Carson City’s guitar man
Carson City’s Leonard Paschini once played lead guitar in a California rock band called The Bitter Seeds.
Now retired in Carson City after working with wood all his adult life, Paschini makes guitars he loves to play. He has made them for years, a passion in part stemming from his music making, 40 years as a high-end fence contractor and a decade in the furniture restoration business.
The guitar-building craft provides a precise and satisfying combined hobby, coupled with continued music making, and through the years he has gone from making electric guitars to crafting acoustic instruments. Paschini played rock ‘n roll in the 1960s and 70s, and built his first instrument in 1975. He now figures he has made 60 or more guitars over the years.
“It’s strictly a hobby,” said Paschini, though a couple of his guitars are for sale at Play Your Own Music in the Carson Mall. He also does estimates for work, through the retail outlet there, on repairing instruments. Over the years he has done instrument repairs and setups for relatives or friends who “always need me to get their guitars playing right.”
His main interests, however, appear to be making guitars, playing them, working with wood, and the detailed craftsmanship involved.
“I’ve worked with wood all my life,” said Paschini, who picked up the nickname “Pooch” — short for his last name — in the Navy. It carried over to his rock days on the Monterey Peninsula.
He talks as much of wood as he does of those former rock days as he plays his instruments and pauses to describe what went into making the several guitars he keeps on hand.
“It takes me quite a long time to make them, you know,” said Paschini. “I just make ‘em for myself, basically. You’ve got to like what you’re doing.”
He has passed some along to relatives or friends, and is hopeful of making the occasional sale, though that doesn’t sound like the driving force. Mostly the passion focuses on the music, the workmanship and the wood. He said he practices music for two hours nightly and puts in about 100 hours on each guitar he crafts, which means it usually takes about three months to complete.
Back in the day rock was his gig with his mates up and down the California coast. But Paschini now plays classical, blues and jazz as well. “Trying to get back in the groove,” he calls it. He plays with as much aplomb as he appears to wield a jeweler’s lighting device clamped on his head, a jeweler’s saw in his hands to do fingerboard inlays, or his various wood-crafting tools for overall guitar work.
Using spruce, fir, cedar, ebony and the like — even just regular lumber — Paschini revels in fashioning his play things and enjoys explaining how he works on each instrument.
“I’ve worked with wood all my life,” he said. Get him going on the subject and he’ll pick up a piece of wood he’s drying for a future guitar, tap it, and cock his head to assess potential for tone when the guitar is done months in the future.
Paschini’s first purchased guitar was an inexpensive learner from a Sears catalog when he was an adolescent. In retirement, the music and guitars have mushroomed into much more. He has studied guitar and musical instrument making craftsmanship techniques by reading books on the methods used by Irving Sloane and Robert Benedetto, as well as some on the world’s best-known stringed instrument makers.
“I’ve read a lot of Stradivarius violin-making books,” he said, referring to techniques for making violins, violas, and cellos used by the family of Antonio Stradivari hundreds of years ago.
He takes care, for example, in each step all the way down to the wood finish. Like any craftsman, Paschini appears to know what he’s after.
“I’ve gotten away from lacquer,” he said. “It kills the tone.” He said he uses shellac, denatured alcohol and mineral oil to do what’s called a “French polish” for each instrument.
“It gives a nice finish on it, and the wood vibrates better,” he said. “I’m after the tone.”
The group with which Paschini played more than four decades ago recorded some of their music back then, Paschini said, and one song did quite well in southern California. He said he and a fellow band member wrote songs, 10 of which were being re-released in Spain now. He gets a kick out of that, but seems equally attuned to today’s guitar building and his music making.
“About eight years ago, before we moved up here, I did have Paschini’s Guitar website on the Monterey Peninsula,” he said. “But the economy took a dive and then we moved to Carson. I’m in my retirement now.”
He called the combo of making music and crafting instruments “a fulfilling hobby.” He indicated the hours of patience on instruments and two hours of nightly practice are a chance to “just keep getting better and better.”