I like guitars. Anyone who is aware of me will attest to that. I’ve additionally beloved music since I used to be a child. Seeing devices within the palms of the artists I admired, I knew I wished a guitar. So at age 14, understanding nothing about guitar-constructing and possessing zero woodworking abilities, the logical factor (to me, no less than), was to make one. As quickly as the thought popped into my head, there was no turning again.

Displaying Apollo program themed guitar
San Diego-based Josh Stotler, who has been constructing customized guitars since age 14, poses with “Eagle” aboard the USS Midway.

The Internet was in its infancy then, so guitar specs and YouTube educational movies weren’t an possibility. What I did have was a tape measure and a neighborhood music retailer the place I spent hours measuring, sketching and planning my construct. I got here out of that challenge with a guitar that labored, a little bit extra information and an instantaneous need to start out the subsequent one. Fast ahead 27 years, and my pleasure for guitars continues to be as fervent as ever. It’s now my enterprise.

Design sketch of a shop-made guitar
Here is among the authentic idea sketches of the guitar.

I used to be lucky sufficient to attend the 50th anniversary gala for the Apollo 9 mission, held on the San Diego Air & Space Museum. I talked with Mission Control legend Gene Kranz and talked about that it might be a dream to construct an Apollo-themed guitar. He inspired it, as did veteran astronaut Jim Lovell. While speaking in regards to the concept of an Apollo-themed guitar, Lovell requested, “Who is it for? It should be for somebody.” Brilliant! After a fast idea sketch and a gathering with San Diego Air & Space Museum’s CEO Jim Kidrick the subsequent day, the guitar challenge was a go!

A Tribute to Inspire

Side inlays on NASA themed guitar
More than 1,300 particular person inlay items adorn every guitar, together with some genuine house-flown artifacts.

I wished this to be a severe tribute to the women and men who made the Apollo program successful; it wanted to be putting however not gaudy, to catch the attention and encourage the subsequent technology to look to the celebs. I additionally wished it to be enjoyable. I’ve constructed lots of guitars, but there have been many facets of this construct I used to be unsure how one can execute.

Astronaut Charlie Duke posing with guitar
Josh Stotler and Charlie Duke (Apollo 16) pose with the Apollo guitars at Spacefest in Tucson, Arizona.

To permit experimentation with method, I constructed two similar guitars. My design was intricate, calling for the mission patch of each manned Apollo flight to be created in wooden veneer and inlaid into the perimeters of the physique, massive mural inlays for the again and loads of Easter eggs hidden in plain sight. My work was reduce out for me.

Astronaut Dave Scott posing with guitar
Apollo 9 and 15 astronaut Dave Scott poses with Stotler and each “Eagle” and “Aquarius” guitars on the San Diego Air & Space Museum.

Building each guitars took greater than 1,000 hours to finish over two years. Each has 1,328 particular person inlay items. The fretboard aspect markers are genuine house-flown artifacts from each manned Apollo mission. The inner bracing bears the names of fallen astronauts; the well-known “Earthrise” adorns the headstock, and a quote from John F. Kennedy is engraved on the again of the neck. A Saturn V rocket stands proudly on the fretboard, and the entrance of the physique appears as if it simply splashed down after streaking to earth from the heavens. The again contains the Apollo program brand and an outline of the Command and Service Module docked with the Lunar Module as it might have seemed on the best way to the moon. Hours of analysis went into making this as technically correct as attainable.

Spacefest Unveiling

Astronaut Walt Cunningham signing guitar
Apollo 7 astronaut Walt Cunningham provides his signature to “Eagle.”

“Eagle” and her sister guitar, “Aquarius,” have been unveiled final yr at Spacefest in Tucson, Arizona. I skilled firsthand the response of astronauts and assist employees as they seemed over my creations, and it made me beam with pleasure. I requested the astronauts to signal the Apollo guitar, since it’s for show. Watching Apollo 16 astronaut Charlie Duke add the primary signature was a thrill. I’ve been lucky to have a number of of the Apollo astronauts and Mission Control employees signal it. These males rode rockets, coolly dealt with hazard and left footprints on the moon. Seeing the marvel on their faces as they seemed over my tribute is one thing I can’t describe, however I’ll treasure it for the remainder of my life.

Eugene Kranz posing with Apollo guitar
Eugene Kranz, former flight director at Johnson Space Center, shares a photograph second with Stotler.

Today, “Aquarius” resides in my private assortment, and “Eagle” is on everlasting show within the San Diego Air & Space Museum’s “SPACE: Our Greatest Adventure” gallery; positioned aspect-by-aspect with storied relics, just like the Apollo 9 Capsule “Gumdrop” and Apollo and Mercury house fits. I’m honored that my tribute might be loved for generations to come back.

Josh Stotler showing off base of Apollo guitar

See extra Stotler guitars at oakcreekguitars.com.

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