Erik Needham comes from a long line of craftsman. Working with wood is in his blood, merging that with modular synthesis was just a natural progression of his passion. Based in San Francisco, Needham is making his mark on music with a small custom shop delivering functional works of art. After making over a thousand custom pieces of studio furniture, Needham has refined his process into around 40 steps for the perfect rack. With customers across the globe, his shop has become a go-to for the studio elite.
From milling raw wood to cutting precise dovetail joints to hand carving curves, each rack is put together with a personal approach making them truly one of kind. What started out of necessity has grown to a well-oiled process made to ensure artistry and hand-made details flourish.
Erik’s first rack was a small start that hit close to home. When Korg released their Volca series back in 2013, he saw that as a way to introduce his 3 year old to the world of hardware. After shaping a small rig, the forums light up with requests and he was in business. As the years have passed, Needham’s list of clients has grown and so have the cases. Now working on double-wide racks in excess of 21U, his output spans the spectrum of modular hobbyists to big name producers.
“They have specific requirements for size, but from there each one is completely different in terms of style and joinery techniques. That keeps me interested and keeps developing me as a craftsman and woodworker.”
In order to maximize resources, Needham builds orders in batches of 5-8. After hand-picking fine cuts of walnut (often East Coast Black and Oregon Claro), cherry, maple, and others; the real work begins. A self-described wood nerd, Erik keeps a special stack in the back, applying unique and exotic accents to each piece that goes out the door.
Going through the process with him, it’s apparent that every case holds a special place in his heart. After spending upwards of eight weeks creating each rack, it’s no surprise that he’s familiar with each curve
You can feel within a thousandth of an inch, you can feel all of these imperfections [in the wood]… if you rub your hand over it, you can feel the tool marks, you can feel the facets when to simulate a curve [by hand]
As Needham gets into the intricacies of the process, it’s clear he struggles with the opportunity to scale. Making more cases means auto tools, precut features, and template curves… a path that’s not really why he’s there. Located at a shop co-op in a quite part of what could be described as California’s cultural capital, Needham woodworks doesn’t really need to grow. His steady flow of orders from Hollywood shakers to modular newbs, make the batch process a
The crossroads of technology and independent music make this an