WHY would a luthier (guitar builder) suddenly stop taking any more orders? Selling the business? Taking a sabbatical? Passing the tools down to someone else? Nope.
Kim Walker of Walker Guitars is just too behind, seven to eight years to be exact, to realistically take any more deposits for his waiting list of hand made guitars. Priced in the $20,000s, Kim’s guitars have appreciated over the years, selling well more than the retail price. And they are in high demand.
With a choice of four styles and six sizes along with option choices such as custom inlay, headstock shape, and exotic woods, each guitar is a precious piece of art.
Now that Kim’s list is closed, of course applying the law of supply and demand along with the impeccable craftsmanship and beauty of the guitars, they will be even more valuable as the years go by. Kim even stated, “I am in the fortunate position that my customers can purchase a guitar, as expensive as they are, and if they don’t bond with it they can sell it and most often break even or better.” A good investment indeed!
Kim started his love of music and guitars as a teen in the late ‘60s listening to all of the guitar heroes, but the tone that touched his soul “was what Stephen Stills called wooden music. After hearing Doc Watson play, my life was changed.” This love of acoustic instruments morphed into a long career of 40 plus years, that Kim continues on his own. He started as a banjo and dulcimer maker! Kim has no “grasshopper” to teach his tools of the trade, so once he stops making these wooden pieces of beauty, that is that! Such as the many luthier’s around the world whose guitars are in demand, once he stops, he stops. (But not yet!) While working at Guild, he worked with Eric Clapton and Brian May on their artist models, and was able to work with musicians like Hank Williams, Sr., Merle Travis and Gene Autry through the Country Music Foundation and Gruhn Guitars. He even has one of his arch-top guitars displayed at the Smithsonian Institution as part of the Blue Guitars of the Chinery Collection. This is an honor and something to definitely brag about, although Kim does anything but brag!
His customers, though, tend to be professionals, as he says, “ Of course …. Doctors, lawyers, and businessmen!” He does sell to collectors but not many of his customers are working professional musicians.
When I asked him how many guitars does he make in a year, average, he said, “Because I am an individual maker, not a company, the number of guitars that I make per year varies. Though it would be more productive for me to make a standard model and do a “production run,” that is not my approach. I’m afraid I approach guitar making more like an artist would. So, each is an individual and most are collaborative efforts with my customer, though, I to guide them through the framework of my style of guitar making.”
He spoke about making “project guitars” which lately he has been calling his “master models” which are just guitars he wants to build or that try out an idea that he might like to incorporate into future guitars. “I’m still having fun building guitars and get my best “flow state” while in the shop.”
He hopes to be making guitars for some time into the future. (We do, too!)
All photos courtesy of Kim Walker at Walker Guitars