Curt Novara founder of The Woodward Guitar Company shows off one of his recycled wood guitars.
Recycled Wood Guitars from the Woodward Guitar Company.
We like the idea of guitars made from a sustainable source of wood or from recycled materials. In a world where scarce raw materials are being consumed at a phenomenal rate it makes sense that the humble guitar doesn’t impact too much on Mother Nature. So when we heard about the Woodward Guitar Company we were intrigued by the fact that their guitars were handcrafted from wood salvaged from the crumbling ruins of Detroit.
The idea behind recycled wood guitars, which led to the creation of The Woodward Guitar Company, was a life changing moment for the founder Curt Novara. Searching through piles of old wood at Reclaim Detroit, a not for profit organisation that is dismantling some 78,000 abandoned homes in Detroit, he came across the inspiration for his recycled wood guitars.
The materials salvaged by Reclaim Detroit are from houses abandoned after the global crash which resulted in the City of Detroit filing for bankruptcy in 2013. The houses, many built in the early 1900s, fell into dis-repair and as Detroit recovers these abandoned houses are being demolished. Reclaim Detroit are part of this City wide cleansing and the materials they salvage are sold on for re-use.
Novara was searching through the piles of salvaged wood looking for pieces to make furniture for his home. Tapping on some of the samples of wood he noticed that they had a rich tone and strong resonance, ideal for crafting a guitar. Fortunately in his youth, before becoming a Police Officer for The Livingston County Sheriffs Department, Novara was apprenticed to a Guitar luthier and so knew the properties of wood that would make a good guitar.
Because the wood is recycled every guitar is unique with its own sound and individual history.
The wood, he found, was not poor quality wood. In many of the houses, due to their age, the wood used in their construction was from old growth forests and consisted of Douglas Fir and Northern White Pine. Because they were old growth forests the wood grew much slower and were much older when they were felled. They had also had 100 years to dry out! Although most guitars are crafted from hardwoods such as Mahogany, ash alder and basswood Novara swears by the quality of the reclaimed wood used in his recycled wood guitars. He claims that because of the age of the wood it has a tone which you can’t get from a guitar made from modern wood. The guitar comes pre-aged giving it a truly “vintage sound.
Partnering up with other local craftsmen Novara started to hand build recycled wood guitars and found that there was a market for these recycled wood guitars. Founded in 2014 The Woodward Guitar Company hand crafts around 20 guitars a year each of which take 40 to 50 hours to build. The guitars start at $2000 and can only be purchased from two Detroit area music shops. Each guitar comes with a picture of the house where the wood was salvaged from and a brief history giving the owner a truly unique guitar. The guitars have also gained some big name users including Detroit born bassist Deon Estus who has played for the likes of Wham, Elton John and Marvin Gaye.
The Woodward Guitar Company is run on a part time basis by craftsmen who just like to relax and turn a piece of wood into a beautiful guitar. In the pursuit of recycled wood guitars we think Curt Novara has done something special and we will leave the last word to him…
“When you work with this wood you can tell it has history,” he says. “That’s what I love about it. I’m able to pass on some of Detroit’s history and also repurpose wood that would end up in the landfill.”
Go to the Woodward Guitar Company website to find out more about recycled wood guitars.
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