I recently put together a photography essay on the guitar making process at Avalon guitars in the Northern Ireland town of Newtownards. The experience of making my way around the workshop and observing each stage of the creative process from wood to instrument was a privileged education.

Avalon Guitars, Newtownards

Creating the neck bracings is a delicate craft.

One thing that struck me was the luthiers behind the guitars, the characters who invest hours of hard work in the fine detail of these magnificent instruments. The Avalon luthiers are masters of their craft, they pour over the fine detail of each instrument they create and work together as a tight knit team.

Avalon Guitars, finish

The finishing process is an investment time and an attention to detail.

These luthiers have well over 150 years knowledge and experience of guitar making. They know every binding, can identify every piece of timber by the grain, I was sincerely in awe of their knowledge. They each have in common the desire to create only the highest quality instruments. They study each piece of wood to ensure only the highest standard of timber makes its way into an Avalon guitar.

Ernie McMillen Avalon Guitars

Ernie demonstrating the carving of the braces. Taken from the Avalon Photo essay.

Respect the Timber

I underestimated their appreciation for quality when I made the (big) mistake of asking one of the luthiers to hold one of the “sticks” that sat on a shelf in the kiln. I don’t think I could have used a worse word to describe the timber given their reaction and they didn’t let me away with it.

Avalon Guitars

The luthiers discuss the merits of a quality ‘stick’.

These luthiers create hand made instruments respected by musicians the world over. The list of famous guitarists and songwriters who turn to an Avalon acoustic guitar is exhausting. To this team of master guitar makers each instrument is part of the Avalon family, they send them out and often lovingly customise, restore and service instruments over many years. I’d swear they know each one just by the type of wood or serial number.

If you want the ultimate in acoustic guitar then if it is made by the Avalon team you most certainly have an instrument of impeccable quality that is built for life. Better still if you can get to home of Avalon and see the guitars and the master luthiers first hand – it is an experience you won’t forget.

Links:

The Avalon Guitars Photo Essay
Avalon Guitars