It's been a big month here at Fortress BTLX, what with us landing a deal to supply two high profile musicians with their own signature series instruments (more on that later), and also our big expansion from the old tiny "outside toilet" workshop in our back yard, into a dedicated 2 room, 320 square foot workshop unit at Kilroot Business Park on the outskirts of the town.
It was very important to us that BTLX remains in Carrickfergus, the town where the brand was born, and we were delighted to find that space in what is in fact the oldest and most historic part of the town.
As many of you already know, we simply didn't have the space in our existing workshop to produce more than one instrument at a time, and multitasking was simply out of the question.
For example, if we were to glue up a couple of guitar parts and clamp them, there would be no room in the workshop to do any other jobs until that glue had fully cured. This meant long hours of inactivity in between relatively short bursts of creativity.
The issue of course was due to the nature of our old workshop. I laughingly call it the outside toilet, but before it was converted to a garden shed, that's exactly what it was, so you can imagine just how cramped it was with only 1 square metre of workbench space.
Naturally this workshop had a limited lifespan if we were ever going to expand and get serious about luthiery. Sure it was cozy, but it was becoming cramped and not a lot of fun to work in. Besides we needed to invest in bigger and more powerful bench-top tools and this simply wasn't possible in such a confined space. Then came the final nail in the tiny workshop's coffin - the roof sprung an almighty leak right at the height of rainy season - which as anyone can tell you, lasts around 51 weeks of the year here in Northern Ireland. The leak was rapidly patched, but the camels back had been well and truly broken by this stage and a decision was made to find alternative working space.
After much searching - not easy at the time because the entire country had more or less shut down completely due to Covid - a suitable space was finally found at Kilroot Business Park on the north east side of the town. At one time this had been the old ICI factory, but is now home to a wide variety of businesses both large and small. The entire area is steeped in history which can be traced back over 1600 years, and in more recent times, has been the towns centre of industry, with the aforementioned chemical works, the sprawling power station and the salt mines which stretch for hundreds of miles under the East Antrim area.
But you're not reading this blog for a geography or history lesson, are you?
This is a blog about a small luthiery company's progress through these uncertain times that we're living in.
So the new workshop space has allowed us to upgrade from 1 square metre of bench space to a whopping 10 square metres, with room for expansion.
It's enabled us to have designated working areas for machining, carpentry, assembly and setups.
It's given us space for an office, a spray booth, a dust extraction system, a materials storage area, somewhere to set up a photo backdrop and a dust isolation box for curing resins and paints with blemish free finishes.
As I already touched upon, this has given us the ability to begin multitasking. So now it's entirely possible to glue up a body, clamp it and then set it to one side to work on something else while the glue is curing.
As a result, the BTLX workbenches are now hosting work on the following projects, all at the same time.
One custom design resonator acoustic guitar.
One BTLX Blade resonator.
Two GCM series Ukulele's.
One Ukulele for a charity auction.
One rebuild and restoration of a Stratocaster.
Two custom design bass guitars for high profile musicians.
This simply would not have been possible in the old outside toilet. These jobs would have all been queuing up, waiting for the last one to finish before the next one can start.
We effectively have a production line now.
So, going back to the start, I mentioned two high profile musicians.
I mentioned them again just now, this time referencing bass guitars.
I don't think it's right to name them, but it's fair to say we're building two very unique basses for two very well known and pretty high profile Northern Irish bass players, and these will hopefully lead to our launching an Artist or Signature Series of instruments.
If you want to hazard guesses at who the two bassists are, please say so in the comments below. We'd love to hear your thoughts on who you think it might be.
All will be revealed soon...
Peace out guys,
This is BTLX signing off for the night.