- acoustic guitars
- electric guitars
This history of Jaros Guitars came from the Jaros Custom Guitars website (archived in 2005, but not longer active):
Jaros Guitars is the father and son team of Harry and Jim Jaros of Rochester, Pennsylvania. When the senior Jaros retired from his job as a machine repairman for Westinghouse in 1987, he was finally able to give full attention to his lifelong avocation of woodworking. "I've been playing around with wood since I was a child," says the 80-year old craftsman. "I took industrial arts in junior high school and was hooked from then on. I served in the Air Force through World War II. Soon after getting out in 1948, I went to work for Westinghouse, starting out in their box factory making crates. I was about 24 years old. Like Jim with the guitars, I was always making something in my spare time, too. Nothing big, but I always built my own stuff. I built kitchen cabinets as a side job for a number of years, but eventually the pre-fabricated stuff became too much competition, so I quit."
We asked Mary Jaros how her husband liked this new kind of woodworking compared to the cabinet work he'd been doing for years: "I'd say he loves it," said Mary, "he really enjoys it. Oh, sometimes, they have to hurry too much and it sort of takes a little of the fun out of it for him, but it comes with the job, I guess. He gets over it, because people like their guitars so much." Harry was brought out of his "retirement" in the winter of 1995. At his son Jim's urging, he agreed to give guitar-making a try--if Jim would join him and develop his woodworking skills, too. Soon the two men were producing a veritable line of professional-quality guitars as fast as they could find enough curly and spalted maple for the highly-figured tops.
"Actually," said Jim, "Dad had wanted a project we could work on together, and since I'm a guitar player, it seemed that building a guitar was a natural. Dad never makes just one of anything, though, so we built four guitars right from the start. Thanks to him, even those first guitars were good. Only a year later, the summer of '96, we were displaying at our first N.A.M.M. (National Association of Musical Merchants) show in Nashville, Tennessee. That's where we met Pam Webster and a bunch of the Stew-Mac crew (Pam's a member of the Stew-Mac purchasing department). We've also gone to a number of vintage shows, such as Arlington, the Fall Philadelphia show, and the Columbus Guitar Show. Now I wish I'd done more woodworking as a kid, because although I grew up around a woodshop, I'll never be as good as my dad. He knows things I never will."
By day, 44-year old Jim Jaros is the group leader and shipping receiver for a distribution warehouse of the Okonite Company, one of America's biggest manufacturers of high voltage electrical cable. "It's a good working environment," he says, "because my boss is a musician, too. Most everybody down there's a musician, in fact. Guitar building is a weekend thing, however, and usually a night or two during the week. I played in a band for years, traveling the tri-state area three nights a week or more, but I quit playing to build. My experience as a guitarist helps me though, because I have definite opinions on guitars and I know how they should play and sound."
The Jaros Guitar "factory" is a home-based, part-time operation located in the beautiful Pennsylvania countryside. Jim, his wife Patty, and their sons Jason (21), and Taylor (14), live only 100 yards from Jim's folks, Harry and Mary (and coincidentally, Harry's large well-equipped woodshop). The shop is a 30' x 40' pole-barn with 12' ceilings and three work bays. Each bay has its own sliding overhead door. Harry removed the center window of the middle bay and replaced it with a removable acrylic window pane. When it's spraying time, he replaces the acrylic with a "spray-fan insert" and lets Jim have at it with the spray gun. The area around the "spray booth" is protected from overspray with large temporary sheets of cardboard.
With all the power tools on wheels, there's always plenty of room to make lots of sawdust, and to spread out a batch of guitars during construction (see photo on preceding page). They build batches of six guitars at a time.
"Like a few other makers, our guitars are similar in style to the '59 Gibson Les Paul Junior. The '59 Junior has always been my favorite body shape, but since I don't like the weak neck joint, our necks are glued in-way in. The neck blank sits in a sloped channel routed into the body, which determines the neck angle. The neck blank runs two inches past the tailpiece, and is glued in before the top goes on."
Harry and Jim each have their own specialties: Harry's the production foreman, jig maker, and whitewood builder; Jim runs the fretting, finishing, and set-up departments.