There are two loves in acoustic luthier Matt McPherson’s life, the first is guitars and the second is archery. This love comes from a fascination with wood that dates back to his childhood, and has led to some very forward thinking designs in both categories.
From the makings of a guitar, he has learned how to incorporate light woods into his recurve bow and arrow making, while bow tension turned into innovative designs in flattop acoustics. This includes a cantilevered neck and offset sound holes that help facilitate a lengthened soundboard. Then there is his famous overpass-underpass bracing, which improve sustain by minimizing vibration absorption points. All of that hard work and creating has led to the formation of a small shop in Sparta Wisconsin where no more than 200 boutique grade acoustics are fabricated every year.
The Lay of the Guitar Land
When you step inside of McPherson’s shop, you can’t help but be taken in by the masterful craftsmanship of every guitar on display. It takes two luthiers countless hours to oversee the construction of an acoustics body from start to finish. There is a custom machined solid aluminum side bender in the shop that helps with maintaining the consistency of each guitar. Then there are the carbon-fiber neck inserts that don’t bow to the weather, and eliminate the need for a truss rod.
Further behind the scenes takes you to the multi-step process that leads to the final setup for each of the acoustics made here. The tuning systems saddles and nuts are hand carved before filling and dressing the frets. There is true guitar beauty here in the Spokane shop, with custom guitars lining the walls. One is inlaid with an amazing image from Picasso, while you find others with nautical themes and special events in American history.
It takes a special understanding of the physics of wood to create such a unique collection of acoustic guitars. This understanding extends to the recurve bow and arrows for beginners, which also rely on wood strength and flexibility to achieve their goal. The two passions complement each other perfect, and McPherson admits to using recurve bow physics to improve upon his guitar designs.
Almost too pretty to play, an original guitar from McPherson’s shop is a rare treat to find for sale. These exquisitely constructed instruments are almost instant collector items, with guitar lovers from around the world vying to own one. While you may never get to play one of these rare beauties on stage, you should not pass up the chance at a shop tour if you ever find yourself in Spokane Washington.