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Arts & Culture

Meet Butch Boswell, Bend’s Guitar Repair Tech Turned Craftsman

When it comes to skill, style and creating a niche in a genre, individuality is key for musicians.

Each artist, playing type, and creative ability resonates differently. And Butch Boswell has the ability to capture that individuality, creating one-of-a-kind masterpieces of instrumentation.

The Boswell Guitar workspace is tucked into a small shop near downtown Bend. The space reflects Boswell’s style of simplicity combined with historically rooted-techniques, and is vacant of tech and glamour you might find with the industry’s larger manufacturers. This is exactly how Boswell has intended it. “I build my guitars by hand, in small batches of two to three guitars at a time. I only use the finest materials I can find, and my search for those materials never stops. I take every possible unknown into consideration, and if it has the potential to make the guitar sound better, I’m going to use it,” Boswell said.

Boswell has been able to master his craft over the years, while sustaining his passion for the work. But working as a luthier, or guitar-maker, was not always his dream. In fact, Boswell recalls getting into guitars “almost accidentally.” When he first graduated high school, he immediately started his college career at Cal Poly University to pursue his then-passion of architectural engineering. But after college, he spent fifteen years repairing instruments with some of the nation’s best repair groups including Taylor Guitars and Rudy’s Music Soho, eventually turning from repair to building his first acoustic guitar. Boswell’s customers wanted a repairman who could also build guitars, so he got to work with his first design, and hasn’t looked back since. In 2015, he decided to move his operation to Bend, and local musicians have been benefitting ever since.

For Boswell, the guitar-build process starts with finding the best wood. “I am absolutely a wood junkie. I’m always thinking about wood, always looking for wood, always talking about wood,” Boswell said. “Old growth material is hands-down the best, and what I try to use exclusively, but it is getting harder and harder to come by.” Older woods like Brazilian Rosewood and Adirondack Spruce lend themselves well to Boswell’s work due to their stability, strength, lack of absorption-capacity, and in many cases, their beauty. After all of the measuring, cutting, sanding, staining and crafting of an instrument, his lofty goal of creating the, “absolute best guitar there is,” is finished with finite attention to the details that substantiate a true Boswell guitar.

Though he loves his current solo-act as guitar repairman and builder, Boswell has his sights set on future goals. Eventually, he wants to open a high-end repair and consignment shop, and grow a team of people to help accommodate the demand for his work. Often, he finds himself wanting to take on more work for his customers than time will allow, and having a trained team to expand his creative reach would bring value to his customer’s needs.

Boswell’s customers deliver many glowing reviews. “Butch is the epitome of a master luthier,” wrote Bend resident John Luce, in a Facebook review. “His guitars consistently possess that magic that only occasionally exists in other high-end instruments. His tireless attention to build quality, aesthetics, and most importantly the tonal properties of virtually every piece of wood result in what can only be described as the finest new flat top guitars attainable.”

A custom creation can inspire a musician to take their music further, according to Boswell. “Why would any two Boswell guitars be the same when every player is different?,” he said. “As a hand builder, that’s the luxury I have: to be able to craft each instrument specifically for each player. I want to provide a guitar that will inspire even the most discerning players, compliment their playing, and accompany them into new musical territory.”

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