All around, it is an atypical crafting session for him, mainly because it is on a weekday afternoon. By day, Dennis, 41, is a jury administrator for the U.S. District Courts, but by night, he makes custom gear for musicians across the country through his one-man business, Tone Snob Pedalboards.
For five years, Dennis has run Tone Snob from the garage workshop at his home in Brandon, building pedalboards from 10 p.m. to 2 a.m. most nights—with the door shut to avoid annoying the neighbors, of course. Before he launched the business in 2013, Dennis and his wife, Misty, made picture frames together and sold them at art shows around the South.
"When we had our second kid, it became just me doing picture frames, and it was just a little too much," he says. "So I got burned out on it. I think I was driving home from our last picture-frame thing, and I said, 'I've got to figure out something else. I'll just build pedalboards.'"
Dennis has played the guitar since he was 14 years old, and as a young adult, he toured for about nine years with Ninth Hour, a Christian rock band that he formed with his twin brother, Ronnie, at age 17. He currently plays in the worship band at Christ United Methodist Church in Jackson.
While he had never built a pedalboard before, he says that he knew how he wanted them to look, so he began doing research.
"The first ones I built were to sell," Dennis says. "They were terrible, of course. But they sold, and I just kind of kept doing it. ... Pretty quickly, they came together and looked like I wanted them to look. Coming up with new ideas and different things to set them apart just kind of happens as you look for new materials and stuff."
When making custom pieces, Dennis says that he often gets to try new things and add specialty features, which comes with a certain amount of trial and error. He also enlists the help of friend Kevin Hoober for some of the more complicated electrical work.
The range of the work depends on the client, he says. On this particular day in early April, Dennis is building a 15-by-30-inch board with a teal-and-white covering and backlit logos. A month earlier, Nashville guitarist David Elder challenged him to build the "tackiest, most obnoxious" board, resulting in a furry blue, pink and purple concoction.
Naturally, the problem with being a one-man business is being one man, Dennis says, and building pedalboards requires a lot more time and materials than picture frames did. However, he hopes that Tone Snob will one day grow into a full-time business, with more employees to take on more orders.
"And it'd be nice to make a profit," he says with a laugh.
For more information, visit tonesnobpedalboards.com.