ack in 1972, James built his first guitar with no previous woodworking experience -- a curly maple jumbo which took over three months to complete. With a borrowed table saw, bandsaw, router and little help he taught himself how to work with wood and build guitars. In James' own words, "I woke up one morning in 1972 with an obsession to make and play a musical instrument. Being a seascape artist, I traded one of my oil paintings to make my first guitar. Since guitar construction books were not available at that time, I had to teach myself luthierie."
James has made many tools, jigs, and sanders to complement his large shop full of woodworking machinery. All are designed to efficiently and accurately help construct guitars without sacrificing quality. "If anything, I take more time in certain aspects of building now than ever before. I refuse to compromise in any area. I am always looking for some new way to improve upon quality, whether it be in tone, beauty or playability while maintaining a sensible price tag. If I can do all this in a more efficient way, great, if not I take time to do it right."
James builds several guitars at a time and every one gets the same attention to detail. "It may take hours to choose and carefully match the pieces of wood for each guitar. I color coordinate the spruce tops to the rosewood, maple, koa, or walnut. After this I carefully match the abalone inlay on each guitar and I make and mirror match all the binding and purfling strips. Some of the pieces being only .015" (fifteen thousands of an inch) thick. I expend great effort creating every guitar as an aesthetic work of art."
James uses no plastic or celluloid on his guitars. He uses a wide variety of woods for the binding and purfling, from exceptionally curly koa and maple binding on the Indian and Brazilian rosewood bodies, purpleheart and vermilion on the maple, to rosewood on the koa and walnut bodies.
Tone is top priority and a wide range is offered to suit every playing style and preference. There are many things James does to achieve great tone on every guitar. "I feel it is an orchestration of all the little things that give each one of my guitars exceptional tone quality and brilliance. Everything from the top and back woods, to the cavity size, to the quartered, split, and shaved bracing, to the bridge design and mass, to the type and thickness of the lacquer finish. All these things and many others are of great import. Incidentally, I dont scallop the top braces to improve tone as most of the other builders do, I feel it compromises structural strength. I have never needed to do this to achieve superior tone. I build my guitars with longevity in mind."
Sitting next to other fine hand-crafted guitars is where his instruments really shine. The difference is immediately noticeable in brightness, evenness, clarity, and sustain, with rich, focused power in the bass. This, together with a subtle, artistic beauty and a very playable neck, add up to a dynamite guitar. Its like you plug it into a power source. All James guitars have this quality, fine tuned around the different woods and body styles. With such a wide spectrum to choose from, that is why many players own more than one Goodall guitar.