In 2011, I attended a month long guitar building course run by the European Institute of Guitar Making, in a small town called La Herradura in Andalucia, Spain - the home of Flamenco. Under the watchful eye of Stephen Hill, master luthier and great teacher, I built my first Flamenco Guitar, which I named El Duende. Also teaching on the course was Pablo Requena, another gifted teacher and great guitar builder.
Having caught the guitar building bug in a big way, I decided to settle in La Herradura (with my very understanding and beautiful wife) and fulfill my dream of making traditional Spanish classical and flamenco guitars as a new career.
Andy Martin - Budding Guitar Maker
My love of guitars and guitar music started in Malawi, Central Africa, where I grew up. I distinctly remember hearing Hank Marvin on the radio and being totally inspired by his playing. Like a lot of things in Malawi, guitars were not very easy to come by and were very expensive. But I had a dream to own and play my very own guitar so I set about raising the money I needed to buy one.
My weekends and after school were spent washing cars, cleaning windows and whatever other jobs people were willing to pay me for. Finally, at the age of twelve, I managed to find and purchase my first (secondhand) guitar for the princely sum of five shillings (which was a lot of money back then - now I do sound like an old timer).
Although my pride and joy, I have to admit that this guitar was a bit of a wreck. It had a large quarter inch crack running right down the length of the soundboard to the left of the soundhole and all the tuner keys were missing. This meant I had to use a small pair of pliers to tune the guitar - very sophisticated!
But I loved my guitar so I set about mending it as best I could. I found a nice thin strip of plywood from an old tea chest which I thought would do the job nicely. My woodwork teacher gave me some very smelly horse glue to use, which I melted in one of my Mum's saucepans on the kitchen range. Needless to say, with the house smelling like a glue factory and Mum's saucepan ruined, I was not the most popular boy in town and a few blue words from Mum were added to the air to mingle with the stench.
Undeterred, I continued with the task at hand. I managed to glue the plywood strip to the inside of the soundboard. Once it dried, I filled the crack with filler and then sanded the guitar down by hand (which took about a day) then applied three coats of varnish. I fashioned some new tuning keys from a wood called Mbawah (which is similar to Ebony) and the job was done. My busted up guitar now looked great, with its' designer stripe down the soundboard and more importantly, it sounded good too.
A friend from Mauritius showed me how to tune the guitar and taught me how to play 7 or 8 chords and that was it - I was hooked. I have played and collected all sorts of guitars ever since, classical, acoustic, semi acoustic, electro acoustic and a multitude of electric guitars.
When I was 20 I heard Paco Pena play and a couple of years later Juan Martin and was blown away by their virtuosity and Flamenco music and I decided then that one day I would build my own Flamenco Guitar and learn to play flamenco.
A Dream Realised
There were five others on the course and everyone produced a lovely guitar, except Graham Emes who made two lovely guitars! Graham is making great guitars in his own right.
I am very happy to now be fulfilling my dream of becoming a guitar maker or as they say in Spain, a guitarerro!