From polishing teeth to tuning guitars, it’s music to his ears


After nearly two decades of practicing perfectionist dentistry, longtime Newport Beach resident Richard Mather, DDS, took to heart this classic country western song, “Take This Job and Shove it”; so he did. It was in 1989.

Mather realized that his world had to extend far beyond staring all day into a bacteria-infused orifice that averaged only two inches in diameter.

He admitted that every time he, his wife Pam, and their two children, Rich and Jill, happily drove 12 hours north to their Northern California cabin in Fall River Mills, he would go home with a smile. gloomy so that I could break through and fill people who I just didn’t want to be there.

What Mather loved to do and never got tired of was woodworking. His broad receiver-sized hands just felt more tight on a carpenter’s drill than on the eight-hour-a-day pencil grip around a tiny dental bur.

Truth be told, he’s also fed up with the five percent of patients who seem to live to complain, even though he’s put a smile back on those people who probably rarely smiled anyway.

Since childhood, Mather has built and rebuilt things, including the interior of their family cabin. So that was his “future”. He and Pam bought several old homes in Corona del Mar, gutted them, then brought them to inner perfection for assured resale.

“The first two were learning experiences, we made money on the second,” Mather recalls.

Then the recession hit.

Let’s move on to the next creative adventure: computer graphics for architectural renderings, a skill he had honed while planning their CdM renovations. This creative endeavor took off faster than a high-rise residence built in Beijing, and lasted longer – from 1992 to 2013.

In fact, Mather’s renderings were so photographic and detailed that an angry and screaming blueprint inspector from a nearby town accused Mather’s clients of constructing the building without a permit and then presenting photographs of the finished building. .

The building still exists; the inspector is gone.

As creative and stimulating as it was, Mather needed new ventures. So he retired from computer graphics and “retired” to his carpentry workshop, where he mixes the skills of a carpenter with the sharp motor skills of a dentist and the creativity of an artist on a daily basis. to build unique guitars.

They are so finely constructed that Mather, now officially a luthier (guitar maker), could at least become known as the Newport Beach Stradivarius guitar.

Of all of Mather’s creative endeavors, guitar making is the most demanding and satisfying, he said.

There are moments of truth in some businesses. In diamond cutting, it is when a craftsman splits the rough stone before the faceting process can begin. In luthiers’ know-how, this is virtually every step of the way, as an imperfect hammer blow on a chisel will ruin months of meticulous work, damaging any chance of promise of perfect resonance.

Already an accomplished carpenter with enough garage tools to make The Home Depot jealous, Mather found he needed a full collection of very specialized tools, such as luthier files that covered sizes that Mather called ” tiny to medium files of various shapes. , several jigs, low angle jack planes, button planes, various shapers, a thickness sander and a router table that allowed for more shaping.

Before purchasing the thickness sander, Mather said he had to scrape the back and harmony boards, top and sides by hand, hovering to a uniform thickness up to 2.2mm. The multiple types of wood each required their own treatment, he said, and included types such as rosewood for the sides and back, Englemann spruce for the top soundboard, l ‘ebony for the keys and mahogany and maple for the neck.

In all, there are nearly 100 parts for one of his Orchestra Model six-string guitars, and the only manufactured parts that he’ll include are the tuners and strings.

Mather plans to make only 10 guitars. The first one, he says, goes to Pam. Number two can go to his son, who Mather says is a very accomplished guitarist.

The rest of the order is to be determined. However, no one should be in too much of a hurry. Mather has been working on Number One since last March.

The electric thickness sander is expected to speed up manufacturing, he said. Precision of sanding and milling is crucial; just like putting the pieces together so that each piece merges perfectly with the other when glued in place.

And that’s only part of the art. Unbeknownst to most, guitar making is also math and engineering. For example, the fret slots (according to the plans) should be measured at 10,000th of an inch with proper spacing from their sister frets. It’s so precise, “You can only really get close to perfect,” Mather said, “or be as perfect as you can be.”

There is only one step left: obtaining the shine.

“Getting the perfect lacquer job can be frustrating and time consuming,” Mather sighed. But when done correctly, like on Guitar Number One, the finish makes an icicle look like the surface of a rocky road.

So this woman Pam is not what Mather calls “a guitar widow,” he always welcomes her company during the process. And Pam says she doesn’t regret spending so much time in the garage for a second. She loves being there with him.

There is a relationship between being a dentist and a luthier. In both, Mather has always strived for and strives for perfection.

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