IMG_0603.JPG

Story

 
 

LHT Guitars is:

IMG_3217.JPG

Tyler Wells
LHT (long hair Tyler)

 

 Some Pre-lutherie work

Click thumbnails for gallery

The pursuit of happiness

I wake up every morning and look forward to going to work.  Not necessarily getting out of bed, because that is amazing, but I love what I do.  Not everyone finds what they are meant to do with their life.  We try on different hats until we find the one that fits the best and some of us will be searching for the perfect fit forever.

I am fortunate to have found the thing that I feel like I was meant to do.  I currently work for master guitar builder Tom Ribbecke.  I spend my days working on his world class instruments and my free hours creating my own.  

Lutherie was not something that I was even aware of as a career until later in my life.  I entered the building trades at a young age as a laborer doing landscape construction.  Lots of irrigation ditches and retaining walls.  As I was running a shovel on a recently completed tract home, I looked over to the lot next door, where the framing crew was putting up the skeleton of the next house.  I thought that looked like a lot more fun.  I continued to work full time in landscape construction while attending community college to complete my high school education and get my college general ed classes out of the way simultaneously.  By age 19 I had completed an A.S. in Construction Technology.

After earning the piece of paper that everyone told me I needed to get, I found a job with a local general contractor where I worked for a number of years doing ground up residential construction. Everything from concrete to finish carpentry.  This was a physical job and my ability to survive depended on my not getting hurt.  I decided to give up my teenage passion of skateboarding and fill that void with guitar.  I had taken lessons as a kid but never really found the motivation to practice.  Closer to adulthood, my interest in guitar bordered on obsession.  My younger brother noticed this and pointed out to me "If you are going to take this guitar thing seriously, you know you are going to have to grow your hair out."   So it began.   I practiced 2-4 hours a night after work and 8-12 hours a day on weekends.  I was determined to shred.

I eventually found some people in my area with compatible personalities and musical interests.  We became NeuTrad Archon,  playing local shows when we could and doing weekend gigs within driving distance.  I very much wanted to be able to do nothing but play music for a living.  However, Extreme Metal was not a very wise choice of genre for that and my career choice was not helping keep my hands healthy for shredding.

I first really became aware that people built guitars for a living when my band had the opportunity to tour the country. One of the guitar players in the other band we were touring with had ordered a custom guitar from a luthier on the other side of the country somewhere and he delivered it at one of our shows.  When I looked at it I suddenly realized that I had been unknowingly building the skillset necessary to pursue such a thing.  I had already been working on my own instruments doing basic setups and repairs.  I also possessed the attention to detail and hand skills necessary for what I consider to be close to the highest level of woodworking.  The seed was planted.

After tour I went back to work, where at this point, I had been a licenced general contractor for several years, but worked mainly for other contractors as a finish carpentry subcontractor.  I had developed a reputation for efficient, clean work with an attention to detail and the more established contractors were able to land a lot more prestigious jobs.  I learned a lot during this period, worked with a lot of really amazing craftsmen, and got to be a part of some amazing projects.  These projects don't always come around though, and there is another, less glamorous side to construction that began to wear on me.  

I decided to put everything I own in storage, tell the band I was leaving, and begin my path to combining the two things I loved:  Building and guitars.  I threw a foam mat in the back of my truck and started my drive from California to Michigan to attend the Galloup School of guitar building.  It was during that intensive six month program I got the nickname LHT (long hair Tyler).  Since the first day of school there, I have spent most of my waking moments thinking about building guitars.

 Nearing the end of the Masters program at Galloup, I learned that Tom Ribbecke had an opening in his shop located back in California.  I immediately contacted him and stayed in touch during my drive home to arrange an in person interview.  Using the arch top guitar I completed at Galloup as a resume, I got the position as an apprentice.

Tom has been supportive of my pursuit to create my own instruments.  He has also been very gracious about letting me use his shop to build them and has granted me the opportunity to display them alongside his at the various guitar shows we attend.  There is a ton of information available in books and on the internet on how to build guitars, but it is invaluable being in the shop on a daily basis with someone who has dedicated their life to it for forty years.  Without the Tom Ribbeckes of the lutherie world, the LHTs don't exist.

 

 
 
IMG_0345.jpeg