Podcast 115: Luthier Jim Olson of Olson Guitars

James A. Olson is a legend in the world of acoustic guitar making. The Minnesota-based luthier is a cult favorite among guitar collectors around the world thanks to the instruments he’s built for James Taylor (Taylor’s Olson was once immortalized in cartoon form on a Simpson’s episode), Phil Keaggy and Leo Kottke. Due to their high demand, Olson’s new creations start at $15,000, a price that even he is a little embarrassed by. “I’m the Forrest Gump of guitar making,” he sheepishly explains. “I fell into here. I don’t think these things are any more special than anything else.”

During this candid talk, Olson tells us about the first guitar he built (with help from the classic Irving Sloane book), how Keaggy ordered the first cedar guitar and how an early (and failed) distribution deal for his dreadnoughts in the late ‘70s resulted in his fanatical appreciation for tooling and build efficiency. “I’m sometimes more interested in making a new piece of tooling than a guitar,” he admits.

We also talk CNC machines (Olson talks about which components he uses his Fadal CNC for), the origin of the Small Jumbo body size, tone woods and hear about his fateful meeting with James Taylor. Plus a lot more.

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