It wouldn’t pay to build instruments and wait two centuries for them to become fully resonant before selling them, though Santa Cruz Guitar Company gains that advantage by beginning with really old wood. This aligns beautifully with the company’s decades long dedication to using reclaimed materials for both superior tone and environmental responsibility.
Steve Pierson of Crude Luthier with one of his guitars at a 24th Street art walk last week. Photo by Anlan Cheney.
If he’s not collaborating with an artist, he likes to show off the reclaimed wood. He is partial to redwood from his old deck, red wine vats from Sonoma County, and the torn down polo fields in Golden Gate Park. The latter “is magical wood,” he said, “It just sings.”
Dennis Fano with a Serus T in Novo’s Nashville workshop
Dennis Fano’s Novo brand builds remarkable electric guitars from tempered and reclaimed timber, and we have never encountered structurally similar guitars with more natural resonance. I’ve also played some recent ultra-high-end Les Paul replicas made from very old wood that already sound like they’re decades old.
The wood he uses is white pine, is all reclaimed from buildings around the city — some famous, like the Chelsea Hotel, legendary speakeasy Chumley’s, even McSorley’s Bar. Kelly gets most of it for free. He calls the wood, the bones of old New York.”It came from those 300-year-old giant trees and now it’s been indoors for 160, 170 years, so it’s super dry and really resonant and makes a great guitar.”
Photo from Carmine Street Guitars courtesy of Sphinx Productions.
The main focus of Carmine Street Guitars is custom guitar maker Rick Kelly and his young apprentice Cindy Hulej. They are renowned for their handcrafted guitars made from reclaimed wood rescued from old hotels, bars, churches and other local buildings.
Over 30 years later, James Hetfield’s garage days live on in a custom-built electric guitar named “Carl,” built from salvaged wood. As Hetfield explains in a new video, “Carl “— who, might we add, has been thoroughly road-tested — possesses symbolic importance.
Topped by recycled fir baseboards from Jimi Hendrix’ childhood home, this guitar made by luthier Reuben Forsland also has nails and wiring from the home inlaid in all of its fret markers. The “story” guitar is a collaboration between Forsland and Kevin Hennig of Symphontree Music in Sandspit. (Kevin Hennig/Symphontree Music)
Handmade by Reuben Forsland, a Métis luthier in Comox, its soundboard is made from the fir baseboards of Hendrix’ bedroom. Inside the silver fret markers are wires and nails from the home. For the rosette, the decorative trim around the soundhole, Forsland inlaid bits of paint from the Hendrix home floor, encased in 150 pieces of ebony. “That’s what this guy does, all the time,” says Kevin Hennig, owner of SymphonTree Music, a specialized guitar shop based in Sandspit.
The reclaimed wood used to build Wallace Detroit Guitars — salvaged from buildings in the Motor City — dates as far back as the early 1800s. The handmade guitars are therefore being built with the same vintage, slow-growth wood as instruments made in the golden era of the 1920s, said Wallace Detroit Guitars founder Mark Wallace. “That wood went into guitars, and my wood went into houses,” Wallace said during an interview at Architectural Salvage Warehouse, the nonprofit where he sources maple, ash, walnut and pine. “There’s something fundamentally different about the wood that went into those [vintage] guitars, and that’s what I’m tapping into.”
Fender has soft-launched a Special Edition series of guitars aimed at players looking for the distinct tone of old growth timber, while enjoying the benefits of modern features and hardware. The company has secured a limited amount of reclaimed wood from obscure locations in the US for an interesting take on its iconic Stratocaster and Telecaster guitars. The redwood model is made using wood from the 1930s, and the pine models timber dates back to 1868 … and you don’t get much more vintage than that.
Haines says he works with many artisans and craftspeople throughout the region that are developing unique ways of reusing the material, a phenomenon that is aggregating into a burgeoning economy around deconstruction.
From the pickups to the necks, we bring the parts from discarded instruments back to life. One of our new goals is to begin shaping necks out of reclaimed wood. The bodies of our Boho Series are made from melted down scrap metal.