WESTFIELD-Jackson McCutchen believes one doesn’t have to spend a lot of money to have “cool stuff” – including quality, handmade guitars made from beautiful woods that surround New England and beyond.
On Thursday afternoon on Noble Street, he was found outside on his deck with his Craftsman table saw and Random orbital sander working on his latest commissioned guitar project – which will soon be a surprise gift to someone in Western Massachusetts.
“I welcome creating unique pieces and working closely with customers to specifications they have,” said McCutchen.
Two of his latest creations are guitars commissioned by local performers – Cory DeGray of Cory DeGray and the Knightsmen Band and a bass for Matt Bruno.
“These guitars will be played at the Fireworks for Freedom concert July 1,” said McCutchen, noting that DeGray wanted a special guitar to play since the band is celebrating 50 years performing. The concert and fireworks show begins at 6:30 p.m. at South Middle School.
“Cory gave me some guidelines and specifications on electronics, and also the freedom to create with specific woods,” said McCutchen, noting he chose bird’s eye maple to grace the front of the guitar and mahogany for the back. “I didn’t know a lot about guitars seven months ago but I learned a lot on-line and received feedback from friends who play. Now, I think guitars are beautiful.”
McCutchen works full-time and devotes approximately 20 hours a week to his business endeavor – Burly Woodcrafting and Arktos Guitars. His wife, Marie, is “awesome” assisting him with marketing ideas and website design. The couple has two children, Jack, 3, and Coralie, almost 2.
“Burly Woodcrafting is a play on burp wood and my bearded appearance,” said McCutchen. “I decided on Arktos Guitars because of my son. We called him little bear when he was a baby. He loves ‘helping’ with the guitars and asking all sorts of questions, so I wanted to make the guitars for him. Arktos is the Great Bear constellation, so it seemed like a good fit.”
McCutchen is self-taught on making functional wooden art from the finest hardwoods available by watching YouTube videos. Less than two years ago, his first projects were pens, bowls, coffee scoops, bottle stoppers and ice cream scoops. He also makes cutting boards of maple, cherry, walnut and padauk (an exotic wood for accents), as well as beading boards to make necklaces, pizza peels of cherry, maple, walnut and mahogany, and tables.
“I love cooking so many of the kitchen staples we use I created,” said McCutchen. “I learn by jumping in feet first.”
As McCutchen has fine-tuned his portfolio offerings over time, creating guitars is now his “absolute favorite” project to undertake.
“Guitars are fun to make and I like seeing people enjoy them,” he said, adding commissioned guitars take approximately two to three weeks to complete. After working closely with the customer on specifications, he decides on the type of woods that will bring the one-of-a-kind piece to life.
“As you work with grains of wood you start to see where the wood wants to go,” said McCutchen, adding that sometimes the organic material won’t cooperate so one must take that into account when creating a piece.
He takes one day at a time – one creation at a time – his ultimate goal is to have guitars be a major part of his business.
“You can’t buy happiness but you can buy guitars and that’s kind of the same thing,” he said – a quote that graces his new website – www.Arktosguitars.com. McCutchen can also be reached by calling (413) 563-7418.