Nothing, absolutely nothing, lights David Gilmore’s fire like hearing a really good guitarist strumming one of his handmade instruments.
“There’s nothing cooler than hearing one of your guitars being used by somebody who really knows what he’s doing,” said the owner of Gilmore Guitars of Red Deer.
Fortunately, some very seasoned guitarists have purchased and now play his locally-made six-stringers.
They include Tom Wilson of Blackie and the Rodeo Kings (and formerly Junkhouse), Dan Walsh, who used to play with Fred Eaglesmith’s band The Flying Squirrels and who has three of his guitars, Ontario singer/songwriter Brock Zeman, and local performers Levi Cuss, Bradley Abel, and Jesse Roads.
“I’ve sold guitars as far away as Ireland,” said the local craftsman. But his word-of-mouth sales have mostly come from across Canada.
Gilmore, who studied guitar making in Saskatchewan in the mid-1990s, makes every part of his unique instruments himself — from hand-planing the guitar necks and using a jigsaw to cut narrow slots for metal frets, to creating a hidden support system for the wooden guitar faces.
“With the string tension, there’s 150 pounds of pressure across here,” said Gilmore, who noted all guitars could “implode” without internal supports.
As well as not using an assembly line or computerized milling process — (“I do everything by hand,” said Gilmore) — he also doesn’t use veneers.
He prefers working with solid woods, such as African mahogany, Sitka spruce, western red cedar, ebony and maple.
Each of his acoustic guitars take about 150 hours to complete, and each electric guitar requires 90 to 100 hours of labour, so they respectively start selling for $2,500 or $1,200 each.
Gilmore said this is far below what many custom guitar makers charge, but “I don’t have the brand name awareness yet.”
He believes his main customers have, so far, been singer/songwriters and veteran guitar players because they most appreciate the quality and subtle sound distinctions.
“Every guitar has a personality.”
The 52-year-old spent the previous three decades working in radio sales and D.J.-ing — much of that time at the local stations CKGY and Z-99.
But his affiliation with music actually started when he was a toddler.
“I used to play my mom’s guitar like a stand-up bass,” he recalled, with a chuckle.
After leaving the family farm near Weyburn, Sask, at age 18, Gilmore played guitar in a rock band. He said he might still be doing it, except the drummers kept quitting. “It was really hard to keep personnel . . . ”
He later took a break from his radio career and studied, with his wife Adrienne’s blessing, at the Timeless Instruments lutherie (string instrument making) school in a fairly remote part of Saskatchewan, north of Moose Jaw.
The joke goes that Tugaske, Sask. is halfway between Eyebrow, Sask, and Elbow, Sask. “which makes it about the armpit,” said Gilmore.
He made guitars as a hobby for many years after taking the 10-week program, but decided to go professional by opening his shop three years ago.
One of his most popular styles is called the Model A, as a tribute to Adrienne for all her support.
Gilmore said sales of original guitars at his shop at Bay 6, 4676-61st St. in the Riverside Industrial Park are slowly increasing, with 12 handmade instruments sold last year and 16 projected for this year.
“You definitely feel a sense of accomplishment everyday.”
He also offers a limited selection of factory-made new and used guitars for sale, and does guitar repairs.
Sometimes all of his musical passions come together when house concerts are held at the shop, with live performances from musicians touring through Alberta.
Gilmore also records podcasts, available on his website, of various professional guitarists playing his handmade instruments.
For more information, please visit www.gilmoreguitars.ca, or email email@example.com.