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Old 12-01-2018, 12:23 PM
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Erithon Erithon is offline
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Default HATCHER Build: GAS Strikes Again; or, The Dangerous Allure of Cocobolo

Dear reader,
What follows is a tale of woe and weal, of one man’s struggle against that persistent adversary GAS, his inevitable defeat at its hands, and the prize of such failure: a Hatcher Greta in Cocobolo and Western Red Cedar.

My story begins properly begins around two years ago. In the course of researching a guitar that would better suit my fingerstyle playing--I had been playing a Martin HD-35 for six years and the narrow nut and saddle spacing just wasn’t quite doing it for me--I discovered the AGF. That fateful moment launched a (very enjoyable) guitar quest. Thanks to the AGF I’ve connected with a number of wonderful folks and played their lovely guitars. I’ve bought and sold some myself. (The first stirrings of GAS, yes, but a targeted GAS--for I’ve become more and more knowledgeable about what I want in a guitar even as I’ve been privileged to make music on these masterful instruments.) I’ve played the double bass for two decades so I came into this journey with some general musical sensibilities, but identifying and refining those in regard to modern lutherie has certainly been a process.

This week Mark Hatcher begins work on my guitar. This will not be your typical build thread because this is not your typical build. Indeed, it’s not so much a build as a re-build: a new soundboard, new bracing, and full refinish. There are some other changes I’ll get to in due time. For now, though, let’s look at a couple pictures of the guitar in its present form:



Some of you may recognize this instrument from its original build thread or appearance in the Classifieds once or twice. It’s also the first guitar that Mark printed a build book for so visitors to his workshop might have encountered it that way.

Next up: how GAS sunk its claws into me at first sight of this stunning instrument.

Last edited by Erithon; 12-06-2018 at 10:52 AM.
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Old 12-01-2018, 02:07 PM
DamianL DamianL is offline
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Well this is intriguing!
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Old 12-01-2018, 03:52 PM
Nemoman Nemoman is offline
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I remember this being one of my favorite build threads of all time on the AGF!

Looking forward to seeing what's in store for this masterpiece!
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Old 12-01-2018, 04:31 PM
The Growler The Growler is offline
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Beautiful guitar. Tell us more.
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Old 12-02-2018, 05:56 AM
ukejon ukejon is offline
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Can’t wait to hear more about the revolving of this beautiful guitar.
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Old 12-02-2018, 04:41 PM
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Erithon Erithon is offline
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As the pictures I posted above witness, this is quite the guitar. The artistry present in the most minute of details is something to behold (more on this later). Mark has had a long career in woodworking, making everything from furniture to cedar strip ocean kayaks and he consequently brings an exceptionally high level of technical craftsmanship to his builds. This particular guitar really jumped out at me from the moment I saw it. Here’s what happened:

The previous year I’d bought three used guitars. I found this much more effective than visiting a store because my exploration of all these instruments offered was unlimited. From those three guitars I learned I prefer 12-fret instruments, short scale, 1-13/16” nut width, 2-5/16” saddle spacing, Redwood to Spruce, Rosewood to Mahogany, chunky neck carves, and satin neck finishes.

I recognized that these three guitars were all I needed. I sold my Martin HD-35. GAS was under control. Ten months without any guitar purchases. But when your GAS recovery group (the AGF) is also your enabler (the AGF), danger lurks in the wings. Haha I'm kidding. Mostly.

Here's what happened: I was perusing the classifieds--perilous, I know, but I'd developed the habit while checking to see if anyone posted about wanting to buy a Martin HD-35; I was not looking to buy, plus it's fun to look at the cool instruments out there--when late one night in February this Hatcher Greta was posted. I clicked on the listing because I like the look of Hatcher guitars. Once I saw it, I was immediately tempted. But I resisted. I fought GAS to a standstill and went to sleep, resolving to check where the sale was at in the morning. I was assisted in my self-control by the 2-3/16” string spacing at the saddle: as I mentioned, I prefer a minimum of 2-1/4” or, ideally, 2-5/16”. 1/16 of an inch spread across six strings doesn’t sound like much, but for many of us here it is a noticeably different feel: the wider spacing makes fingerstyle easier, cleaner, and more enjoyable for my right hand. Nevertheless, the beauty of the Hatcher still called to me like a siren song. When I checked in the morning, it had already sold--not surprising, given Mark Hatcher's reputation. Some instruments sit around for weeks or months before moving, but this was gone in hours. I figured this was for the best. I didn't need another guitar, and I knew I'd have to (or should) make a tough choice to let something go. Plus, it didn't have all the specs I want: 2-1/4" saddle spacing or wider. It was better that someone else acquire it.

Next up: how the memory of that guitar came to haunt me as the seed it planted within me flourished into GAS.

Last edited by Erithon; 12-02-2018 at 05:19 PM.
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Old 12-02-2018, 04:49 PM
v32 finish v32 finish is offline
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Love the storytelling style of this post. Got me hooked & waiting for more. Posting for the autosubscribe. Lookin forward to it!! (I also am an admitted cocobolo-aholic, and having just sold my only cocobolo guitar, the stirrings have begun anew already . This is very timely, indeed. )
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Old 12-02-2018, 11:34 PM
Dustinfurlow Dustinfurlow is offline
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Man I hear you completely about that one little sixteenth of an inch making the difference of a great guitar and a “keeper”. I prefer wider too and it’s probably a good thing (for my bank account) that few builders go beyond 1 3/4 or 2 1/4 spacings unless requested. The Hatcher I played at Woodstock seriously stood out to me. I plan to order from him in the next year once funds are back up. Will be following this thread!
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Old 12-03-2018, 07:32 AM
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This is a lot of fun so far, and I can't imagine how much more fun it will be once the actual work starts. Fantastic storytelling! I think I heard about this guitar from Mark at Woodstock, but won't spoil the fun (if I am correct). Looking forward to future posts!
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Old 12-03-2018, 12:05 PM
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Erithon Erithon is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Nemoman View Post
I remember this being one of my favorite build threads of all time on the AGF!

Looking forward to seeing what's in store for this masterpiece!
I wasn't around for it that time: you're privileged to see both builds!
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Old 12-03-2018, 12:10 PM
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Erithon Erithon is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by v32 finish View Post
Love the storytelling style of this post. Got me hooked & waiting for more. Posting for the autosubscribe. Lookin forward to it!!
Quote:
Originally Posted by mikealpine View Post
This is a lot of fun so far, and I can't imagine how much more fun it will be once the actual work starts. Fantastic storytelling!
Thank you! It's fun writing it
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Old 12-03-2018, 12:16 PM
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Erithon Erithon is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Dustinfurlow View Post
Man I hear you completely about that one little sixteenth of an inch making the difference of a great guitar and a “keeper”.
Yes - this is exactly what I mean! It's not that I can't play other spacings, but I've gotten to the point where I know what works best for me.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Dustinfurlow View Post
The Hatcher I played at Woodstock seriously stood out to me. I plan to order from him in the next year once funds are back up. Will be following this thread!
Which one did you play? I couldn't make it to Woodstock, but I was at Mark's the next weekend and played the builds that hadn't already sold.
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Old 12-03-2018, 12:32 PM
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Erithon Erithon is offline
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Oh, but I was not as at peace as I believed. After a few weeks I remembered the Hatcher Greta and returned to the sold listing to gaze upon her beauty, to seek her in her temple. I thought Yeah, that's probably worth letting something go: the wood on this Hatcher is a svelte elf that makes other guitars look like grubby dwarves. And so the insidious dragon known as GAS once more reared his head. But, now assisted by the disappearance of the Hatcher Greta from the market, I fought him. Through fire. And water. From the lowest dungeon to the highest peak, I fought him, the Guitar Acquisition Syndrome. Until at last, I threw down my enemy and smote his ruin upon the mountainside. But GAS is a wily creature, and one defeat did not hold back my foe; in the form of an AGF thread about “The One That Got Away” he surfaced yet again, taunting me with the memory of that majestic Cocobolo, that sublime Bearclaw Spruce. On the slopes of Mount Parnassus, I fought for freedom from GAS. Once more I resisted. Victory was near; but the power of the Cocobolo could not be undone.

One final time GAS spawned anew, stronger than before. Darkness took me. And I strayed out of thought and time for in this instance GAS not only reminded me of the Hatcher Greta, but prompted me to search for other examples of Mr. Hatcher's work on Reverb. There were two, one for the very Cocobolo minx that had stalked my dreams and engendered my GAS backslide. But no, surely it couldn't be: no one would sell such a fair maiden so quickly. This must be an old listing, I thought--yet I knew it couldn't be true: Reverb doesn't display old items in its internal search results. And there she was, my Helen of Troy, my Draupadi, listed a mere five days prior. I was weak, the shock of so unanticipated an encounter overriding my defenses just when I thought GAS sufficiently at bay (for I am not so foolish as to believe GAS is ever truly eradicated). I reached out to the seller to confirm this was indeed my lost love (as if I could ever mistake that splendid Cocobolo) and the snare of GAS tightened. I had another chance to bring home the Hatcher Greta, to catch my Atalanta! I knew I really wanted this guitar. The remaining obstacle--or, should I say, my final line of defense, the lone citadel that still held against GAS's onslaught--was the saddle spacing.

The next day I followed up on my first message with more questions and the seller, checking the build book for further info, noticed what appeared to be an erroneously reported saddle spacing: 2-11/16” (too wide to be playable). Re-measured, it turned out that the saddle spacing was not 2-3/16”, but my minimum preference of 2-1/4”! We now moved from the hypothetical to the actual, from the bulwark of too narrow spacing to the open veld possibility where resides the pestilence that stalks in darkness and the destruction that wastes at noonday.

In the course of negotiation the seller informed me that another admirer had already made an offer for my beloved Hatcher Greta. What's more, the seller had made a counteroffer and was waiting for this other suitor to accept or decline it. Stars wheeled overhead, and every day was as long as the life age of the earth. I was so close! How could she slip away again? But it was not the end. Like anyone trying to close a sale, he kindly extended that same counteroffer to me. I felt light in me again. I'd been sent back until my task was done, my Brünnhilde awakened, my Roxane wooed and wed. I agreed to the offer. And GAS stormed over the ramparts, routing what little resistance remained.

Next up: an entr'acte in which we take a close look at the guitar itself.
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Old 12-03-2018, 12:40 PM
ukejon ukejon is offline
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Yeah...Hatcher Guitars...GAS....been there, done that....twice. It’s a great thing!
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2009 Pono koa parlor (NAMM prototype)
2014 Pono N30 DC EIR/Spruce crossover
2014 Hatcher Greta 13 fret cutaway in EIR/cedar
2017 Hatcher Josie fan fret mahogany
1973 Sigma GCR7 (OM model) rosewood and spruce
2014 Rainsong OM1000N2

....and about 5 really nice tenor ukuleles at any given moment
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Old 12-06-2018, 10:52 AM
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Erithon Erithon is offline
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We’ll set the narrative aside for the moment to better appreciate its subject: the guitar itself.



This Hatcher Greta has a mastergrade Sitka Spruce top with a bearclaw figure. Sometimes I like bearclaw figure, sometimes I don't, but it's always unique and I agree with the wabi sabi philosophy of finding beauty in natural “imperfections.” When bearclaw figure isn't symmetrical or when it appears in a small degree I tend not to like it. But when it's symmetrical and heavily figured in a pleasing way, I prefer it to non-bearclaw Spruce. I especially like when it adds some chatoyancy to the wood.



The other major feature of this Hatcher Greta is the Cocobolo on the back and sides. There is a lot of great-looking Cocobolo out there, but every now and then you see a set that is truly mind-blowing. In terms of drama, I consider this set among the top three I've ever seen (the most dramatic being my M J Franks Heritage Grande—pictured below). It has the deep red color and striking dark ink lines that I love. In addition to that bold figure, there's also the more subtle color variegation as the reds move from dark maroon to bright scarlet with orange highlights. And then, of course, there is the sapwood. Like bearclaw figure, it rarely appeared on instruments in the past, but now it pops up with ever increasing frequency. It's a very modern look and I generally like it, provided it’s employed tastefully--sometimes a set has too much sapwood for me. Here I find the sapwood extremely well-integrated into the build. In fact, this guitar has no decorative back strip because the sapwood serves that role organically.



As you can see, the sapwood is recurring motif. Indeed, in the original build thread Mark wrote “this guitar's visual theme was kind of an ode to sapwood.” You can see it on the tips of the tuner buttons Mark crafted, on the front headstock veneer, on the end graft, and in the inlays on the rosette and arm bevel. These inlays are particularly inspired in their design: Mark selected each segment so that its curved sapwood lines up with the curve in the rosette and arm bevel.



My favorite visual feature is the headstock's front veneer. Veneered in bookmatched Cocobolo, Mark carves this “pillow” style headstock to have curves and depth. The effect is subtle elegance, enhanced further by the beauty of the selected Cocobolo. A similar bookmatched design with sapwood center can be found on the end graft. The back of the headstock is veneered with a single piece of Cocobolo. The fretboard, tuner buttons, and even the inlay on the strap button are Cocobolo. The fretboard has a particularly unique figure with lots of spider-webbing. In combination with the headstock, it’s mesmerizing to behold.



The neck is a fine piece of Mahogany with a cross-grained Cocobolo center laminate flanked by Maple. The binding around the body is Gaboon Ebony, a look which nicely contrasts with the red Cocobolo while picking up on the dark ink lines running through the back and sides. The binding extends not only around the front and back of the body, but also around the fingerboard and the headstock. It further pops because of the thin white maple purfling that parallels it, both on the front and sides of the headstock and neck. And on the front of the guitar there is further purfling of dyed black birch-white maple-black-red Mahogany-black-white-black. This also forms the outer ring of the rosette. The rosette and arm bevel are more Gaboon Ebony, but they have that inlaid Cocobolo with sapwood accents to give the whole instrument a harmonious look. This was the first inlaid arm bevel I encounter, but I’ve since seen it in a couple more recent builds by Mark.

Next up: the arrival of the guitar and my first impressions

Postscript: gratuitous pictures of my Heritage Grande built by Mike Franks. As you can see, I have a thing for Cocobolo--especially when it showcases an owl nesting in the hollow of a tree


Last edited by Erithon; 12-06-2018 at 10:57 AM.
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