Butch Boswell had been repairing guitars for more than 15 years before he built his first acoustic guitar. Since he had spent so many years taking them apart and putting them back together, Boswell knew exactly the kinds of guitars he wanted to make. He started with old growth wood and hot hide glue, crafting the instruments in small batches of just two or three guitars at a time.
After opening a retail space in Sisters recently, Boswell decided Bend would be a much better fit for Boswell guitars, and he plans to open his new space on Franklin Avenue on July 5. We chatted with Boswell to find out his history with guitars, his love of the instrument and more.
Source Weekly: How did you get started with the refurbishing and rebuilding of guitars?
Butch Boswell: I got started in guitar repair while I was going to school for Engineering at Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo (California). I needed a job, and I was already a guitar enthusiast, so I asked if I could help around the small, but popular local shop, Blue Note Music. Since then, I have run multiple full-service shops, worked at Taylor Guitars in Southern California, managed and run the repair shop for Rudy's Music Stop in New York City, and ran my own shop in California successfully for the past 10 years. That leads me to where I am now.
SW: Did repairing guitars naturally lead to the creation of them?
BB: Guitar repair does sometimes lead one to guitar building, but often times the two don't really coincide. I know plenty of guitar repair people that don't build, and on the flip side of the coin, more than a few guitar builders that don't (and shouldn't) repair. After years of doing both, I am completely convinced that being a good builder does not mean you're good at repair. On the other hand, if you are well-versed in repair, building should come pretty naturally.
SW: What inspired moving the business from Sisters to Bend?
BB: Bend was always where I wanted to have the shop. We live in Bend, our kids go to school in Bend, and we shop in Bend. Sisters is a great place, but not for starting a new business as specialized as mine. If I had been in Bend for the last 15 years then moved to Sisters, I would probably have customers driving out to get their guitars worked on. However, as the new guy in town, and essentially starting from scratch, Bend is a much more logical fit.
SW: What do you hope your guitars achieve for the musicians that buy them?
BB: The guitars that I build are a true labor of love. So much of myself goes into each one of them. They need to be light and delicate, yet strong and resilient. They have to walk that line between being a truly fine instrument built to last a lifetime and beyond, and self-destruction. Built too heavy, too strong, and it won't sound good. Built too light, and the guitar will pull itself apart over time. My guitars have to inspire. They have to elevate musicians to new levels. I am able to strive for all of this because I don't build hundreds of guitars a year. I build upwards of a dozen in a year. I don't have a standard model. Each one is custom made for a particular person with particular needs and goals.
15 NW Franklin Ave., Unit B, Bend