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High school guitar enthusiast designs, builds own instrument

Friday, April 6, 2012 | 11:19 a.m. CDT

CHAFFEE — Chaffee High School senior Zack Perkins is a student of music. He has been playing guitar for about seven years and owns 13 guitars.

"I love the instrument so much, I thought I could make one in my shop class," Perkins said.

Perkins has been enrolled in Jaron McMurry's industrial arts classes at Chaffee High School for most of his high school career. He is currently enrolled in McMurry's woodworking class.

"He really wants to do a good job," McMurry said. "He likes the aspect of actually making what he plays."

The first half of the yearlong class is devoted to learning necessary skills, while the second half is used to let students apply those skills to a project they design.

During his sophomore year, Perkins created a cabinet for storing his guitars and set out his junior year to make an electric guitar. The guitar was a prototype to see if he could actually make the instrument, he said. His attempt was successful, and he won a blue ribbon at the Technology Education Association of Missouri's state competition held at Lake of the Ozarks.

McMurry said Perkins has grown more confident in his abilities throughout high school.

"Now he knows what he wants to do and does it," McMurry said.

McMurry is also confident in the skills Perkins possesses as a craftsman.

"Some people work with wood every day and couldn't make a guitar," McMurry said.

This year, Perkins is working on another electric guitar for his senior project. This guitar involves more decorative inlay than the first. It is also made from more than one piece of wood. His first guitar came from a single piece.

"He went from building a simple guitar cabinet to actually making a guitar," senior Dru Armitage said. "It's pretty incredible."

Armitage has been friends with Perkins since third grade and also takes McMurry's woodworking class. He said Perkins has always been interested in guitars. Armitage shares Perkin's interest in music. He has been playing the drums since he was in sixth grade. The friends have played together.

Perkins bases the shape of his guitar off a manufactured guitar but creates his own version. The design of his first guitar was inspired by a B.C. Rich Mockingbird. His second is based on a Paul Reed Smith 22.

McMurry said Perkins does everything from draw the design to choose the types of wood and color of the instrument.

"He is the designer and builder from scratch," McMurry said.

Perkins has also done repair work on his other guitars.

His first two guitars are for his use, but he has considered making more to sell, he said. He and a friend who share a passion for guitars have talked about making that passion a career, but nothing is set in stone, he said.

In McMurry's eyes, Perkins definitely has the skills and passion to make guitars for a living.

"I don't know what he will do in the future, but I know he is very proud of what he has done with his woodworking projects," McMurry said.

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