Article by Mary Jasch
Publisher of Dig It

Ed Foley

Ed Foley is one who was dared by a sign in a music store to make his own banjo, then ten years later, a guitar. He did both and today Ed makes his own brand of flat top Foley Guitars with bellied-bottoms for customers whose names are revered by musicians and music lovers around the world.

In '91, Ed went to Nashville to show his guitars. Bill Monroe and his grandson were among the first to buy."Grandaddy and I met Ed Foley at The Ernest Tubb Midnight Jamboree in August of 1993. Granddaddy was so impressed by the beauty and sound of Ed's guitars, we both owned a Foley by the time the night was over," says James Monroe in a letter to Ed.

George Strait and band, Larry DeBarry of Blood, Sweat and Tears, Aspen Pittman (owner Groove Tubes), Joe Diffie and band, Kyle Lehning (pres. Asylum Records), Wanda Vick, Billy Joe Walker Jr., John Pearse (Pearse strings) all own Foley Guitars.

Foley comes from a family of woodworkers and world-famous furniture makers. His love of wood comes from his grandfather, whose furniture is on permanent display in the Smithsonian. Ed carried on the tradition and refinished antique furniture. When he decided to build a guitar, he took the Martin factory tour and bought parts from them. He returned there frequently, learning from each visit, then applied the knowledge. In 1988 he completed his first guitar.

One particular full-sounding beauty ­ the J200 auditorium guitar with an inside pickup for sound amplification -- has Brazilian rosewood and Adirondack Spruce with one-eighth inch wide abalone trim and abalone snowflake inlays on the graphite-reinforced, flamed maple neck. Abalone trim drips down the side of the one-piece neck, the heel and heel cap, around the fingerboard and headstock and on every edge of the body. It has mother-of-pearl buttons and bronze tuners.

Arched backs and hand-carved thin, flexible bracing that vibrates and angles toward the sound hole are signatures of Foley Guitars. A True Tone System with three internal microphones helps retain the genuine sound of an acoustic guitar. Some people say Foley Guitars sound like a baby grand, for Ed concentrates on the sound of the wood. "My guitars are delicately made to produce ringing sounds. I gear my guitars to the sound people want."

Ed likes Brazilian rosewood that produces volume and is visually appealing, but its harvest is regulated. "It's hard to get. The tree has to die and be air-lifted up." Mahogany gives a warm sound for studio work, bird's eye maple gives a bright sound and a wide grain means bigger bass. Hawaiian Koa is a cross between mahogany and rosewood. For tops he uses Engleman spruce for finger-pickers and bluegrass players, and Appalachian red spruce for those who want greater volume. Tops must pass the tap test ­ they must ring for at least five seconds.

All wood is quarter-sawn ­ cut from the log like a piece of pie ­ for greater strength and a straight, tight grain. The stock is book-matched, meaning, a log is sliced and opened up like a book ­ a mirror image, side-to-side on his two-piece backs.

For the trim, Ed inlays handpicked slivers of abalone into a channel between the binding, then sands and lacquers it. There's no difference between the feel of the trim and wood ­ just one smooth river of sound. Ed's quest to make a comfortable guitar with exceptional sound encouraged feedback from musicians, resulting in more bass, treble, resonance and a stronger midrange. He'll customize anything, even size and shape.

"It takes passion and pride in your work to make guitars. People say 'how do you have the patience?' It would drive me nuts to just sit around. When I see somebody pick up my guitar, I want to be able to say 'I made that.'"

Foley Guitars start at $3,500. Ed Foley: 973-9034884


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