(NOTE 2012: This interview was conducted not long after we began carrying Seuf Guitars back in 2009. In the past few years, due to name copyright issues, Dave has changed the name of his killer guitars from OF and SF to the current OH Series for ‘Old Hand’. Whatever you want to call them, we are proud to carry these amazing instruments. – MSM)
Dave Seuferling has been repairing and refinishing guitars for many years in Kansas City, and earlier this year he stopped by Mass Street Music and showed us a few guitars he had built. We took them on right away. These are relic’d guitars, strat and tele styles, his OF, or ‘Old Friend’ series (2012: Now ‘OH’ for “Old Hand”). Not only were they incredibly playable and resonant with a super comfortable feel, but these were relics with appearance details that rival real vintage. No kidding. Some even have finish checking, which seemed like an impossible vintage trait to recreate, but Dave did it.
Turns out that Dave’s background as a chemist in the Coatings field, plus his extensive repair and restoration experience helps him recreate authentic details like the checking and precisely matching original color finishes. We’ve been carrying his guitars ever since we got our hands on the first one. There aren’t a lot of them around – he takes his time crafting these beauties, and that care shows. They sound incredible (usually loaded with totally top-notch Lindy Fralin pickups), are a joy to play and really, a work of art to behold. Dave was kind enough to let us pick his brain about Seuf Guitars and his techniques (without giving away any trade secrets!) and has some good news for non-relic fans. Enjoy…
1 – So many folks seem to think a relic’d guitar is all about the appearance – ‘beating it up’ a bit, but your guitars seem to go much further. What does relic’ing mean to you?
DAVE: It might seem like the relic is simply cosmetics, and obviously the appearance is important. What I am trying to do is capture the essence of a vintage guitar. Its about combining the tone and feel of “vintage” along with the look. After working on a variety of vintage guitars, you begin to notice certain aspects that make them great. A lot of that is the feel and tone, the fact that it is worn just right, the essence. That’s what I am going for. There’s a bond that you have with that old guitar. That’s why I call our relics the Old Friend (NOTE: 2012 – Now OH Old Hand) series.
2 – Your Seuf finishes look really natural when you’ve stressed them. What exactly is your background and how does that influence your finishes?
DAVE: I started out repairing and restoring guitars. This gives a great perspective on finish color and appearance (along with wear marks). I try to take a lot of pictures of the vintage guitars so we have a library to reference. Being a coatings chemist helps out a bit, especially with finding sources for the old lacquers. It also helps in understanding color matching and how coatings age, which is important to get the correct aged look.
3 – Not trying to get you to give away your secrets, but where do you even start when trying to create a finish color that matches, say, a vintage Fender?
DAVE: From the repair side of things, especially touch-ups and refins, you learn how to do this. I had to study a lot of guitars and read a lot of books to understand how the different manufacturers painted. It starts from the wood prep and continues all the way to the final polishing. Matching the colors and textures requires using the original type of paint. Most of the dyes and pigments used in the 50s and 60s are still available, but you have to really search for them. Nitrocellulose and Acrylic lacquers are also available, but you have to chemically modify them to get it closer to the original paints. So there is a lot of old paint technology in my shop.
4- Your Seufs have such resonant bodies and necks – what is your criteria?
DAVE: It starts with the wood. Good wood is the foundation for tone. In addition, I am a firm believer in thin finishes. Very heavy finish looks nice, but it tends to dull the wood’s natural resonance. The hardware is critically important. Having a good bridges and saddles, a bone nut and well crowned frets all contribute. I like to hear a bright, crisp ring in the “unplugged” guitar. The electronics should only flavor the tone, they don’t generate it.
5 – Do you do custom work? Could I bring you my brand new tele for a ’59 relic job or something?
Yes, we relic other manufacturers guitars and basses. For the most authentic ageing, it is best to stick with reissue guitars that have a nitrocellulose finish. We have relic’d import guitars with poly finish, and they just don’t look right. In some cases we will strip the finish and start over, which can be pretty expensive.
6 – We’d love to see some Seuf basses sometime at Mass St.- any plans for something like that in the future?
Yes indeed, I have an OF-16 bass just about finished. It’s an Ash body beast!
7 – Are you primarily interested in building vintage style instruments or do you have any crazy prototype instruments up your sleeve we might see someday?
I have a couple of designs out with players right now that I plan to release soon (these are new and shiny, not aged). These have a much more modern style and tone, but are just as naturally resonant.
8 – Why aren’t you world-famous yet?
For what? 😉