Musician fine tunes his craft

Trevor Stamp

 

Even during the late hours working on his jarana, Mena maintains his glowing sense of humor. Mena strikes an exaggerated smile for the camera while using a band-saw to cut out the neck of his jarana. Photos by Trevor /Contributor

Even during the late hours working on his jarana, Mena maintains his glowing sense of humor. Mena strikes an exaggerated smile for the camera while using a band-saw to cut out the neck of his jarana. Photos by Trevor Stamp/Contributor

Esteve Mena, 23, has been curious about building guitars for a while. He always thought to himself that building guitars would be a cool trade to have.

Mena is also a musician, and has years of experience playing the guitar, which helped spark his interest in building one. He real- ized, after working at a lumber yard for a year, that it was an ideal time to start working on the guitar with the resources he was surrounded by at his job.

With resources in hand, Mena set out to build a jarana, which is a Mexican style guitar, inside the garage behind his home in Mon- rovia, Calif.

Jaranas are typically made from one piece of wood, aside from the fret board and top body piece. Mena decided to use an African mahogany piece of wood to build his jarana.

He expressed a spiritual-like reflection when he spoke about the wood used for his jarana.

“I think this is just like the sec-

ond life or the second chance for the tree,” Mena said.

During the whole process, Mena felt nervous about what he was doing. He had no experience doing carpentry work, let alone building a guitar, and was extra careful when making the first cut.

Once he started, however, he began to grow a stong connection with his project.

“It’s sort of like when a car builder puts a car together, he sort of talks to that car,” Mena said. “He has that connection, you know, like that physical connection.”

Passion is what kept Mena from stepping away from the project. He said it’s exhilarat- ing creating something with his own hands. “Building some- thing with your hands, is build- ing something with your mind,” Mena said during a Skype call after the fifth day of working on his guitar.

Although Mena is not yet finished with the jarana, he expressed that he would love to make more guitars in the future. He again cites his pas- sion for building as a reason for continuing with this trade. “I have to be happy with what I’m making,” Mena said. “In order for me to keep going.”

While still not done with his first guitar, Mena takes a moment to reflect on how far he has come building the jarana. “I have to be happy with what I’m making, in order for me to keep going,” he says.

While still not done with his first guitar, Mena takes a moment to reflect on how far he has come building the jarana. “I have to be happy with what I’m making, in order for me to keep going,” he says.

Mena’s father looks on as Mena measures where his fret board will fit on the jarana he is building. Mena has received support and advice from his father while working on his jarana.

Mena’s father looks on as Mena measures where his fret board will fit on the jarana he is building. Mena has received support and advice from his father while working on his jarana.

Mena works on the fret board for his jarana while his father, Esteban, works on his own project.

Mena works on the fret board for his jarana while his father, Esteban, works on his own project.

Mena uses a block of wood to hold on to the sanding paper to smooth the inside of his jarana.

Mena uses a block of wood to hold on to the sanding paper to smooth the inside of his jarana.

After hollowing out his jarana, Mena begins filing where the hollowing bit left prints.

After hollowing out his jarana, Mena begins filing where the hollowing bit left prints.

Mena uses a drill press to hollow out his jarana. Jaranas are typically made from one piece of wood, aside from the fret board and top piece of the guitar. The thinner block that Mena is using should give the guitar a shallower tone.

Mena uses a drill press to hollow out his jarana. Jaranas are typically made from one piece of wood, aside from the fret board and top piece of the guitar. The thinner block that Mena is using should give the guitar a shallower tone.

After cutting out a blank for his jarana, Mena sands down the sides to begin shaping the guitar.

After cutting out a blank for his jarana, Mena sands down the sides to begin shaping the guitar.

Mena uses a band-saw to cut out the blank for his jarana.

Mena uses a band-saw to cut out the blank for his jarana.

Mena plays with his dog, Lemonade at the end of the first night of working on his jarana guitar.

Mena plays with his dog, Lemonade at the end of the first night of working on his jarana guitar.

Mena’s father, Esteban, has taught him how to use most of the tools used for building the jarana.

Mena’s father, Esteban, has taught him how to use most of the tools used for building the jarana.

Mena uses a jigsaw to make his first cut into a piece of African mahogany for the jarana. This is the first guitar Mena has made.

Mena uses a jigsaw to make his first cut into a piece of African mahogany for the jarana. This is the first guitar Mena has made.

Esteve Mena, 23, is finally ready to build his own jarana guitar. Mena poses with a piece of African mahogany, which he’s using to make the jarana.

Esteve Mena, 23, is finally ready to build his own jarana guitar. Mena poses with a piece of African mahogany, which he’s using to make the jarana.