To grasp Maegen Wells’ devotion to constructing guitars, it helps to know three issues: One, she named her canine Lulu, brief for lutherie, the artwork of creating guitars. Two, she has a tattoo on her left arm of a blueprint for an archtop guitar. And three, her retirement plan comes within the type of uncommon wooden, specifically reduce in sections that may enable her to make a one-of-a-kind customized guitar each 5 years till she hangs up her chisel. “That is my calling,” she says. “It wasn’t a selection in any respect.”
Wells picked up her first guitar on the age of seven and started writing songs at 9, dreaming of changing into the following Lisa Loeb. However it was an epiphany at 17, when she first held a Taylor guitar, that led the 32-year-old Michigan native to go straight out of highschool to the Galloup College of Lutherie. After apprenticeships with Reverend Guitars within the Midwest and veteran luthier Tom Ribbecke in Healdsburg, she moved to Forestville, the place she now lives in a grove of redwoods close to the Russian River.
Meet Maegen Wells and fellow Sonoma County luthier Bruce Sexauer on this video, produced by Joshua Dylan Mellars for NorCal Public Media.
Sheltering at house throughout the Covid-19 pandemic allowed Wells a uncommon likelihood to skip her annual tour of guitar conventions and focus solely on creating in her workshop, a lower-level sanctuary in her home that was as soon as a speakeasy throughout Prohibition (and nonetheless has the bar footrest to show it).
Wells additionally crafts mandolins, however her ardour lies within the archtop guitar— the huge, hollow-body six-string with an arched high as an alternative of a flat one, identified for its super-rich readability from notice to notice. It’s what you may image if you hear a Wes Montgomery or George Benson jazz guitar solo. However they’re additionally prevalent in rock, rockabilly, and nation.
Wells’ guitars emerge from a variety of woods: mahogany, ebony, maple, walnut, sapele, and koa, and promote for round $9,000 every. When Wells picks up a bit of wooden, the very first thing she does is scratch it. “That’s when the dialog begins,” she says. “All the time, me and the wooden and the instruments are speaking. The instruments are form of the translator between me and the supplies.”
Whereas working with a hand airplane to carve the highest, she will hear and really feel the pitch change with every carve. It is going to be at the least “one other 400 steps” till she strings and strums the guitar for the primary time.
With over a decade devoted to her craft, it now takes about 250 hours to make a guitar, and “numerous Buckethead,” she says, name-dropping the eccentric guitar virtuoso she typically listens to whereas working within the store.
A number of years in the past, Wells scored six units of wooden from an East Coast vendor who came upon a uncommon Honduran mahogany tree in Southern Mexico that bore a flamed “fiddleback” sample. The sample was so distinct and strange, it grew to become identified merely as “the Fiddleback Tree” and all of the wooden offered out rapidly. Wells made her first guitar from the tree in 2018 and offered it for $13,000. Her plan is to make a guitar from the tree each 5 years till she retires, ready 10 years to make the ultimate installment.
“By the point I’m 60 and I end that final guitar, it is going to be bittersweet,” she says. “However it would characterize my life and the way I advanced because the wooden advanced.