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A new interview with Melvyn Hiscock, author of "Make Your Own Electric Guitar"

Posted: Tue Oct 06, 2020 9:04 am
by Charlie Schultz
Most of you, I’m sure, know or own Melvyn’s book “Make Your Own Electric Guitar”. He is coming out with a 3rd edition which should be available around Christmas. Some of you will recall we had an interview with him back in 2010 (thanks to Clint Searcy). You can find that interview here: viewtopic.php?f=19&t=1738

Melvyn is giving us a chance to catch up with him and answer your questions. Also, he we be donating some copies of the new book for us to give away to members!

From his press release for the 3rd edition:
From a 10 x 8 book of 160 pages and 250 illustrations in 1986 to 304 pages, 11 x 9 and with close on 750 drawings, diagrams and photographs, the book now covers far more of the subject, and in greater detail, without losing the common touch that made it so successful to begin with. Melvyn Hiscock has been making guitars for almost forty years and has poured that experience into this third edition.

He also promises that the jokes are just as bad as before!

Some background information from Melvyn:
Is it really ten years since I did the interview with Clint? How can that be? I suppose that a lot has happened and so time tends to fly by in those circumstances, and there has been some complications to life that have confused things.

I think I was in the process of releasing my acoustic book back then and the timing could not have been worse. We had the big recession, I had some personal stuff that was distracting and it was all at the wrong time. On top of that I lost my dad and moved in to look after my mother, got dumped by the girlfriend, it was not a fun time.

I was in two minds about a third edition as it is a LOT of work and ends up costing a lot of money. NBS Publications has, until very recently, been just me, so money can be tight sometimes.

The first edition was through another publisher but I was not happy with them, so when I did the 1998 edition, that was all me. I even used to take the books to the airport when they shipped. If you are in the US and have the edition with the foreword by Brian May, then I drove that to the airport myself!

I thought hard about just doing another reprint, but there were a lot of things I wanted to expand on, so it had to be a new edition.

The 1998 edition had taken close on two years to produce, and I didn’t want to tie myself up for that long, so I decided to give myself six months. I knew that was pretty well impossible but it was worth trying. I had worked in publishing and got sick of people telling me that two years was not long enough to write a 70,000 word book, so I decided to see if I could prove myself right!

I started on 10 January 2016, I remember as it was the day David Bowie died, and I did 50,000 words in the first week. I then did another 20,000 the second week and integrated that with the existing typescript and had a complete first pass in 17 days.

I only did that to prove to myself that it is possible, but then I had to get started on the new drawings, photographs and everything else.

This was the point when things started going pear-shaped again, firstly my mum died in May and so I had to get the house ready for sale and then, in August 2016, I got diagnosed with colon cancer.

Since then it has spread to the liver and beyond, I have had various sorts of chemo but I was determined to complete the book. I have a stubborn streak a mile wide and I had met, and married, a fantastic lady called Caroline and wanted to leave her the book.

It has slowed things up, but has also given me the chance to take a much deeper look at the book. I had to rewrite the wood chapter twice as the CITES rules changed. There is a lot more on design, wiring and much more on kit guitars, so I hope it is worth waiting for.

The new edition does have some stuff that might be controversial to some people, Kent Armstrong has written me some stuff for the wiring
chapter that completely debunks the expensive capacitor argument, I have some comments on ‘tone wood’.
So feel free to start asking questions!

Re: A new interview with Melvyn Hiscock, author of "Make Your Own Electric Guitar"

Posted: Sun Oct 25, 2020 10:29 pm
by Gary Frisbie
Hello Melvyn,

I'm a long-term admirer of your book "Make Your Own Electric Guitar" having purchased the 1986 first British edition (sold in the United States by StewMac). I've learned a lot from your excellent writing and photographs and diagrams. You cover the various topics with deft focus and attention to detail.

It's great to hear a third edition is on the way! Reading the comments in your new interview from 2020, it's exciting to think about what you've now added to the very satisfying efforts of the earlier editions. We are again thankful to benefit from your wisdom and experience.

I'm sorry to hear of your health issues and will always hope the best for you. I, too, have had long-term health challenges and it's inspiring to learn of your fortitude amidst life's twists and turns.

As for a question, perhaps you have some thoughts regarding how guitar-making and writing have figured into your life experiences. I'm wondering how your work as a builder and writer has provided in terms of joy and satisfaction. My hope is that these go far beyond the sacrifices and challenges spread across your path.

If you don't feel like offering any such assessment of life as a luthier and writer, I understand and apologize. I realize what I'm asking is something that I would certainly find hard to put into words! I feel your life is likely one well-lived in many ways, although there may also have been many times of sorrow or despair. To me, that's the mark of a life that pushes forward.

Your gifts to mankind are of great benefit to the world. To have achieved such things is a lasting testament to your spirit and determination and your ability to help others on what can be a very long and winding road.

I'm eagerly looking forward to purchasing your new book! Thank you very much, Melvyn.

All the best to you!

Gary Frisbie

Re: A new interview with Melvyn Hiscock, author of "Make Your Own Electric Guitar"

Posted: Thu Dec 03, 2020 12:21 pm
by Melvyn Hiscock
Thanks for that Gary, that is good of you to say.

It is funny as to begin with I had no idea how much impression the book had had. Even when preparing this one, the quotes I’ve had from the likes of Saul Koll, Ola Strandberg and others have been inspiring. There are a number of other successful companies out there and I really had no idea. The book has had a big influence on the whole guitar parts industry too and that is pretty humbling.

Of course, I wandered away from building into publishing and aviation, but always kept one foot in the door.

‘Getting known’ is strange too. To have someone run across the Philly Fall show a few years back to get my autograph was weird, as a kid I *might* have practiced signing for when my solo album came out but when it happens for real, it is a different thing. I have manfully struggled to get used to this though.

At this stage in my life, as I am well and truly terminal, words like ‘legacy’ crop up but that means more for my wife Caroline than it does for me, after all I will slip away and that will be it. I am glad I have been able to provide some income for the forthcoming years for her, and I am glad we got this one done as it was very tough at some times. Back in August I had Sepsis and was minutes away from going. The book, at that time, was not finishable by Caroline and would have died too. The book had a few days in ICU as well!

I have been lucky, as I have had, and still have some incredible friends from having written the book, the testament to that is many of them are frequently contacting me now, when I need friends, and I am so grateful.

Thanks for the kind words and the support. Print copies I expect in about March. I just hope to see them

All the very best


Re: A new interview with Melvyn Hiscock, author of "Make Your Own Electric Guitar"

Posted: Fri Dec 04, 2020 7:43 pm
by Karl Wicklund
Wow, thank you Melvyn!

Re: A new interview with Melvyn Hiscock, author of "Make Your Own Electric Guitar"

Posted: Sun Feb 21, 2021 5:57 pm
by Jim McConkey
And, quite sadly, with the third edition imminent, Melvyn just passed away. He was apparently as much of a force in the aircraft world as he was in lutherie, and equally loved in all his circles. RIP!

Re: A new interview with Melvyn Hiscock, author of "Make Your Own Electric Guitar"

Posted: Mon Feb 22, 2021 1:12 pm
by Barry Daniels
Really sad to hear this. I loved his book!

Re: A new interview with Melvyn Hiscock, author of "Make Your Own Electric Guitar"

Posted: Tue Feb 23, 2021 7:05 pm
by Karl Wicklund
A loss. I hope he took joy in knowing how much he enabled so many people.

Re: A new interview with Melvyn Hiscock, author of "Make Your Own Electric Guitar"

Posted: Wed Feb 24, 2021 11:51 am
by Bob Orr
So sorry to hear this. His was the first guitar building book I bought and got me into this.

Re: A new interview with Melvyn Hiscock, author of "Make Your Own Electric Guitar"

Posted: Thu Feb 25, 2021 1:13 pm
by Darrel Friesen
Huge loss. I read his book again last night.