SPANISHBURG — On memorial day weekend, a local artisan was recognized at the Mountain Acoustics Luthier Invitational in Burnsville, N.C.
Spanishburg, W.Va. luthier, Thomas Blevins has been playing music for most of his life. Luthiery is the practice of crafting string instruments and is split into two categories: makers of stringed instruments that are plucked or strummed and those that are bowed.
“I am comfortable calling myself a luthier but it is an argument because some people call it an art,” Blevins said. “I think you are more of an artisan than an artist.”
Blevins began building electric guitars ten years ago and acoustic guitars five years ago. A lot of the art is the craft is in finding the correct tone.
“You buy the wood and you finish it to the dimensions you need and bend the sides with heat and moisture,” Blevins said. “Once you get the sides bent, you press the bracing from the inside into a piece of the wood. And the back takes the shape of the bracing and shave the bracing. After you glue the bracings on you shave as much as you can until you get the tone.”
Blevins said that wood type also plays a large part in how the instrument sounds. “It is trial and error, you develop an ear for it,” he said.
Some of Blevin’s favorite wood to work with s rosewood. He said it creates a great tone on the back and sides of the instrument. He prefers citrus woods for the top of the guitar.
At the Mountain Acoustics Luthier Invitational, Blevins said he had the opportunity to meet other Luthiers and learn from them.
“It was great,” Blevins said. “It was a lot of fun and interesting people. I got to meet people that have been doing it longer than I have been alive.”
Sherry Ammen is one of the producers of the Mountain Acoustics Luthier Invitational. She said Blevin’s unique style caught her eye when they were choosing luthiers for the invitation-only event.
“He specializes in dread knot style guitars and he started building electric guitars but this event was strictly for acoustic instruments,” Ammen said. “He fell in love with the process and it is kind of slow pace from carving the wood and tapping to find the tone it takes a good level of craftsmanship to make these instruments.”
The 2019 Mountain Acoustics Luthier Invitational was the inaugural year of the event, but after its success, Ammen is already planning for 2020.
“This was the inaugural year but we have produced guitar shows previously. This is the first for Burnsville,” Ammen said. “It is quite unusual to find 30 luthiers of this caliber under the same roof for two days. The unique aspect of the event was that we had guitar luthiers, banjo, fiddle, all together and it was a celebration of the art of luthier.”
The 2020 Mountain Acoustic Luthier Invitational is set for May 22 and May 23 of next year in Burnsville, N.C. The event showcases some of the finest luthiers in the region including guitars, violins, fiddles, mandolins, harps, banjos, ukuleles and dulcimers.
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