM