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The difference a year makes

David Kriesel, in his second year of the Guitar Repair and Building program, works on his second guitar. The bracing pattern is unique and there aren't many models for him to base his guitar on, he said. (Republican Eagle photos by John R. Russett)1 / 4
Curren Effinger adheres a piece of binding to the body of his guitar Wednesday afternoon. 2 / 4
Kriesel shapes the binding on the top of his guitar. He said the bracing was the last step in his planning stage. 3 / 4
First-year guitar building student Curren Effinger answers a question from one of fellow guitar builders while he works on his first guitar. 4 / 4

As small, thin, curled pieces of multicolored wood pile up on David Kriesel’s work station as he shaves down the braces on his guitar, Curren Effinger — just one room away — places the bindings on his own acoustic guitar.

There is more, however, that separate Kriesel and Effinger than a door, a short hallway and another door at Minnesota State College-Southeast Technical — the two guitar builders are one year apart in the program.

For Effinger, a first-year student who is building his first guitar, every step in the process is something not yet experienced and brings with it new challenges.

“Everything’s new, every step is fun to see it and really fun to do it, but I just feel physically drained at the end of the day,” he said.

Effinger said it takes all of his senses to focus on the work and the moment when focus is lost and concentration is broken is usually the moment something goes wrong.

“It’s all about that focus and focus is key in everything,” he said.

Kriesel, in his second year and building his second guitar, remembered building his first guitar last year.

The first year is full of surprises, he said, but you get better at hiding your tracks and better at making the guitar look professional.

Kriesel said he remains focused — no music plays in the work room and there isn’t much conversation — but going through the process once has changed his outlook.

“You start with that laser focus and ‘this has to be perfect,’ but then you start realizing things can be fixed,” he said, adding he feels as though his hands have gotten smarter as he grows more accustomed to the work.

Kriesel said the first year he was focused on learning the process and it felt like a lot to take in, but what makes it fun is getting to really push himself in his second year.

“I do really enjoy those moments of like, ‘I’m not really sure how to do this,’ you know, just do it and if it doesn’t come out, we’ll fix it,” he said.

The bracing style is modeled after a McPherson Guitars style, one which doesn’t have much information available to model his after.

“(The bracing) is way different than anything of the traditional styles,” Kriesel said. “We’re trying to make the music better and I think, for sure, that’s what it is doing.”

Within the first month of building, Effinger said he has become more comfortable with his ability to focus and work at a good pace, although sometimes staying patient can be difficult.

“We all have our moments where we want things to just be done, we want it to be a guitar,” he said. “It’s hard to have to sit here and work through each step knowing there is more to come and there is always more you could be doing.”

Effinger said he is looking forward to playing live shows with a guitar he built himself.

For Kriesel, however, there is a different kind of anticipation. At the end of the semester his schooling is done and it’s time to find a job.

“I’m really excited to get out in the field and really do this,” he said. “It’s frightening, it’s exciting and there’s this feeling of ‘finally,’ too.”

Until it comes time to step out and start a new job, however, Kriesel said he is excited to see his guitar come together and to hear a professional play his guitar at the end of the semester.

“That’s the best moment,” he said.

John R. Russett

John Russett is a regional reporter for RiverTown Multimedia, covering a variety of issues facing RiverTown communities. Previously, he worked at the Red Wing Republican Eagle, where he reported on education as well as crime and courts. 

You can follow him on Twitter at @JohnRyanRussett


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