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Stringing it all together

Curren Effinger's first guitar is put together and close to complete. A few more finishing touches and it will be ready for the guitar show at Minnesota State College-Southeast Technical at the end of the semester in May. (Republican Eagle photos by John R. Russett)1 / 3
David Kriesel has one more big hurdle to get through on his guitar — the arm bevel, which rounds out the top of the instrument on the body where the arm rests. 2 / 3
Effinger shapes the neck on his electric guitar. Building an electric guitar is an optional class and Effinger said it is much less involved than the acoustic build. 3 / 3

As the end of the semester draws near, Curren Effinger and David Kriesel have similar — yet different — feelings about approaching the end of their guitar build.

Effinger, a first-year student in Guitar Repair and Building at Minnesota State College–Southeast Technical and Kriesel, a second-year student in the program, both feel the excitement of finishing their semester-long projects.

“It’s crunch time, you know. I can feel the pressure,” Kriesel said. He’s building his second guitar. “It’s nerve-wracking, but it’s exciting, too.”

Effinger, who is closing in completing his first instrument, said he also has felt the excitement build as his guitar comes together.

“For me, it was mind-blowing,” he said when he finally put pieces together and could see the guitar take shape.

Effinger said when he was younger he spent time in guitar shops wondering how the guitars were put together, hoping someday he might be able to do the same.

“It always fascinated me to some degree,” Effinger said.

While Effinger is excited for the moment he will play his creation for the first time, Kriesel — while still excited to complete his projects — has something different occupying his mind toward the end of his second year.

“Now I have to get a real job,” he said, adding there are equal parts apprehension and anticipation about stepping out of the comfort zone of Red Wing and the workshops at Southeast Technical.

“It’s a little scary to go out into the real world and face real world problems,” Kriesel said. “It’s not so controlled like it is here.”

Kriesel said he had an interview with Gibson in Nashville and he also has a five-day bench test coming up with Gruhn Guitars, a vintage guitar repair shop also in Nashville.

“Either way it looks like I’m moving to Nashville,” he said. “I feel really blessed to have those opportunities.”

The bench test, Kriesel said, is the basic, bread-and-butter repairs which come through the shop on a daily basis. What makes Gruhn intriguing for Kriesel is the kind of guitars they work on – every instrument was made before 1968.

Gruhn just sold one of the first Fender Stratocasters ever made in 1954, he said, for $250,000.

“That’s the kind of stuff they have hanging up there,” Kriesel added.

Whatever Kriesel ends up doing, when he leaves school he said he’s ready to start his career in the building and repair business.

“That’s the idea. I didn’t come here to learn these skills and then go home and do something else,” he said. “It’s what I want to do, so it’s a great feeling.”

The process has been enjoyable, Effinger said, and he described seeing the guitar put together as a “glorifying moment,” adding he’s already had people back home in Duluth ask him to build them guitars.

While he had an idea for how he wanted his guitar to sound when it was completely finished, he said he’ll have to wait until the strings are on and he’s played it to really know how it turned out because you never know for sure what the outcome will be.

“There are still some things left up to chance because every piece of wood is different, every guitar is different,” Effinger said.

With that said, Effinger added they do have the ability to make a guitar to suit any individual guitar player’s needs.

“You have to have a lot of knowledge, and you have to have a lot of understanding, and you it’s a lot of trial and error, too,” he said of perfecting the craft. “It’s going to take a lot of our own experimentation, working through it ourselves and finding what works for us as builders and repair people.”

The guitars need to be finished by the end of April and on May 13 the guitars and other instruments students made will be showcased at the annual guitar show at the Southeast Technical campus in Red Wing.

This is the third in a periodic series of stories about the specially guitar program at Minnesota State College-Southeast Technical’s Red Wing campus. 

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