The Student Voice of Forest Hills Central

Starting from Scratch: Cam Harris took on the task of building his own guitar

June 5, 2015

Eleven weeks ago, an Instagram picture was posted by one of our classmates that set our student’s feeds abuzz with a newfound sense of exhilaration and curiosity.

Junior Cam Harris revealed a project he had been working on for nearly two months, disclosing not only his hidden artistic ability but also a riveting hobby he managed to discover using nothing but his hands and a block of wood.

From dictating the dimensions of the bridge height and meticulously determining fret spacing, the craft of building a guitar is an art that must be done with a steady hand and a scrupulous mindset. Harris, however, was not deterred by the obvious effort that was required.

“I figured out how to make a guitar as I went,” Harris responded, with a nonchalant shrug of his shoulders. “I planned it out in my head. I had to watch a couple Youtube videos on how to paint it, though.”

One month ago, Harris embarked on the extensive journey of learning how to play guitar. When asked about his progress, Harris simply chuckled before stating that he’s actually better at building guitars than he is at playing them. Despite the fact that he used to play the drums, Harris claims that he’s not “musically inclined”. Many may say he’s simply being modest considering after only four weeks, he taught himself not only how to pluck out the E minor chord but also how to expertly handle tools such as the drill bit, jigsaw, and belt sander to produce a working instrument. Harris discovered his passion for creating new things, building trinkets and small creations, courageously taking on the roles of an inventor, designer, and executer all rolled up into one as he tackled an intensive project.

“While making it, the router kept breaking and would tear the wood. I had to buy a new one, unfortunately,” Harris said. “The clear coat and the paint ended up having a chemical reaction, too, so I had to sand off all the paint and restart twice.”

The process that went into it was a grueling one, no doubt, but Harris has never been one known to shy away from hard work. Instead of grumbling complaints about the numerous delays, trials, and tribulations that he endured over the course of over 60 days, Harris instead stated that it was a “good time” when asked about it.

“Since it’s the first guitar I’ve ever built, I suffered a lot of setbacks, especially at first,” Harris remarked, chuckling to himself as he recalled his experiences. “ It probably took a little over a month and a half, since I had to wait for everything to dry.”

Harris was not thrust head-first into the difficult work of a craftsmen alone, however. Remaining by his side throughout the substantial journey was junior Geoff Brown; not only did Brown assist Harris in building the guitar, but he also has become Harris’s trusted guide in mastering the craft of playing the guitar, itself. Brown was able to offer his expertise regarding the valued instrument considering he possesses an evident musical ability. Aside from his skills pertaining to the guitar, Brown was also able to assist Harris in the technical aspect of the process.

“I gave him advice on how to build the guitar by telling him what needed to be done,” Brown said. “ I knew how to handle the electronic side of it, as well.”

Why not? This was what Harris thought to himself two months ago, when an ambitious thought popped into his head. He did not ponder the possible difficulties that he might (and most likely did) encounter, he did not mull over the fact that he had never built a guitar before. He did not focus on the fact that he had just recently learned how to play basic chords on the five stringed instrument, he did not hesitate even though he know that this project was going to require extensive research and dedication. Junior Cam Harris asked himself Why Not? Why can’t this be done? And so it was.

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