The guitar. It's iconic. Even as children, we're not raised playing "air piano" or "air oboe." It's air guitar. No offense to those other instruments, but the guitar just has a certain coolness that's both unmeasurable and unmatched by any other musical device. It seems only natural that the most beautiful guitars, both visually and audibly, would come from a place equally as rad as the instrument itself.
Guitar making has become synonymous with Central Oregon. And, in Bend, Jayson Bowerman has been building amazing instruments for more than 15 years.
Bowerman got his start as an apprentice under Kim Breedlove, of Breedlove Guitars, and left his mark there—literally. The last guitars Bowerman designed for Breedlove, the Oregon series, feature a "Made in Bend, Oregon" hot stamp on the back of the neck so there is no confusion as to where they were built.
In 2010, Bowerman struck out on his own, and Bowerman Guitars was born. He builds most of his guitars and mandolins for custom orders, but has guitars he has built for shows and festivals. For the last couple of years Bowerman has been working to create a handful of instruments for performing musicians and interested clients to try out.
"It takes me six to eight weeks to build a guitar start to finish, and typically I am ordered out a few months as well, so picking a tune on one of my demo instruments is a good way to get a sense for what sets my guitars apart from factory offerings," Bowerman says.
When it comes to building acoustic guitars, it's all about the tonewoods. It seems for as many species of trees available, there are equally as many options for tonewoods. According to Bowerman, the decisions come from what type of tone the customer wants to elicit from the guitar.
Not only does Bowerman build each guitar, but he does some of his own wood harvesting as well. He's built one instrument from all Oregon-sourced wood, which includes fittings made from mountain mahogany. Mountain mahogany is extremely dense, difficult to find, and hard to cut and cure. Bowerman's father helped him pull a salvage permit to harvest the wood, which made the fittings for that guitar even more special.
"I recently finished an F-5 mandolin and Weissenborn-style guitar from a giant fiddleback maple tree, which fell over on my grandparent's farm about 20 years ago," says Bowerman. "I hope in time to make many more family instruments from that tree, which my grandparents, uncle, cousins and friends helped me harvest."