Nestled in the Cabinet Mountains of Northwest Montana, Bent Twig Guitars is a small two-man lutherie shop from which Dave Boulware and Brady Turk build custom acoustic guitars. For this Bench Press column they told us about the joy they take in handcrafting their guitars, and shared a bit about what they are working on.
Fretboard Journal: What’s on your bench right now?
Bent Twig: We build two guitars at a time and just finished up a small jumbo indian rosewood/torrefied bear claw sitka and a mini dreadnought Claro walnut/torrefied adirondack. We’ve built some parlor guitars, but the mini dread is a first for us, so we’re particularly excited about it! It’s a great little guitar!
FJ: Could you elaborate a bit on the details of the mini dreadnought?
BT: The mini dread is approx. 7/8 scale of a standard dread. The length is 18.25″, lower bout width is 14 1/4″, upper bout width is 10 1/2″, lower bout depth is 4 3/8″, and upper bout depth is 3 5/8″ with a neck join at the 14th fret.
FJ: Could you talk a bit about how your designs stray from classic Gibson/Martin designs?
BT: Our bracing is modified scalloped x bracing that has been influenced by teachers such as Charles Fox and Kent Everett. So, we’ve used a mixture of our own and several other builders’ theories and designs to come up with our own personalized bracing.
FJ: Can you tell us a little about how you got started?
BT: I never dreamt I would be building guitars, but it’s interesting how life events steer us in directions we never dreamt of. When I shut down my custom home business 2 1/2 years ago, a friend of mine asked if I wanted to build guitars with him. Since I’ve had a love of woodworking all of my life, I agreed to work with him and instantly fell in love with it. I couldn’t get enough of it, and took some advanced guitar building classes and devoured everything pertaining to guitar building that I could get my hands on. My friend’s health wouldn’t allow him to continue on, so six months after starting with him, I had to decide if I wanted to continue on. I talked things over with Brady, who had previously worked in home construction with me and who is a talented artist, and invited him to join me in starting up Bent Twig Guitars. Brady quickly developed the same passion as I did, and is an extremely talented luthier. We challenge each other as luthiers and artists everyday, and we love every minute of it!
FJ: Can you tell us a little about your shop?
BT: Being from Montana, we love anything that is simple, clean, and natural. Our lives are a much slower pace here (we have three stoplights in Libby), and that is reflected in how we build. We will never be into mass production, just two at a time, because we want to totally pour ourselves into each guitar. The Bent Twig shop is just a little shop behind my house, which to us is very fitting for who we are and who we always want to be. Nothing about our lifestyle is glitzy, flashy, or shiny, and that is carried into our guitars. We try to bring natural, earthy elements into our instruments. For instance, we use pine cones, moose antlers, and copper in ways we’ve never seen used on guitars. And instead of high gloss finishes, we’ve developed a great satin finish that compliments our guitars very well. We love the look, feel, and sound of our guitars, and players and collectors are falling in love as well. One follower recently called our guitars playable art, which pretty much sums up what we’re all about.
FJ: Do you have a particular philosophy about wood/materials?
BT: As far as materials and sound goes, we are not striving to make all of our guitars look and/or sound the same. We feel that if we have no boundaries with materials we use, it allows us to have a variety of looks and sounds in our instruments that compare to none other. As varied as nature is, so are trees, and so are the sounds that come from different species of trees, and we love that! Of course we have our favorites woods like sitka and adirondack spruce and sinker redwood for tops, and we love the rosewoods and walnut for backs and sides, but all woods have their unique characteristics for looks and tonal qualities, so we like working with them all! We are definitely not after guitars that look and sound the same, but we want them to look and sound like Bent Twig Guitars, if that makes sense!
FJ: Do you have a favorite guitar that has crossed your bench?
BT: It’s really funny, every guitar we work on becomes our new favorite (we’re very fickle), and every future guitar is exciting because we know it will become our new favorite! Just last week, we sent a Brazilian rosewood/adirondack spruce dreadnought to David Crowder, and I must say, that may have been my all time favorite, although, the new mini-dread is pretty cool, but also, the torrefied bear claw top on the small jumbo is pretty amazing, too….. we’re fickle!!!