This article originally appeared in Acoustic Guitar magazine. © String Letter Publishing, all rights reserved.
Kent Everett is a man who knows how to set a goal and reach it. After building his first guitar in 1977, he knew he'd found his passion. Guitar building combines his flare for fine art (several of his own paintings hang in his living room) and his love of mechanics (vintage Porsches are another of his passions). Everett has steadily grown into one of the most productive and well-respected luthiers on the scene today.
The Georgia-based luthier cut his teeth on repair work, spending most of the '80s working for, and later owning, Atlanta Guitar Works. He built a limited number of custom instruments, including electric guitars (he received a patent for one of his electric guitar designs in '88), archtops, flattops, and mandolins. And then, in 1990, Everett closed Atlanta Guitar Works and dedicated himself to building high-end acoustic guitars by starting Everett Guitars (2338 Johnson Ferry Rd., Atlanta, GA 30341-2601;  451-2485; www.everettguitars.com).
Everett enjoys the freedom that working alone gives him. Walking through his shop, one can't help being impressed by the clever layout of his workstations. Efficiency is the name of the game, making it possible for Everett to build 40 guitars per year without assistance (and he has built as many as 54 in one year). Several large power tools and workbenches have taken up permanent positions in his shop, but other tools, such as his side benders, were designed by Everett to be mobile and are wheeled out as needed. Each work area is dedicated to a specific step in the building process: sanding, cutting, inlaying, or assembly (which requires a climate- and humidity-controlled room). A comfortable showroom where customers can try out instruments rounds out the professional appearance of the shop.
Everett's steel-strings come in five different body sizes and are available in four standard styles, starting with the Milano at $2,885. While the P model (auditorium size) is Everett's most popular guitar, he feels that there is a common thread connecting all of his models: the L (small-body), N (dreadnought), AC (jumbo), and the new C, which combines the shape and feel of a classical guitar with the construction of a steel-string. "I'm trying to build a very lively, well-balanced, present-sounding instrument," says Everett. "I want all the colors to be there. When [David] Wilcox was playing my guitar, he said it was like a hologram was coming out of the soundhole of the guitar. He wants a guitar that projects a clear image, and mine was doing that for him. He couldn't have said anything that would have made me feel better, because that's exactly what I'm shooting for."
Everett doesn't design models for specific playing styles. "I want you to be happy when you're playing the guitar, whether you're a fingerstyle player or a flatpicker or whatever. I don't build a 'fingerstyle guitar' or a 'flatpicking guitar.' I let the customer label it."
Although Everett likes using exotic woods for binding and aesthetic appointments, he prefers to stick with tried-and-true tonewoods for the bodies of his guitars. He estimates that 80 percent of his guitars are made with Indian rosewood backs and sides and Sitka spruce tops, but he is quick to point out that just these two woods still afford him a variety of choices. "I have spruce that was milled in the '60s, I have Sitka spruce that was milled 100 years ago and was used for salmon crates, I have Sitka spruce from Oregon, from Alaska. . . . You can get a lot of variation with just two kinds of wood."
Everett's latest project is a line of nylon-string guitars. Although his experience with steel-string guitars has certainly influenced his design, he realizes that classical guitars are a different game. "It's almost like I have to put on another hat to even talk about it," he says. "With steel-string guitars, it's balance that you're after. The steel-string is such a powerful instrument because of the string tension, it's almost like reigning it in instead of letting it fly. With the classical guitar, it's a study in learning how to allow the wood to release the sound." At the time of my visit, Everett had just returned from the Chet Atkins Appreciation Society meeting, where his two nylon-strings-a standard classical and a thin-bodied acoustic-electric cutaway-were well received. Both guitars featured a unique headstock design that allows greater pressure on the nut of the often problematic G string. Prices for Everett nylon-strings start at $3,200.
Everett's success is due mainly to the high quality of his craftsmanship, but his customers also appreciate the variety of models he offers, his openness to custom options, his reasonable prices, and the fact that his instruments are available in many parts of the country through dealers. Kent Everett is the rare artisan who also knows how to run a successful business.
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