California luthier Ned Whittemore has a one-man shop, and has been building guitars by hand one at a time using traditional methods – since 1981. His guitars are played by some of today’s jazz heavyweights. Being a life long guitar player – and with feedback from world-class players – he has a keen understanding of the small details that result in wonderful instruments. He is motivated to make guitars for players who know the difference between a good and great guitar, and strives to create guitars that “disappear” under the player, allowing musical thoughts to appear effortlessly.
Ned has a PhD in biochemistry, and kept a “day job” as a research scientist for many years. He translates his technical and analytical training into a scientific approach to guitar design and construction. He crafted his first guitar when he was 8 years old using his father’s jigsaw to make a plywood cutout copy of John Lennon’s guitar. He learned basic woodworking techniques in college, and built 4 guitars in college. His training included work in 1980 in a busy commercial guitar/stringed instrument repair shop – where he replaced Paul Reed Smith who had left to start PRS. He’s been building ever since.
His early guitars were solid bodies with thru-body neck designs. He started building semi-hollow carved top guitars in the mid-80s, resulting in the Blue Jay model – a great platform for jazz and blues at medium volumes. Archtops followed and Ned currently builds a variety of archtop models for different performance requirements, including carved and laminated body models. He also is a Telecaster expert, with a fondness for making T-style guitars for the jazz player.
“I began as Mill City Guitar Works in Minneapolis in 1981, and changed to Mill City West when I moved to Southern California in 1989. From this history, many of my guitars are labeled “Mill City.” I changed to Whittemore Guitars as a more traditional name. In all cases, guitars were built by hand entirely by me. I thank the many inspirational luthiers working today, and greatly appreciate the guidance and advice.”