By way of introduction...

I welcome you to Paracho del Norte, (Paracho of the North), my custom guitar shop.

Paracho is the guitar building city of Mexico, located in the state of Michoacan. In the 16th century, an enterprising monk came up with the idea of giving each village in the area a separate and distinctive craft to promote culture and the economy. To Paracho fell the responsibility of making musical instruments. Today the entire spectrum of guitars are still made there, from cheap tourist instruments to fine concert instruments prized by some of the top guitarists in the world.

Although I live for the moment in a cold Northern city better known for football than for things made of wood, I actually grew up in Mexico City in a quiet neighborhood where the sounds of donkey carts on old cobblestone streets filled the air. My aunt Bette Ford was the first woman to have a bullfight in the Plaza Mexico, the largest bull ring in the world. Just down the street from our home was the studio of Diego Rivera, the Mexican painter and muralist.  See  Aunt Bette again.

My love for the guitar began at the first time I had one in my hands when I was 11 years old. I knew that day that my life had changed, but I didn't know how. Soon after, I was exposed to some of the American Primitive guitarists (named in the style of the primitive painters), and then, over 30 years ago, to the classical guitar.

I began building guitars in 1979, and was lucky enough to have several great builders in my area including Jim Olson and Charlie Hoffman. During the early 80's, I built instruments for noted guitarists John Fahey and Peter Lang. The guitar I built for John remained the only handmade guitar John played through his long career.

It didn't take long to notice the coming shortages of precious woods. On several occasions I had the opportunity to obtain old growth timber from selected sources, beautiful rosewood, Spanish cedar, and spruces cut in the 1960's, flamed Koa cut in the 1970's and exquisite Ceylon ebony cut in the 1980's.

I made the acquaintance of several people who shaped my way of looking at things. From Nick Kukich at the Franklin guitar shop, I learned about the qualities

 

of fine Brazilian rosewood and Koa wood. A marvelous man, Ray Jacobs of Eureka, Montana taught me about spruce wood, how to log it, how to cure it and where to find it. From an area just outside Glacier Park in Montana (USA) we obtained the spruce I use for the braces in my guitars; clear, high altitude spruce logged, split and carried down the mountain by hand. Next, a friendship with the late Robert Larsen of Sheboygan Wisconsin (USA) introduced me to the various ebonies. Robert ran a wood-import business, Vikwood Limited, for many years.

It was he who introduced carbide cutting technology to Sri Lanka which enabled Ceylon ebony to be cut and exported. Political instability, however, has cut off the world's supply of this wonderful wood, which is so hard it must be finished with metal-working tools. Robert also introduced me to the finest grades of Indian Rosewood, logged by elephants. It is from these materials, cut a minimum of 20 years ago and kept in a climate controlled environment, that I use in creating my guitars. My French polishing technique was taught to me by the late Robert Lundberg.

My design elements come from my various travels along the pilgrimages of the ancient world. From the Camino de Santiago de Compostela I developed my rosette, and some of the bindings used. And from Rome, in Saint Peter's comes the elements of my headstock. I prefer clean, simple lines and harmonious combinations of colors in my designs, and when given the choice with a spectacular piece of wood will let the wood speak for itself rather than detract from it with excessive ornamentation.

I make my guitars to satisfy the needs of the player and build with traditional materials to insure not only a beautiful instrument and a beautiful sound, but one which will last and be easily worked on in the future. My study of guitar making has taken me around the world, from the back streets of Spain through France, Canada, Mexico, Australia and the USA.

                      - Federico Sheppard