Kevin Gullion, Calgary Guitar Maker, Crafts Guitars from Reclaimed Wood
Visionary guitar maker, Kevin Gullion, has crafted over 650 guitars using barn wood in his workshop over several years. The Calgary resident applied his mechanical skills and built various types of machinery from scratch in different careers before finding his niche. After a bought of illness, Gullion took up furniture building as a hobby and built chairs and tables from reclaimed barn wood. He realized that he had the tools in his possession to create more than unique wood furniture. That was when Gullion decided to construct his very own guitars after being astonished by their price and remembering how significant music and musical instruments were to him and his Metis heritage.
“My original guitar designs reflect vintage instruments. I use reclaimed wood and hardware, as well as new wood and new parts to create gear that is unique and playable. They sound great and no two are exactly alike. I also love it when my customers bring me family heirlooms, furniture or something, that I incorporate into their custom builds,” notes Gullion.
Gullion Is A Leader of the Western Canadian Reclaimed Guitar Business
Gullion’s reclaimed wood business thrives inside his Calgary woodshop. He explains how, “old furniture makes fantastic guitar necks. I am pretty much the only guy in Western Canada that’s doing what I’m doing.” Although not a new practice, building guitars from reclaimed wood has become a fairly rare one in recent years. Reclaimed wood is well-aged and often already equipped with desirable vintage qualities. “Furniture, barn wood, pallet wood. Pretty much any reclaimed material that I can find that’s suitable for making string instruments.”
“It’s not as easy as cutting out a piece of wood and putting strings on it,” Gullion states. Designing and building reclaimed guitars is no easy feat, however. It involves technical details and meticulous mathematical solutions. It’s always worth it though for Gullion. The market for custom stringed instruments is flourishing. A one-of-a-kind reclaimed guitar that’s made with love takes time. The duration, however, does vary. He explains how “some of them take months, some of them take a matter of weeks, it just depends on what it is that I’m building.”The type of wood makes a significant difference as well. Lighter woods, especially pine or poplar produce a warmer, softer tone from the guitar. Whereas, harder woods like maple create a vibrational sound due to the density. “Old wood has kind of a soul to it. Depending on the type of wood, it gives you a very rich and full sound. Very old wood is stable, it’s done all of its drying and twisting, and moving, so when you build an instrument out of it, it tends to be pretty stable as opposed to new wood, which you don’t know what the moisture levels and stuff are.”
Gullion’s guitar projects are considered legacy pieces to their buyers. The wood that’s brought to his is often connected to the family and their heritage. “It’s something that they’ll keep forever, because it is part of their history,” he says. “Where if you buy a guitar at a guitar store, you might sell it or trade it over time. Get tired of it. With legacy pieces, you’re going to hold onto them forever because they mean something to you.”
Gullion continues to create his specialized guitars in his workshop and sells the pieces through a partnership with Roosters Acoustics in Canmore, Alta. Most of his orders are custom and have been designed to be a memento for the buyer. Every guitar built by Gullion is mounted in the Roosters Acoustics shop and priced at anywhere from $1,600 to $4,200 depending on the instrument’s detail.
Ellie King is the Editor of Wood Industry / Le monde du bois magazine and weekly E-digest. She has years of experience in B2B writing and editing and is empowered by the opportunity to share the marvels, pitfalls and weekly news of Canada’s secondary wood industry with our readers.