Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Craftsman Creates Guitars from Blend of Wood, Magic; Brunswick Man Discovers a Natural Talent for a New Business That's All a Pleasure

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Craftsman Creates Guitars from Blend of Wood, Magic; Brunswick Man Discovers a Natural Talent for a New Business That's All a Pleasure

Article excerpt

Byline: Mike Morrison

BRUNSWICK | There's a nebulous, indefinable ingredient that goes into making a great guitar.

Exotic woods, pricey hardware, mother-of-pearl inlays; those all go without saying. But there's one last little thing, and guitar maker Mike Hasty can come up with only one word for it.

"It's just a combination of wood and ... magic," he said while conducting a tour of his shop on the north side of town. "I can't explain it, so it's magic."

Recently retired from the two-way radio business, Hasty, 63, is now working full time at making guitars in a workshop that appears operating room clean. It began as a hobby nine years ago, perhaps by accident, or maybe it was fate. A Key West musician, Fiddlin' Red Seidman, took up the trade as a means of coming off the road and saving his marriage.

"I'll take the first one you make," Hasty told his close friend and fishing buddy.

But fate intervened tragically as it so often does.

"He was getting close to finishing and he had a massive heart attack and died," Hasty said. "He was 53 years old. His wife brought the guitar to me in a box and I looked at it for two years, then decided to finish it."

Six weeks of woodworking school and several internships later, he was finishing Fiddlin' Red's guitar and starting to build others under his own brand, taking slats of walnut, Hawaiian koa, rosewood and mahogany and shaping them into highly polished, sweet-sounding instruments.

He's a player, too, and strummed his way through a medley of 1970s rock standards as he talked.

"I've been playing since I was a kid," he said, "but I'm a better builder than I am a player. When I started, I found out I just have a natural talent for it, and I made up my mind this was not going to be like running my business; this was going to be for pleasure."

Hasty has made 27 of his Hasty brand guitars so far, and the name doesn't apply to the speed of manufacture. Each requires about 1,500 hours of painstaking labor, from careful shaping to coat-after-coat of lacquer. Their price tags are significantly higher than mass-produced models, but his new vocation hardly is a big money-maker, nor is it meant to be.

"You're not going to get rich from this, but that's not my motivation," he said. …

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