I’ve been building guitars since 2004. I have a full time job as an IT guy at the Federal Election Commission so the guitar building is a sideline. I’d call it more than a hobby but I’m not really trying to make it work as a business at this point. I’ve put this website up primarily because people keep asking me if I have a website but it’s a handy way to share pictures and information with people beyond my family and Facebook friends.
I built my in first instrument in 1991, a bluegrass banjo. I’d been playing banjo for a few years at that point and had just moved onto Bolling AFB where they have a huge and well set up wood shop for members of the military (my wife) and dependents (me). I re-necked a few banjos and repaired instruments off and on for the next 12 years and then something happened to get me back into building. My sons started playing guitar. That was Christmas of 2003 so in 2004 I built my first electric guitar and have been building guitars pretty much ever since.
I’ve built solid bodies, acoustic arch tops and flat tops of various shapes and sizes. Currently I am building mostly flat top guitars for myself, my family and my friends. Fortunately for me in those groups of people there are enough guitar players to keep me busy for a while.
At this point in my life, approaching retirement from my day job at some nebulous not-too-distant date (I keep saying five years but I’ve been saying that for five years), I’m trying to build as many guitars and learn as much as possible and while I’m not looking hard for customers, I’d be glad to hear from anyone that might want a nice guitar. I’ll keep building them as long as people keep wanting them. If people stop wanting them I’ll keep building them until the money runs out.
Now for my background:
Being an IT guy I’ll just list my Jeff Chumley versions as:
v1.0 – 1981-1988 – Professional Bass Trombonist
I graduated from Shenandoah Conservatory in 1981 and went to Florence Italy to play in the Maggio Musicale Fiorentino. Each summer they hire extra players and program an ambitious schedule. While there I played bass trombone in:
Beethoven’s Missa Solemnis with Carlo Maria Giulini conducting.
Petrushka with Bruno Bartoletti conducting and Rudolph Nureyev as Petrushka.
Wagner’s Gotterdammerung with Zubin Mehta conducting and Jean Cox as Sigfried.
Bartok’s Bluebeard’s Castle with Gyorgy Melis singing Bluebeard and Esther Kovaks as Judith
Richard Strauss Don Juan with Giulini (Tenor trombone on this one).
Manuel de Falla’s Three cornered hat with Raphael Fruhbeck de Burgos.
Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture with Mehta in an outdoor concert in the Piazza de la Signoria.
After that I came home and freelanced a good bit in the DC area and was in the Maryland Symphony for the first three seasons along with the Alexandria Symphony and several others. I freelanced quite a bit including gigs with the Kennedy Center Opera House orchestra, the New World Players and had to turn down a gig with the National Symphony. Maybe I’ll make that one a blog post someday.
v2.0 1984 – 1994 – Artist and Picture Framer
In 1984 I started studying art with my father, John Chumley and pursued a career as an artist until 1992. I painted mostly watercolor landscapes but I also worked some in oil. I showed in Galleries in Winchester, Va and Fort Worth, Tx.
I also had been doing the Framing for my Father’s work and my Mother’s Print Gallery and kept the framing business going on the side during this period.
v3.0 – 1994 – ? IT guy DB programmer, IT Manager
Around 1992 I decided to go back to school and become an engineer. You know, get a real job. After 2 years of Math, Chemistry and Physics – all of which I liked by the way, with one child and another on the way I needed an income so I took a job as a tech support guy and have never looked back. I went quickly from tech support guy to tech support and training manager/Database programmer at a small software company. In 1999 I took a job as Electronic Filing Development Coordinator at the Federal Election Commission and in 2003 moved up to be the Electronic Filing, Web and Disclosure Branch Manager at the FEC.
v4.0 – 1991 – ? Musical Instrument builder
In 1991 the internet wasn’t what it is today. Learning how to build a banjo meant buying the few available books on the subject, finding and talking to people who had built banjos and taking a nice banjo apart and seeing how it was made. I designed my banjo and built it in my head constantly for a full year before I put saw to wood. The walnut I used was left over from years before when my father and I had cut down and sawn (we had a sawmill) walnut and cherry from the farm where I grew up. The back of the resonator which is quite a nice piece of wood didn’t come from the farm but was left over from the wood Dad used to panel the TV room in our house so it has a connection to my childhood.
After that I built necks for a few banjos and did some instrument repair off an on but didn’t really build another instrument until my sons started playing guitar in 2004. They were playing electrics so I built myself an electric guitar. I built another one and sold it to their teacher. The third turned out really nice and my son plays it quite a lot. I then built him a flying V and an Explorer for my other son. At this point I didn’t build anything for a few years but in 2010 I started working on an arch top. I had built the body when I took a week long arch top guitar building course with Dale Unger during which I completed my first arch top. The top and back were pre-carved and the sides pre-bent but I had bent sides and carved top and back already by then so I felt like I got a lot out of the course. Another few years passed and I got interested in building flat tops so I finished up my second arch top and built two flat tops following Robbie O’Brien’s online course and another in a week long class with Robbie. I now have finished two more and have three more on my bench.
So now I have built:
5 solid body electrics. 3 of my own design, a flying V and an Explorer.
1 Archtop 17″ Benedetto pattern
1 17″ Archtop of my own design but very similar to a Benedetto.
2 OM pattern flat tops. Both rosewood.
3 L-00 pattern flat tops. One rosewood, one maple and one katalox
2 J-45 pattern flat top in rosewood
On the bench:
1 J185 in maple
2 L-00 rosewood and Katalox
2 Parlors in Curly Mahogany