Timbecon's Business Development Manager, John Madden, recounts the time he met acclaimed luthier Luke Kallquist, and first discovered the immaculate work of woodcrafting guitar makers.
I was working for Gregory Machinery at the time, when in walks this skinny looking hipster wanting to buy a drum sanding machine. I pointed him towards the Jet 18/36 sitting on the showroom floor and cracked up a bit of a conversation. Now if you know Luke Kallquist, then you know he is a softly spoken, cool kind of dude, so at first it was a bit difficult to get a word out of him.
“So what kind of woodwork do you do?” I enquired.
“I am a Luthier” replied Luke, “I need this drum sander, so I can make super thin, uniform veneers for the body parts of my guitars.”
“How long have you been making guitars? I probed. “A few years” responded Luke, “done a lot of work repairing guitars so now I have gone out on my own and making them for a living.”
Now I play a bit of guitar, and I have done a ton of woodworking, and in my humble opinion out of all the woodworking disciplines, making guitars strikes me as being the most difficult, unpredictable and risky. It takes a special kind of lunatic to make guitars, and then go and try to make a living out of it.
Intrigued, I asked, “So where is your workshop?” “Under my house in Indooroopilly” Luke responds, “I have been working under the house for six months or so now.”
I needed to find out more, so after throwing into the deal a bunch of free sanding rolls and a rubber tracking pad and being not careful not to come across as some sort of woodworker stalker, I offered to deliver the sander for free myself on my way home after work. Luke happily accepted and that was that.
On arrival at Luke’s house I instantly regretted my generous offer. It was raining like hell and the pathway up to Luke’s workshop reminded me of the Inca trail to Machu Picchu. Working together we stayed calm and eventually wrestled the machine into place in Luke’s closet sized basement workshop.
Wiping the rain from my brow and looking around the workshop interior, I knew immediately I was in the company of a proper craftsman. Along the walls were neatly hung razor sharp paring chisels. An assortment of scrapers lay on the bench in amongst a dusting of near transparent shaving. To one side was a rack of highly exotic looking timbers, and on the bench lay an American styled steel string acoustic guitar body waiting for the back to be glued into position.
Being the foundations of the brick house above, the workshop itself was essentially a concrete box that made the interior quite cosy and sound proof. Luke demonstrated how he can use the overhead concrete ceiling as a dead-stop and use flexible rods to pin the back of the guitar into place whilst gluing. So, with the stress of commuter traffic and the mess of the rain outside now both a thousand miles away, Luke opened up and told me his story of craftsmanship and guitar making.
Luke Kallquist is a leading Australian Luthier specialising in traditionally inspired acoustic guitars. He works to create instruments that have that "played in" sound and feel of the highly sought-after vintage instruments. Hand tools are used to do the majority of the work and machinery and power tools kept to a minimum. Kallquist Guitars offer a standard line of instruments, based on a variety of classic models and available in a multitude of timbers. The majority of Luke’s work however is Custom order Guitars, Guitars that are made to suit the customer on all levels, sound, feel, and aesthetics. The customer is involved in the whole process from wood selection and design to final set up.
Luke has made instruments for a broad range of musicians including Henry Wagons, front-man for the outlaw country rock band Wagons, and songwriter / performer Simone Felice from Palenville New York. Luke is developing a loyal fan base with his work being collected by musicians everywhere.
Luke also has a quirky sense of humour that shows itself in his line-up of Kallquist Guitar merchandise. His spaghetti western gunslinger t-shirts are a sought-after piece of merch only available when there’s enough money lying around to do a run. My advice is that when they are advertised… don’t hesitate.
Besides making guitars, Luke is a keen groupie and regular attendee at live music venues. I suppose for a Luthier, being a fan of live music and watching how musicians play their instruments is a critical element of R&D. According to Luke, it’s also a great way to make tickets to live music a solid tax deduction.
And finally, some words of wisdom from one of Australia’s best emerging Luthiers. First and foremost, if you want to be a Luthier – make sure you have a supportive partner. Secondly, if you want to be Luthier - make sure your partner is proper wealthy. Thirdly, well - be prepared for a full and creative life.
Luke Kallquist is an exhibiting Luthier at the Wood Dust Timber and Tool marketplace being held at the Bungendore Showgrounds on the 20th - 21st of October. Come along and see Luke’s exquisite guitars, if you ask nicely - he may even let you play one. Also attending are Luthiers Jens Ploesser and Craig Szabadics, along with Australian Tonewoods from Western Australia, come and check out Australian Tonewood’s great range of timbers specifically for instrument makers. Right by our Luthiers Lane is the Wood Dust Live Performance stage featuring local bands The Guitar Cases, The Filthy Darlings and old time fingerpicking bluesman Chris O’Conner. It should be a great weekend.
Learn more about Luke and Kallquist Guitars at www.kallquistguitars.com. Follow Luke on Instagram @kallquistguitars
We look forward to meeting you at Wood Dust.