November 20, 2018

Honor Through Craft

Bob DeKorne built a guitar from his father’s WWII ammo box — then gave it away
By Ross Boissoneau | Nov. 3, 2018

Bob DeKorne wanted to give back. So the musician and luthier (that’s a maker of stringer instruments) decided to work on an instrument that was personal to him and would also reflect a special occasion: the annual concert and auction by guitarist Kenny Olson to benefit Mid-Michigan Honor Flight, a charity that assists with transporting older veterans to special ceremonies in Washington, D.C. 
 
He knew just what he wanted to use as part of the body of the guitar to be auctioned off: the ammunition box his father, Mel, had used to carry his cameras and film in Guam during World War II. “He did high altitude reconnaissance and looked for something to pack his film in,” said DeKorne.
 
Following his discharge Mel DeKorne became an aerospace engineer. Upon his retirement, he and his wife, Chris, moved to Glen Lake, where the box found another life holding nails and screws in the garage.
 
When DeKorne’s parents sold their cottage to move into a retirement home, their kids helped clean out the many years’ accumulation of things. Included in that was the old ammo box. His father told Bob, “Do something with it.” So he decided to do what he does best: Make it into a guitar.
 
“The idea was to make it look old and weathered,” said DeKorne. So he beat it up a little, even dropping it into a mud puddle. “I’ve been known to drag wood behind my bike,” he said with a laugh.
 
“I did the front on an angle, to see the graphics. For me, it was doing my dad a favor, so I’m very honored and grateful to be able to donate it.” The back of the Honor Flight Guitar is sustainably harvested Michigan white ash. It also boasts a three-piece maple neck, and even sports one of Mel DeKorne’s old Michigan license plates on the back.
 
The concert and auction took place at Streeters, and DeKorne said a competition between two determined bidders drove the price up to $1,250. DeKorne met with the winner, who he said was happy to have the special guitar. DeKorne also sold another one of his custom guitars that night, and donated $200 from the proceeds to Mid-Michigan Honor Flight.DeKorne said he was thrilled and honored to be a small part of the effort, and grateful to be able to donate. “It was a very fun night,” said DeKorne.
 
The death of the state’s ash trees due to infestation by the emerald ash borer has given DeKorne amply opportunity to ply his trade without cutting down and harvesting additional trees. “Fender uses ash for most of its instruments. It’s hard and straight-grained and a real pleasure to work with. I liked the idea of [using wood that would otherwise be disposed of or used for firewood], said DeKorne.
 
Those who have purchased the guitars — or, presumably, who won them in an auction — have prized them and provided feedback for DeKorne. “It’s exciting to see someone really connect with the instruments I build,” he said.
 
“I’ve been an artist and performer and guitarist,” said DeKorne. And what better way to personalize one’s sound than to make the guitar itself? “I’ve always [experimented] with my own instruments, using after-market parts for my own enjoyment.”
 
The Honor Flight Guitar was just the latest construction project for DeKorne. He’s created dozens of custom electric guitars, basses and lap steel guitars over the years through his home-based company, Pyramid Point Custom Guitars.
 
DeKorne first started his attempts at modifying and improving the sound and response with the first guitar he ever bought. From there it was on to repairing a Mosrite Ventures bass that his friend Tom Keen gave him. It had been soaked through in a flood, and all the laminates had let go. DeKorne said it looked more like kindling than a guitar. That was nearly 40 years ago, and he still plays that old Mosrite, which he’s dubbed “The Drift.”
 
Since then, he’s gone on to create or modify dozens of guitars. He often uses material that has a personal connection to the owner or buyer. DeKorne said building custom yet affordable guitars is fun for him. He said most of them run around $500, though some have gone as high as $1,500. “Doing guitars for friends and charities like Honor Flight — that would be fine with me,” he said. The Honor Flight guitar is but his latest effort, as he’s also created custom guitars to benefit Buckets of Rain and Brickways. Pyramid Point Custom Guitars can be found on Facebook.
 
The choices are nearly endless: Buyers can choose the shape, the woods for the body, neck and back, the color, the pickups and other electronics. Said DeKorne: “The challenge is a lot of fun."

Pictured above: Guitarist Kenny Olson with the guitar DeKorne built and donated.

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