A Visit to Guitar Builder Wayne Henderson

Every year, on the third Saturday in June, acclaimed guitar builder and picker Wayne Henderson throws a music festival. Held at the amphitheater in Grayson Highlands State Park (not far from Henderson’s home in Rugby, VA), the low-key festival attracts music and guitar fans from all over the country. Attendees hear great music, jam with each other, and–all the while–help support traditional music in the region (a portion of all proceeds goes to scholarships for young musicians in the area). We take a peek at the 2010 Wayne Henderson Festival and also visit the luthier’s shop. On the day we caught up with him, he wasn’t building one of his famed guitars or mandolins but an archtop ukulele.

The workshop minus the crowds. Some of the world’s most coveted acoustic instruments come from this humble workshop.

As difficult as it is to procure a Wayne Henderson guitar, it’s even harder to get a guitar from John Arnold. Here’s Arnold himself trying a vintage Martin.

A party for volunteers and musicians after the Henderson Festival gathers at the luthier’s workshop and stretches until the next morning. Music abounds.

Correspondence and paperwork from clients of the past, present and future.

Henderson at work. Yes, that’s a can of Wolf Brand Chili on his workbench.

Near the back of the festival, the true guitar geeks congregate. Case after case of Henderson and John Arnold guitars, plus vintage Martins.

Henderson’s desk is not indicative of the clean work found inside his guitar bodies. Tools, tape and you-name-it are scattered everywhere.

On the day we visited Henderson, he was building an archtop ukulele for one of his friends. Henderson uses a tool that his brother Max fabricated to carve out the bulk of the top.

Using a flexible sanding blade, he smooths the inside of this archtop uke’s top. Don’t try this at home, kids!

Almost done. Though he’s already building archtop ukuleles, Henderson confessed that he has yet to build an archtop guitar.

A box of cow bones will become the next few years worth of guitar nuts and saddles.

Henderson #506, being constructed. It boasts some amazing rosewood.

Henderson’s F-style mandolins are as desirable as his guitars. Here’s an almost-completed mandolin strung up. It still lacks a finish.

Henderson has kept his 400th guitar, an OM style that showcases his fine inlay work. Hard to believe but Henderson is now working on #500, which we’re guessinig will even top this guitar in terms of bling.

Another look at Henderson #400.