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Built from scratch: Mile End Guitars

Posted by Margot / June 25, 2009

20090625-guitartools.jpgWhat do you get when you put three guys, an empty loft space in Mile End, and some guitar-making tools together? No, not a sub-par mid-90s sitcom (though CTV might buy that - all rights reserved). You get Mile End Guitars, a hand-made guitar shop in a loft in Mile End, where you'll find Jeremy Clark, Mike Kennedy, and Dave Madokoro hard at work, fine-tuning the finishing touches on their latest projects.

Formerly some dubious type of textile shop, Mile End Guitars got its start in November 2008, and has been the site of guitar crafting and music making ever since. Jeremy and Mike had met while they were both doing apprenticeships with Sergei de Jonge, one of the few fine classical guitar makers in Canada, in Chelsea, Quebec. Spending over a year under the guidance of de Jonge, the two learned the tricks of the trade, so to speak, and now are fully engaged in said trade. Jeremy sells classical guitars under his company label, 52 Instruments, and Mike under his own Indian Hill Guitar Company.

20090625-hangingguitars.jpgThe studio/workshop space has that distinct beautiful-and-highly-acoustic-crafts-are-being-made-here smell, and is split up into two spaces; one larger space with workbenches and walls of tools for most of the handiwork, and a smaller, enclosed room with some power machines for the dust-producing work (honest, I passed grade 6 Design and Technology. I think one of the things is called a lathe). Big windows let in the afternoon sun, and the guys claim that they're there more often than not. And their dedication shows (sidenote - all three there/they're/theirs in one line. Shazaam!): the guitars produced at Mile End Guitars are beautiful, quality instruments. They use woods from around the world (Africa, Asia, and our very own backyard!), and their close relationship with de Jonge keeps them in speciality woods from time to time.

20090625-guitarvice.jpgThat's not it, though. These guys don't just build guitars; they participate in the accompanying musical community, too. I was first introduced to the shop at the end of April when Canadian folk musical legend Ken Whiteley was kicking around town and wanted to play a show. The guys at Mile End Guitars invited him into their warm and homey space on a Saturday night, and he played a few magical sets to the thirty odd people that showed up, collaborating with local musician Mike O'Brien and others, as well as getting the audience to sing and play along (it's official: I'm the most inept egg-shaker percussionist ever.)

This concert was one of many: they host hecto-monthly concerts at the space (the starring instrument is normally a guitar). With the upcoming Montreal Guitar Show, running July 3-5 at the Palais des congrès, they'll be hosting a gathering at the place for guitar-makers and enthusiasts alike. Check out their blog, While the glue dries, for more details.

20090625-workbench.jpgSure, these aren't the kind of guitars that you're going to pick up at Archambault for a hundred bucks. But the quality you get with these guitars far outweighs any savings you'll have with a Yamaha in hand. There are some guitar-making tools you won't even find at Mile End Guitars; these guys recognize the value in developing the skill it takes to do some of the finer work by hand. Just up the street from Jeans, Jeans, Jeans (more about denim heaven later) at 5555 de Gaspé, corner St-Viateur, Mile End Guitars is an unassuming but fully equipped guitar-making studio, and then some.

Discussion

8 Comments

Sarah / June 25, 2009 at 12:43 pm
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Cool story! :)
scutt / June 28, 2009 at 03:24 pm
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cool piece. i didn't know anything about these guys and i used to work in the same building.
John Vijayaraj / December 20, 2013 at 09:56 am
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He I want to buy guitar making tools, and i dont know required name of the tools list and how to find the best tools and where to buy, friends i am from India, and i found this page from Googl. i want to make my own guitar for very very long time, and is any one there to help me

john
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