After 50 years of playing, Bryan Jefferies knew exactly what he wanted in a guitar. He had the money and often browsed the “big brand” catalogs, but never found the right one. Being stuck at home during the 2020 pandemic turned out to be productive for Bryan; it was then that he added “luthier” to his resume.
“I was surfing around on the web, looking at YouTube videos and found one of a man using a CNC (computer numerical control) machine. That was seventy percent computer work, and computers are really my bag, so I thought ‘hey, I bet I can do that,’” Bryan said. “So, instead of buying a guitar, I bought a machine and a block of wood. After I made my first one, I decided that I could do this as a business.”
After teaching himself to use the CAD program that came with the machine, he then purchased a more advanced program, then a more advanced machine. For thirty years Bryan has operated a recording studio in his Texarkana home, and now he has added a guitar factory – B’s Custom Guitars. The CNC machine takes up most of the garage and guitar bodies cover the kitchen countertops and dining table while their glue dries.
Bryan’s approach to guitar building is a concentration on the three main components of the instrument: aesthetics, feel and sound. “No one guitar will suit every player. I tried to make something that I would love, and I thought other players out there might love the same thing,” he explained.
His goal was to have a guitar that was unique, while also being somewhat familiar. He accomplished that by incorporating the old Gibson look and feel into the shape. As for the materials, Bryan prefers the look of exotic wood, and has been known to buy it by the cord.
Last year Bryan had an opportunity to purchase what is perhaps the coolest wood of all: a 500-year-old water oak tree that was part of Texarkana’s oldest documented history. In 1541 Hernando DeSoto came through the area in search of the Fountain of Youth and drank from the springs at what is now Spring Lake Park. While he was here, he hung a man on the tree for the crime of mutiny.
“The tree lived a long life and grew really large over such a vast time period,” Bryan said. “When the tree died, I was able to purchase some of the wood for a series of guitar builds – I call it The Mutiny Series.”
The second component he concentrates on is the feel of the instrument. “After you pick that guitar up because it looks so good, it’s got to feel good,” said Bryan. “You want your strings to lay fairly low – you want your action to be good, and you want it to be light.”
Each of Bryan’s guitars has a series of chambers carved out of the body before the top is glued on. This gives the guitar the weight reduction, so although it appears to be a solid piece of wood, it’s surprisingly light.
B’s Custom Guitars are made up of three layers of wood – top layer, then middle layer of walnut, then the body. The neck of each has a special unique inlay. While most luthiers use wood screws, Bryan puts machine insets into the neck for machine screws. This ensures that no matter how many times you pull it off, it doesn’t wear out.
“Part of the way something feels is the quality of the components. I use locking tuners on all my guitars – all have GraphTech nuts and solid gold fret wire. It’s the perfect hardness and won’t wear out as fast as nickel will, and it’s easier to work with than stainless steel. Aesthetically, it’s beautiful,” he explained. “I also use magnetic back covers so there is no fumbling with screws or chasing them all over the stage. And I designed the output jack location to keep it out of the way.”
The third component is tone, which is mostly derived from the pickups; Bryan uses Seymour Duncan pickups. He also uses components from Hipshot, Wilkinson and Pappas Electronics to achieve stability and offer more sound options.
While most companies consider gold fret wires and chambered bodies expensive add-ons, they come standard on B’s Custom guitars, which start at a reasonable $1,500.00. Each guitar takes about three days to complete, if all of the materials are in stock. There are 10-15 standard shapes to choose from; custom shapes cost more. For more information, check out his website: www.bcustomguitars.com.
“I took all of the best guitar features out there and rolled them into my builds,” said Bryan. “I went to my first guitar show this Spring in Dallas and sold six guitars, so I consider that a success story.”