always had a knack for woodwork. Raised by a father who always had a
woodshop for boat building and woodcarving, Nichols became crafty at a young
his high school shop class, Nichols did the necessary research and built his
first guitar. "I surprised my teacher and myself when the guitar was
done," Nichols says.
says the guitar he made in high school was "playable" and the
catalyst for building more stringed instruments down the road.
Nichols works out of his shop in Malone as a custom pearl inlayer for Martin
Guitars, local musicians as well as musicians around the world. He still
rebuilds and repairs stringed instruments, known as a Luthier, and he plays
in a bluegrass outfit called Dave Nichols and Spare Change every weekend in
receiving degrees from Canton, Oswego State, and a PhD at Syracuse
University, Nichols bought a house in Waddington, New York where he set up
his first Luthier/inlay shop.
the late sixties, Dave found, there weren't many people doing inlay. He saw
an ad in a folk music magazine and met up with Mike Longworth, who was doing
inlay work down in Tennessee.
this time, Martin Guitars was looking to reintroduce their D-45, a
pearl-bound bodied guitar with pearl inlay on the fingerboard and headstock,
which had not been on the market since the 1940s.
got himself appointed as organizer of the inlay department by the people at
Martin and called Dave and told him he could do all the work and I
(Longworth) would do the organizing. This worked for Dave as he felt Mike
was better at organizing than inlay and he (Dave) had no desire in
organizing Martin’s Pearl Department.
the next several years, working part-time, Dave and a few helpers did the
entire custom pearl inlay for Martin guitars. After the 1960s, Dave affirms
most of the inlay work coming out of Martin was done right in his Waddington
this day, Dave continues to do inlay work for musicians who bring their
guitars to their Martin dealers. The dealers call Martin, and Martin calls
morning, Nichols gets in the shop around 6:45 am and checks his email to see
what his orders are for the day. He will then begin cutting pearl shapes for
inlays and work on jobs that require more attention. He tries to finish up
his work that he doesn't necessarily want to do and make his money by noon.
This enables him to get away from the business end in the other half of the
the afternoon, I like to do a fun repair or an inlay that takes my fancy.
has done work for a variety of musicians ranging from country artists to
80's rockers. Examples include Del McCoury, David Grisman, Johnny Cash,
Aerosmith, and even ZZ Top. Dave still treasures a letter Johnny Cash sent
him saying how proud he was to own his fancy Martin guitar. The guitar was
painted black with a tree of life inlaid on the fingerboard and his
signature in the peg-head.
the eighties rockers, Dave built a series of guitars for ZZ Top and an
Aerosmith guitar which had Spiderman inlaid in it and was used in the movie
of the same name.
year, Martin put out a series of Merle Haggard signature models that Nichols
inlaid. Haggard bought fifteen of them and gave them to his friends, the
likes of Willie Nelson and Norm Hamlett.
enjoys what he does. Dave says, "I keep alive at it by playing music
all summer, hanging out with musicians and flaunting my work."
the winter months, he keeps busy doing the inlay bit, so he can go out the
following summer and enjoy singing, playing, jamming and I suppose “flaunting”
hasn't anyone heard of this man? This
is a question posed by the original author of most of this text. David
doesn't have a listed phone number, and he doesn't advertise and he still
has all the work he can handle. The truth is that he really is very well
known in the industry, just not that easy to find even if you live only an
hour away. A big part of his business is the mystique he explains. He says
people who want some inlaying work done have to find him first. Dave
mystique of the business is worth as much as a good advertising