Northwest NEWS

August 7, 2000


A small guitar among big stars


Rod Brower, CEO of Stump Preacher, works to create guitars that are works of art.
Staff Repoter.

by Bronwyn Wilson
   Senior Staff Reporter
   It's the smallest full-scale guitar on the market and it's made in Woodinville.
   On display at the Experience the Music Project in Seattle, the tiny six-string electric guitar shimmers behind glass in a silvery pink and green foil design. Under 25 inches long and weighing less than five pounds, the guitar has a one-piece molded composite body.
   And it holds its own in a gallery that showcases the cherry red Gibson of AC/DC's Angus Young and the glossy black and yellow-striped Charvel of Eddie Van Halen.
   But the small guitar, fondly called the Stumpy, is not just for display.
   It's built for travel and has caught the eye of some famous rock stars. Both David Crosby and Graham Nash‹of Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young‹own one.
   Produced by Stump Preacher Guitars of Woodinville, the Stumpy attracted the attention of Senior Curator, Peter Blecha, when the Experience the Music Project was in its developing stages in 1995.
   He was tracking guitars that were innovative, of local origin, and contributed to the design concept of an electric guitar. After reading a review about the mini-guitar in a music magazine, Blecha contacted Stump Preacher.
   Today, the Stumpy shares the EMP stage with the beloved guitars once owned by Bob Dylan and Eric Clapton and the white Fender Strat revered by Jimi Hendrix.
   Commenting on the technologically advanced Stumpy, Blecha says, "On its own it's a remarkable instrument, not only visually but functionally."
   But all the hoopla hasn't swept Stump Preacher's CEO, Rod Brower, off his feet. His guitars, he explains, are not in mass production at this time.
   "We're not looking quantity, we're looking quality," he says. "We sold a couple hundred of them in the last three or four years."
   He points out that you can't purchase these one-of-a-kind guitars at local music shops.
   In colors ranging from Cranberry Crystal to White Pearl, the guitars have a patented complex bridge mechanism with a radical placement of the tuning pegs on the guitarís face.
   Some are made of alder or zebra wood. One in particular is fashioned from curly maple and stained turquoise.
   And for a fabric finish, any cloth design can be molded onto composite.
   In his showroom, Brower has one guitar with a multihued tie-dye cloth finish and another with the imprinted pattern of the Budweiser logo which was ordered by the beer company for Bumbershoot.
   "This is a hobby kind of gone sideways," Brower says. It all started when Brower owned Beaver Machine Works in Woodinville, the primary provider of high quality components for the water and snow sports industry.
   Brower sold his machine shop, but before doing so, he met up with an Australian named John DeVitry who had a concept for a new guitar in mind.
   With Brower's machinist background, Stump Preacher Guitars were born.
   "The guitars are designed for traveling musicians," Brower says, which explains the reason for the company name.
   The traveling mid-19th century preacher stood on a tree stump to preach his good word. Likewise, a traveling musician gets on a stage, street corner or stump with his musical message.
   The guitar is also for the traveler who'd like to have a high quality instrument to play on airplanes or in hotel rooms. It can be plugged into a lap top computer with headphones and played silently.
   And this is exactly the reason behind DeVitry's concept. The idea of a compact guitar came to DeVitry after checking with the airline before leaving his farm in Australia. He was told he'd have to check his guitar in as baggage when arriving at the airport.
   Fearing his guitar would have the same poor treatment as his luggage, DeVitry was inspired to take the chain saw to his Strat and cut it down to fit in a tennis racket case that could fit snugly in an overhead compartment.
   DeVitry has since sold his interest in Stump Preacher. Brower, who now runs his company with his wife, Stephani, uses DeVitry's cutting-edge design to continue creating musical instruments that are works of art.
   However, at this time, Brower says Stump Preacher is in a transitional phase, though he's still taking custom orders.
   He's deciding on which direction to take his company as promoting his product costs a lot of money.
   Brower sums it up this way, "We're just taking a breather, re-evaluating the situation and see which way we go."
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