BELL BUCKLE — Millions of people have been affected by the nation’s worst economic downturn since the Great Depression.
Eric Waldron glues together the sides of a guitar body. TMP/E. Edgemon
Homebuilders Kevin, Eric and Jon Waldron and cabinet installer David Miller are no different. As the housing market in Middle Tennessee slowed so did their business.
But instead of packing up their tools and waiting for the economy to improve, they decided it was their chance to follow their passion.
Kevin, his two sons and son-in-law have turned their love of playing music into a family business. Together they are handcrafting guitars, violins and mandolins.
“Building a box that plays music beats building a box to put dishes in,” Jon said.
Crafting guitars was just a natural progression of the woodworking he was already doing, Kevin said. For about 40 years he has made reproduction furniture as a hobby.
Jon said one day his dad just suggested they all get together and make a guitar.
“We all jumped in, then thought maybe we could sell them,” he said.
Kevin said he thought there was a market for another small guitar company that can make high-quality, custom guitars.
Eric and Jon grew up helping their father in his workshop. Over the years they developed their father’s love for woodworking.
From a young age Jon said he can remember helping his dad cut wood. They have even used pieces of wood, which they have saved for years, from trees on their family farm to make some guitars.
For only the last nine months, they have spent five days a week in their father’s large workshop carefully cutting and piecing the instruments together under the Waldron name.
Their father is the mastermind, of sorts, behind the guitars. He spends most of his time on his computer doing research and designing guitar bodies.
Miller spends his time handcrafting violins and mandolins.
He began playing the instruments about 15 years ago. But about two years ago Miller realized he could challenge himself and combine his love of woodworking and music by making his own instruments.
Then he was able to play his accomplishment.
“It takes roughly 80 hours to complete an instrument,” Miller said. Most of that time is dedicated to hand carving the body of the instrument.
Kevin admitted that he learned how to make guitars by watching a video. The rest was trial and error.
“The woodworking part comes natural but some of the specialty work — there was a learning curve,” Eric said.
They continue to evaluate their creations and make improvements.
But Waldron guitars speak for themselves, Kevin said.
Because of the high quality of Waldron guitars, Eric said he plans to sell his expensive Taylor guitar that he saved up to buy while in college.
“There is a lot more pride playing something with your name on it,” he said.
The Waldrons and Miller take a lot of pride and care in the instruments they make from scratch, many from Tennessee woods like black walnut.
It takes up to 70 hours or seven days to complete a single guitar. The Waldrons make up to 20 different designs of guitars.
“We think we can produce 150-200 guitars a year and 30-40 violins a year,” Kevin said. “That is a good living. We are happy with that.”
Waldron Instruments are currently for sale at www.waldroninstruments.com. Guitars have only been for sale for about three months.
“We are not selling like we want,” Kevin said, “but we are selling.”
Eric and Jon Waldron said guitar making is a way for them to create a family legacy, something that will last through generations.
“I am probably not going to get rich from it,” Jon said of guitar making, “but the pieces I am building are going to be a legacy.”
They also enjoy the time working together.
“Working with the family is a blessing,” Eric said. “We all have the best interest of where the company is going.”
“I don’t know what the future holds in us building guitars, but I think it is something we will stick with,” he added.
Erin Edgemon can be reached at email@example.com