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Quality Craftsmanship > Quality Parts

Ever heard the adage: you're only as good as your tools? Well it's untrue.

This past week my family and I had the enjoyable opportunity to visit some friends in San Diego, California. While we were there we were able to visit the Taylor Guitar factory and get a guided tour of the factory. They showed us everything from how they cut the wood, glue it, dry it, cut it some more, shape it, sand it, and finish it. The tour was a very cool experience and very worth your time if you ever have a chance to see it.

During one part of the tour our guide gave us a story about how Bob Taylor chooses the type of wood that goes into his guitars. Naturally, Bob likes to choose the nicest, most resonant woods to go into his product in order to make a better guitar. But our guide told us that Bob is also more concerned about sustainability in his company than he is about making sure he is using the most high-end woods.

The guide explained that Bob would tell other guitar manufacturing companies that they needed to use the entire tree when they cut one down (especially if it was an endangered species) rather than just using the best parts of the wood. Bob's concern was that future generations have wood to choose from as well. The other manufacturers blew off Bob's cautions by reminding him that he got to use the best woods because he could afford them so how would he know if it as in the wood or in the craftsmanship?

One day Bob Taylor had had enough. He was so convinced that it was craftsmanship and not product that made a quality instrument that he set out to prove the other manufacturers wrong.

Bob went out back of the factory with a hammer and started beating apart a pallet jack. A few of his workers came out to check on him and see what was the matter. When he told them what he was doing they volunteered to do it for him but he refused the help, insisting that he be the one to build these guitars. Bob took that wood and slowly turned the pallet jack into 5 guitars, taking care to observe the most painstaking details. The next year Bob brought his new guitar to the trade show with no label as to what it was or where it came from. Everyone oohed and ahhed over the tone and quality of the beautiful guitar. At the end of the show Bob revealed that he had designed the guitar entirely out of pallet wood--from body to neck to bridge. Bob sold 4 of the guitars for $10,000 each (his highest profit margin per guitar yet) and kept one for his office.

Even though Bob had access to some of the nicest trees in all of the world in order to design a high-end guitar, he chose to use the simplest, most common wood he could find. He made sure to insist that his craftsmanship was the thing that indicated the quality of his guitar, not the product that went into it.

Similarly, I have heard a story about a concert violinist who was preparing to give a presentation of a complicated violin concerto, only to discover that his million dollar violin was stolen from its backstage location just minutes before the performance. Rather than refusing to play the rehearsed work, the musician addressed the audience with the dilemma and told them he would carry on with the performance with an ordinary second-hand violin. As the final notes of the concerto left the recital hall the hush that had fallen over the crowd turned into uproariously loud applause. It was the most impacting performance anyone had ever heard and was filled with beautiful emotion and phrasing. You see, it wasn't the instrument that indicated the virtuosity of the performance, it was the craftsmanship of the musician that came through during that evening's performance.

When I think about my job as a music minister at a church, I often think about the quality of the music that I prepare each week with my team. We strive to be in sync with one another, to learn the notes and rhythms, to have the lyrics memorized and to know the flow and ebb of the service. We do our best to have quality instruments on stage with inspiring graphics and stage designs...but in the end, that is all secondary. What matters most is the craftsmanship of the heart of the team over the quality of the music offered up.

Similarly it is the heart of every worshiper that counts, not the quality to which we sing/pray/praise. God cares mostly that we work on the craftsmanship of how we design our heart that he cares about what we say or do. Because ultimately what we say and do will be influenced by the heart.

Thanks for that reminder Bob Taylor.
(picture from the Bob Hope monument in downtown San Diego)
(center piece drilled out of the Taylor guitar you always wanted but never could afford)


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