B.C. guitar maker uses local wood to build custom guitars

·2 min read
Vigilant Guitars founder Trevor Woodland holds one of his custom-made guitars. (Rohit Joseph/CBC - image credit)
Vigilant Guitars founder Trevor Woodland holds one of his custom-made guitars. (Rohit Joseph/CBC - image credit)

Trevor Woodland had a practical reason for taking up the bass guitar as a middle school student on Vancouver Island.

"Basically, they needed someone to play bass guitar, and I was the only one big enough to reach the first few frets, because it's a large instrument," he said.

Inevitably, something on the bass would break.

Growing up in the small hamlet of Black Creek, B.C., he didn't want to have his mom drive him to the nearby towns of Courtenay and Campbell River to get it fixed, so he took matters into his own hands.

"You generally make it worse the first attempt," he said of his early efforts at repair. "But you fix that problem and you try it again. You fix the subsequent problems that kind of come up and you basically get really intimate with your instrument and you start figuring it out."

Years of tinkering have led Woodland to open Victoria's Vigilant Guitars, which specializes in building custom-made guitars using ethically-sourced materials. Where possible, he tries to use local materials.

"We've got a lot of those woods that aren't traditionally used in guitars but can be heavily featured, so just even using some of the surrounding environment in that sense can just set you apart," he said.

Rohit Joseph/CBC
Rohit Joseph/CBC

Woodland is also a co-organizer of the Victoria Guitar Show, a free event taking place Saturday at the Victoria Conference Centre from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. PT.

He says he looks forward to meeting up with fellow luthiers to talk shop, a welcome respite from what can be a solitary vocation.

"I'm sitting in this room some days and you don't really look outside too much because you got your head down on the bench," he said.

Rohit Joseph/CBC
Rohit Joseph/CBC

Woodland says he considers himself a craftsman focused on the science and engineering of guitar-making, but he can't help but occasionally wax poetic about the instrument's enduring appeal.

"Sometimes it's an artifact of all the stories that have been played through it, every song, every bar that it's been played in, every stage that it's been strummed on," he said. "It has those stories imbued with it and that sometimes just makes for a much cooler instrument."

Woodland says his guitars are built to last and he hopes they'll be handed down from one generation to the next.

"It's pretty neat to think that some of the guitars I'm making right now, or maybe in the next couple of years, they'll have a good life but they might become an integral part of someone's life that I'll never meet because they're 100 years in the future."

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