Photos and article by Randy Jarosz
Rick Link of Washington, PA seems like your typical 37 year old. He works his day job to make ends meet; he’s also working on getting the old band back together. As a bassist, he found inspiration from Les Claypool. Though, it wasn’t until Link was 34 that he found his hidden talent.
Put off by the extreme costs of a custom bass, Link decided to build his own. Researching those who built Claypool’s custom basses, such as luthier Carl Thompson, who grew up in Pitcairn, located 15 miles East of Pittsburgh, and is currently based out of Brooklyn, NY. “The one thing that lit a fire under me, was wanting something like this… and not having to cut a kidney out and sell it, because stuff like this is not cheap,” explains Link of a custom bass. A Carl Thompson bass can easily cost upward of $5,000.
With a $200 gift certificate for a wood supplier, as a birthday gift from his wife, Link purchased all the materials for his first project. Link’s desire was getting closer to reality. It wasn’t until he found his current home that Link was able to start his first project. “I had a bunch of ideas in my head, but I had nowhere to work,” explains Link. After getting the walk through to his early 1900’s home and seeing the dark and dingy basement, he knew instantly this was the house. Link made a portion of the coal cellar basement his workshop. “Everything came together right here,” says Link. “It’s dirty, it’s dusty and I wouldn’t have it any other way,” tells Link.
With no woodworking experience and no artistic ability, other than some drawing at a younger age, Link built his first bass, with only his ambition. “I honestly couldn’t tell you where this comes from,” says Link, about his uncanny skills. It was at that point “Beardly Customs,” was formed. The name Link chose was a play off of a nick name friends gave him. They used to call him “Gnarls Beardly” in reference to his large beard and the band Gnarls Barkley.
Link works around his day job typically doing most of his labor on Mondays. He can also be found in his shop even if he only has 20 minutes before work to tinker around with any projects. “There were times in the morning where I would get up an extra hour early, work [on a project] then go get on the road… people were telling me I was a crazy man,” tells Link.
“There is no standard model bass… every single thing is different, it’s on a per order basis,” explains Link. He’ll often send clients 20 or so questions just to get an idea of what exactly they want. Link is big on using local material and lumber. He prefers to work with the little guy as much as possible so he doesn’t get lost in the shuffle, working with companies like Dark Horse Strings, a small company located in Pennsylvania. In turn, he likes to have a similar relationship with his clients, working closely with them along the process, that could take months. Bassist and client Reggie Grayson from Arizona worked meticulously with Link to per-fect his 7 string bass. At one point they were up until midnight messaging back and forth. Grayson knew exactly what he wanted in a bass. “Rick is very easy to work with, and a true bass-dork. That’s all I could ask for from my luthier,” says Grayson.
Some people have talents and choose not to use them, others never find that special talent. Luckily for the music community Rick Link discovered his, to share with all of us. Link also does guitar and bass setups, restorations, repairs and modifiactions. He can be reached at email@example.com.