Making Music at the Summer NAMM Show in Nashville

Reported by Chris Burns

The National Association of Music Merchandisers holds two conferences every year. The Summer NAMM show in Nashville, TN is filled with people from all different areas of music including musicians, audio technology experts, and instrument makers, just to name a few. Some of the businesses exhibiting build hundreds of instruments every day, such as Martin, Taylor, Fender, and Gibson whereas others are small builders that put out only dozens each year. This year at the show, ShopBot exhibited for the first time and debuted the new Desktop MAX ATC with a 6-tool automatic tool changer. It was a big hit among both large and small luthiers. We were also displaying a small Becker vacuum pump and template with three cutting stations. The larger 36” x 24” cutting area of the Desktop MAX can fit a body, neck, and fingerboard and still have room for pickguards, bridges, and pegheads.

Here are some highlights from the show:

  • Tim Teel, Director of Guitar Design at Martin Guitars, stopped by the booth to see the new tool and was delighted with the size and the performance of the MAX ATC (even though we were cutting Les Paul solid bodies). Martin uses several ShopBot Desktops for cutting inlay and special parts in their development area in Nazereth, PA. I must confess I returned to the Martin booth several times to play their D-18 Modern Deluxe. Tim explained the new innovations that make this an amazing instrument. “Some ultra-modern features include a titanium truss rod, liquid-metal bridge pins with red dots, and a composite carbon fiber bridge plate that boosts volume without adding weight.” Not bad for a company that has been around since 1833. All I know is that I did not want to put it down.
  • Local Nashville musicians, Kasey Tyndall and David Dollar, stopped by to play some songs in the ShopBot booth. David brought his Elliott Tonemaster that was cut on a ShopBot Desktop a few years ago.
  • Will MacFarlane drove up from Muscle Shoals, AL to jam for a bit in the booth. Will was inducted into the Music Hall of Fame in 2012 as a friend of the Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section and has appeared on dozens of albums with the likes of Etta James, Bobby “Blue” Bland, Little Milton, Levon Helm, and Lenny LeBlanc. He also toured with Bonnie Raitt for years as her lead guitarist.
  • The ShopBot booth happened to be located just behind Chris Mitchell and the gang of gifted luthiers and musicians from Pladd Dot Music. They have been cutting their CMG guitar line and Devilcat amps for around five years on a larger ShopBot tool. We even had time to slip in some Vectric 3D training while we were together.

We were helped in our booth by longtime ShopBotter Ray Clark from Teen Challenge Women’s Ministries in Jackson, MS. Ray oversees four large PRSalpha machines (two with ATCs) that all run 40 hours/week providing job training for women recovering from substance abuse. They produce encouraging hand-painted plaques and religious themed items that are sold in several states to help support the 13-month residency program, that is provided free of charge, to the people they serve. Please visit their website to learn more, and maybe even consider helping in some way.

A very special thanks to Andy Elliott at Elliott Guitars for building such incredible instruments and loaning the ShopBot built guitars and equipment for our booth. Also, a big shout out to my friend Bob Thompson of Thompson Handcrafted Guitars in West Virginia for building my Curly Koa Dreadnought guitar. I love it! You are both gifted craftsmen with a passion for giving much more than expected to your customers.

But the best part of the show for me was spending the weekend in the booth with ShopBot’s first employee and legend, Gordon Bergfors. Gordon has had an incredible impact on the company over the last 23 years and has had his hand in every aspect of the design and manufacturing of the electronics, the software, and the hardware. Next to CEO Ted Hall, no one has contributed more to your CNC machine. He is now retiring from office work to pursue a life of digital fabrication leisure (yeah right). Thank you, Gordon, for all you have done with your time at ShopBot!


Chris Burns is a digital fabricator from Durham, NC and works part-time for ShopBot upgrading, assembling, and training on new and used machines all over the country. You can follow Chris’ travels on Instagram at @chrisburns981.

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