I've been playing acoustic guitar since I first heard the great Tommy Emmanuel 20 years ago, but it was always just a bit of fun for me, while building websites paid the bills. After 15 years working as a web developer, however, I decided I needed a new creative challenge.
A friend told me about a guitar building – or ‘lutherie' – school near where I live, and since enrolling a couple of years ago I'm close to completing my second classical guitar. The experience has been fantastic, to say the least.
I've lusted after high-end guitars forever, and without really thinking about it I'd been obsessing over their design and the materials they were crafted with. What made one guitar better than another? Was it the design? The wood? The sound? To me it was all of those things, and with so much scope for combining them in creative ways, building guitars has become my new obsession.
Slow process to savour
I'm certainly not prolific – a guitar takes me around 100 hours to build. As you can imagine, there's a ton of tools and equipment required to consistently produce anything of quality, which is one of the most enjoyable parts of lutherie: so much gear!
We're talking hand planes, chisels, saws, rasps – the list goes on. It's enough to give a handcrafted-loving, hipster artisan a froth beard.
Guitars and websites
Guitars, unlike websites, are seductively tangible. In expert hands they transform air and vibrations into wonderful music. Their aesthetic beauty can be admired by guitarists and non-guitarists alike, but unlike a website, which can hide its flaws, a guitar's imperfections are obvious.
Both things require a solid foundation, and once that foundation is in place then the opportunity to experiment and get creative presents itself.
Something that surprised me about lutherie was that I often found the fragility of the work quite stressful. Most aspects of building a website are immediately interactive and there are many small wins along the way, but I didn't feel that way about guitar building at first.
I was impatient and just wanted to get the guitar finished and play the damn thing. I've calmed down a bit now.
While lutherie has given me a new creative outlet that combines my love of design and guitars, it was web development that taught me to slow down and enjoy each process. Now I'm much more conscious of just how enjoyable it is to design and hand-build your own guitar, even if I don't get to interact with it until the strings are finally tuned up for the first time, after six months of work.
Words: Wayde Christie
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