About..

Dismal Ax electric guitars and basses are a blend of old and new, fantasy and reality. They incorporate many elements of the classic forms of the instrument but present them in different contexts, drawing inspiration from nature and its ability to transform the shiny and new into true works of art. They are built by me, Gwen Forrester, an instrument builder residing in rural middle Tennessee. I try to keep my designs and methods as simple as possible for many reasons. Mostly, I feel it just makes for a more visually pleasing instrument, putting the emphasis on the inherent beauty of the materials, rather than on ostentatious detail. But sometimes I do a bit of that too. A mix of locally harvested and salvaged materials are used and, with a few exceptions, all new wood comes from local timber which I have had sawn and dried myself. This allows me to offer many species not commonly used in guitar making as alternatives to the standard exotic woods that are becoming increasingly endangered, as well as to make the most out of the timber that is processed.
Salvaged materials come from old barns, fences and other structures, displaying weather-worn surfaces, machine marks, and nail holes. With all of these woods, the knots, cracks and other defects are carefully incorporated in a manner that does not compromise the stability of the instrument, but can add a great deal of visual interest.
Finishing is kept minimal with several different options. Softer body woods can be hammered to give a dimpled texture, then stained or torched and lightly sanded back to create varying distressed effects. Bodies or tops made from salvaged barn wood can be lightly sanded to highlight the original saw marks. Weathered gray barn wood can be left unfinished to keep its appearance for a gently played or showcase instrument, or lightly sanded and finished with a flat waterborne varnish, which gives a fantastic look as well as a more durable surface.
Most stock hardware is fabricated in the US from my own design, and pickups are my own homespun creations. Custom features can include parts crafted from various materials and found objects. Examples include tailpieces made from old hinges or appliance/car emblems, pickguards/control plates, etc. made from rusty roof tin, license plates, distressed aluminum, brass or copper, and knobs made from thread spools or deer antlers, and whatever else I may find a way to repurpose.