Luthier Profile: Chris Jenkins, Mansfield, Texas

Not very far from Dallas, heading Southwest, is a town called Mansfield; population 28,031. It is the sort of rural town where you would expect to find some pretty good practitioners of the art of veterinary medicine. What you would not expect is to find a practitioner of the art of veterinary medicine who is also a practitioner of the art of lutherie.

Meet Chris Jenkins - veterinarian and luthier extraordinaire. It is a fortunate person that is fluent in two professions, both being areas of expertise that he loves. These two professions are strikingly similar in that veterinary medicine and surgery involve a high degree of manual dexterity; those qualities serve Chris in good stead in his lutherie career.

Chris has been a veterinarian for 30 years and a luthier for 10 years. From building a solid-body electric bass for his son, Jeremy, he is extremely proud of the fact that a high percentage of his acoustic guitars are in the hands of professional musicians, the most famous being fingerstyle genius Todd Hollowell.

Being true to the adage that "the bigger the man, the more humble he is", Chris is quick to credit much of his success to other luthiers who have generously shared their knowledge - specifically, Ervin Somogyi, Harry Fleischman, Fred Carlson and Charles Fox.

"Ervin was my biggest influence regarding soundboard selection, construction and bracing. He was singularly responsible for my adopting a scientific approach to soundboards. Every top is weighed and measured for stiffness in units of grams per square inch. Soundboard deflection is measured using known weights; tops weighing more than 7 grams (1/4 oz.) per cubic inch are automatically ruled out for my guitars," Chris explains.

"The next structural consideration is the bracing," he continues. "Traditionally, guitars are very inefficient in terms of their transmission of energy and conversion of engery from string vibration into sound. I try to make my guitars more efficient by reducing top mass."

The results are smaller-bodied guitars (13"-14" lower bout width) that meets Chris' objective of "complex tone" - one with sympathetic tones and overtones - that are particularly well-suited for fingerstylists of all genres.

"I really love creating guitars; it keeps me going and has the added benefit of improving my surgical skills," Chris happily adds. "Tissue is pretty forgiving; with a little stitching, it will stay together. Wood, on the other hand, requires much greater precision to bond."

"My happiest moments are sitting in an audience, listening to someone play my guitars and bring pleasure to the audience. I see the audience enjoying themselves. It is a very emotional experience to be part of that. I am very happy to build for players and am very glad that so many professionals use my guitars".

As we conclude our chat, Chris says "building guitars is a very personal experience. I am very fortunate that my guitars are accepted and used. I want guitarists to know that they are always welcome to come by, call or e-mail to see about playing one."

Stay tuned to GuitarNation.com for a review of one of Chris' guitars.

To see photos and to hear a sound file of some of Chris' guitars, click here.

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Chris may be reached at: Chris Jenkins Guitars, 829 Kingston Dr., Mansfield, TX 76063. Tel. 817.473.6949. E-mail: jcj@cjenkinsluthier.com. URL: http://www.cjenkinsluthier.com