Woodley White, USA
After building classical guitars in Portland, Oregon, for fifteen years among some of the world's best luthiers, my wife and I decided to move to tropical paradise and construct a home and new workshop. We live at the southernmost tip of the United States, near the southernmost point of the Big Island of Hawaii. I've hiked over the rough terrain of the volcano in the evening and witnessed Mother Earth giving birth to herself. Bright orange hot lava sizzles, shoots, and steams as it pours into the crystal water like strangely frenetic tropical fire fish. At night time the plume glows red all the way into the starry sky.

It is an amazing place to live; to participate in the awe and wonder of it all. There is a majesty and stillness to life here. I wake to the sounds of birdsong and ocean waves as they crash upon the steep shoreline. Four or five cars might pass our house in a single day. Our home is peaceful and the workshop has hardwood floors and lots of natural light. Living in this tropical environment I have taken extra precaution to control the relative humidity in my workspace. Out my window are palm trees, bananas, papaya, other fruit trees, and flowers.

I want to describe this whole thing as magic. It is magic to live where I live, to love those whom I love, and to work with wood and even produce instruments in the tradition of great guitar makers like Antonio Torres and Hermann Hauser and Jeff Elliott and many other artists It is simply a gift and I am touched by the miracle and magic of it all.

I think life is a spiritual and intellectual pursuit, at least it has been for me, and making guitars fits into that quest as it helps me to stay in touch with what's really important. This I think is salvation: to seek health, wholeness, love, and beauty. I have worked as a luthier since 1992 and I have also had careers as a furniture maker, carpenter, and a Presbyterian minister. I have always held a desire to pursue intellectual and spiritual things but also artistic expression as an inseparable part of my spiritual journey.

In school I majored in physics and mathematics but also had a strong love of woodworking. So I quit college in order pursue life as a cabinetmaker and carpenter. In fact, I traded my first car for a table saw in order to build a black walnut hope chest for my girlfriend. I fell in love with the smell and the texture of the wood and the process of designing and gluing things together.

Eventually I completed my undergraduate degree and then a Masters of Divinity at San Francisco Seminary and I was ordained a Presbyterian minister in 1986. In order to pay for this education, I ran a cabinet and furniture business, worked as a carpenter and as director of the building services for my seminary, framed, built, and remodeled houses.

In 1992 I came across Guitarmaking: Tradition and Technology by Cumpiano and Natelson at a woodworking show. I read it just to understand the construction of the guitar but was intrigued, so I read it a second time. My wife and her mother purchased some rosewood and a cedar top from Luthier's Mercantile and gave it to me for my birthday. Nine months later I was playing a guitar that I had built myself.

I was fortunate during the construction of that first instrument to meet Cyndy Burton and Jeff Elliott. They gave me a few tips but after it was built, Jeff offered to evaluate the instrument and Cyndy offered to teach me how to French Polish. I can't say enough about their friendship and their mentoring through the years. They are some of my dearest friends. Some years back I was invited to examine and play three famous guitars: one by Torres, built for Tarrega, and two built by Hermann Hauser. I was moved by the beauty of these instruments and inspired to pursue a new calling.

I have gathered wood from all over the world and allowed it to season. Like the evolution in terrain on the volcano, the wood develops an improved character over time. Wood that once sounded like cardboard can ring with a bell-like tap-tone and sing with indescribable beauty in the finished instrument. I've journeyed to the Italian Alps to buy from woodcutters who have provided wood to violinmakers in Cremona for centuries. I have learned that the materials, the design, the craftsmanship, the French polish, all play crucial roles in creating world-class instruments.

My concert guitar is based on the Hauser plan with traditional or open bracing. I'm in love with this sound. I have built a large number of African Blackwood instruments as well as other rosewoods, koa, maple, and mahogany. I try to build light, responsive guitars.
Woodley White