This month’s Spotlight is on Mark Jenny and his son Matthew of MJtele. Located in Carthage, Missouri together they specialize in the highest quality aged guitar finishes available. In this interview Mark talks about his finishing work and commitment to customer satisfaction. His passion for his work is clearly evident in each piece of work he produces and he draws on his experience with Streetrods and furniture restoration. Read about his methods and how MJtele has become a rapidly growing sucess.
300guitars.com: Hi Mark let’s start off with do you play guitar and what are some favorite types and bands/artists?
Mark Jenny: I’ve played guitar since I was 11 years old. Once I heard Dylan’s “Like a Rolling Stone” on the radio I just had to learn! My favorite artists are Hendrix , Clapton, Johnny Winter, Joe Walsh, SRV. So many greats!!
300guitars.com: Do you collect guitars? Tell us about your favorite guitars and amps.
Mark Jenny: I love vintage Fenders, guitars and amps, particularly Teles through Princeton’s or Deluxe’s. Unfortunately I don’t own a single piece anymore. I had to sell them all to keep my business going in its early stages.
300guitars.com: How did you become interested in finishing guitars and making them look well worn (relic)? What was your inspiration?
Mark Jenny: I was always in love with vintage Telecasters. After the price of vintage pieces got unaffordable for me I started to buy molested /cannibalized vintage pieces and bringing them back to looking original, thus I got started in relic/aged finishes.
300guitars.com: Do you have any experience with painting cars?
Mark Jenny: I’ve built 3 streetrods and did the body work and paint on two of them.
300guitars.com: Did you go to art school?
Mark Jenny: No I don’t have any art school training.
300guitars.com: When did you start MJ Telecaster?
Mark Jenny: I started this as a hobby about 11 years ago. It has officially become a business this year, 2008.
300guitars.com: How much experimenting and prototyping was done before you looked at one of your finishes and said “that’s it”? Or did you nail it on the first shot?
Mark Jenny: Before I started this hobby I’d never used a spray gun in my life. I had the desire to create the finishes before I had the skill to paint. I had a friend give me some pointers, bought a gun and compressor and off I went. Took me some practice, but in the first couple tries I was turning out decent work, and I’ve worked hard and tried many different techniques to get them like they are now. I still feel like a novice in a sense. I feel I have so much more to learn.
300guitars.com: Do you mix your own lacquers? What brand of lacquer do you use?
Mark Jenny: I mix about 90% of my colors. I’m still not mixing metallics. I use furniture grade nitro cellulose lacquer.
300guitars.com: What brand of Custom Color lacquer do you use?
Mark Jenny: I mix them myself with Stew Macs colors, clear lacquer/thinner and retarder.
300guitars.com: Do you also finish Gibson and other manufacturer’s guitars?
Mark Jenny: No. I only know Fender finishes, and I don’t like to work on guitars with set necks or bindings. Lol!
300guitars.com: What is your typical finish schedule?
Mark Jenny: If you are asking how long? It takes about 3 weeks max from start to finish on my aged finishes.
300guitars.com: What is the most difficult finish to do?
Mark Jenny: A black bound body with no aging!! Lol!
300guitars.com: What makes your finishes so special?
Mark Jenny: Special? I’m not really sure about them being special. I consider each one a work of art, so I guess in that sense each finish I create is unique and special. Every custom order I take comes out a bit different than the last …there are many guys out there doing this who are very talented, I’m not special by any means in that dept.
300guitars.com: Your relic finishes look extremely authentic. They do not look overdone or “forced” so to speak. How do you get them to look so natural?
Mark Jenny: For me Billy its art. It flows depending on my mood and state of mind. Sometimes I’ll make a “road warrior”, well played and beat, other times I feel like creating a well taken care of barely played look. Its art, so it’s my moods coming thru the finish.
300guitars.com: What was your inspiration to age all the hardware that goes with a “relic” guitar?
Mark Jenny: I find the hardware as cool to look at as the finish, so I taught myself through practicing several different techniques how to age the hardware. This aspect of my work is not my strongpoint, but I’m getting better. A lot of guys out there have nailed the hardware, where I’m stronger in the body and neck aging.
300guitars.com: Who makes up most of your clientele?
Mark Jenny: My clientele is all internet based. They range from builders to hobbyists, and somewhere in there players. Lol!300guitars.com: Do you have any interesting stories about dealing with clients? Celebrities perhaps?
Mark Jenny: Not really. I’ve loved getting to know a few of them though. I’ve really enjoyed working for Redd Volkert. He’s a neat guy and easy to do work for. I find the pros very easy to work for.
300guitars.com: What are some of your other interests besides guitars?
Mark Jenny: Well I love old things, old patina on most anything. I’ve purchased a home in Missouri that’s 100 years old and I love bringing it back from it’s 70’s Austin Powers “shag me” remodel, and giving it back its dignity with correct plaster walls and hardwood floors. No more paneling, acoustical tile ceilings, shag carpet or cork walls!! Lol! I also love vintage trucks, and street-rodding them is a hobby I hope to return to someday.
300guitars.com: What do you have planned for the future of your company? Are there any new products or expansion into other things?
Mark Jenny: I’m bringing my son Matthew into the business this year, we are slowly expanding to meet the needs and demands, but slowly as not to loose control or drop my quality. The most important thing to me is customer satisfaction. I’ll go the extra mile to please a client. Usually I can, but there have been a few that I just couldn’t no matter how I tried. The funny thing is, the harder I tried the worse things got so like I said, its art and moods dictate it. I can work along side my clients, but I can’t always capture what their minds see.
300guitars.com: Thank you Mark for the great interview. I wish you much success with the expansion of the business this year!
Mark Jenny: Well thanks Billy for taking the time for this interview, I’m looking forward to serving the all Fender hobbyist to the best of my ability. My bottom line is always to please the customer, its how I get my reward. Sure I do it to make a living, we all gotta get by, but if money wasn’t an issue I’d do it for free!!
Next Spotlight: Susan Bendinelli of Studio Slips.