Four years ago Oola and I traveled to the tiny luthier shop of Wildcard Guitars in Oakland, CA. Since then Wildcard (Steve Card) has moved to Port Angeles, WA ( where the world is clean, quiet, friendly, affordable, spacious, polite, smart, beautiful, uncrowded, capable, curious…) and he opened his shop there. Here’s a peek.
Here’s the other side of the show room, with Port Angeles Chamber of Commerce doing a ribbon cutting. Oola was fascinated by those big sharp scissors. No one seemed to mind.
One of Steve’s Canadian neighbors brought by a bouquet of flowers and a bottle of champagne in welcome. The champagne was soon polished off, but the flowers seem to catch the eyes of passersby, so Steve continues the habit. People like their flowers here. Hard to grow tomatoes though.
Moving right along, there is much more room for Steve to work.
Above is a neck and fingerboard for a new commission. You see the slot carved out for the truss rod.
Because of the rain and humidity Steve built an 8ft. x 8ft. “box” inside his workshop to keep his wood from distorting, and to get good glue joints. He demonstrated how the Go Bars might be used to glue a bridge to a guitar top (you have to imagine the top).
Steve has so much space now he calls it “Palatial!”.
If you ever travel to the area, you can find the Wildcard shop at
The smell of French Polish lingers in the studio, and The WildCard has finished a second Octave mandolin. This is the sister of Octave Mando 1 which currently can be seen at Thin Man Strings, in Alameda, CA.
Octave Mando front
Octave Mando, back
Octave Mando tail piece
Octave mando side
A click on any picture will lead to an enlarged version. Right click on the slide show images above for enlargements.
Today we travel out to Lafayette to Mighty Fine Guitars to try to find a home for this dark beauty.
This time the three of us will travel by BART. It’s a smooth, comfy ride out of the big city into suburbs tucked into the rolling green hills. It will get hotter’n Hades this summer, but today is a beautiful California spring day.
A short walk from the Lafayette BART station is a place for some of the finest handcrafted guitars you will ever experience.
None of the testosterone induced, amplifier busting Wha-Wha of other guitar stores I have had the misfortune to enter. Everything here is centered on the beautiful woods and sounds of individually hand built acoustic guitars. The store is a treat to the eye, and the guitars are works of art.
Stevie Coyle is a musician, teacher, and the owner of this wonderful little store. Here he is, listening to the tones of Mr. WildCard’s octave mando.
I love the look musicians get when they are checking out a sound. It is like the look my students used to get when they learned to remove all impediments to actually Seeing the object they were drawing – all the protective veils pulled away – it was like they allowed their eyes to become vulnerable. In the musician I can see the direct connection they have to the sound of the instrument they are fondling. And it is a beautiful thing.
The treat in the guitar store is to (first ask permission) take a guitar off the wall and admire in from every angle, then play it. Here is Oola with an eye-popper named “Cubist” from Michael Dunn, of Canada. Notice how the sound hole is in two parts. And – I loved this – there is a long skinny sound “hole” on the back which is made from overlapping layers of wood.
In this store it is not surprising to have some of the greats among the instrument makers show up. On this particular day Butch Boswell came into town from San Luis Obispo.
Here you see that look again. Butch plays the mando beautifully, and this instrument jumped to life in his hands. Below Butch listens to an exquisite little parlor guitar made of maple by John How from Cool, CA.
It is hard to leave the sights and sounds of a great guitar shop, but we had to head home. If you wish to see and/or try out Mr. WildCard’s octave mando, or the other fine instruments, visit Mighty Fine Guitars, Wed-Sun 11 am – 7 pm,
On the way back we stopped at the Crosses of Lafayette protest site. In 2006, as we were discovering how many American men and women were dying in Iraq, Jeffrey Heaton and volunteers began hammering memorial crosses into this hillside owned by Louise Clark. Islamic Crescents and Stars of David joined the crosses. This war protest suffered vandalism in the horrible days when to question the whole debacle was to be “disloyal”, but the protesters restored it. Now, as Americans are being moved away from that particular mode of violence named the Iraq War, the project remains to remind travelers on BART and on Hwy 24 of the 6,702 who died.
The Lafayette crosses from BART
The Lafayette Crosses, and Crescents, and Stars of David
In the McArthur BART station, the flower vendor reminds me that there is still hope for us humans.