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On the Make: Morinville’s Letourneau Guitars

“It’s a process that takes considerable time,” says Len Letourneau

Apr 15, 2014

by Allison Myggland

013_guitar_story
Len Letourneau
PHOTGRAPH RYAN GIRARD

Click below to listen to Eric Meier playing a Letourneau Guitar while you read

Len Letourneau, of Letourneau Guitars in Morinville, spends evenings devoted to the guitars on his workbench. These aren’t your big-box starter guitars, though. Instead, each instrument Letourneau crafts is unique, constructed with fine woods and built almost exclusively with hand tools, many of which he built, too.

“It’s a process that takes considerable time,” Letourneau says of his classical guitars, which start at $4,500. “There’s no quick way to do it.”

Letourneau’s guitars feature intricate rosette work and expensive materials. But, he says, the secret design feature is an extended tabletop. “I lengthen the length of the table to the sound hole,” Letourneau says. “I don’t know of anybody [else] who does that.” Letourneau says this improves the guitar’s sound in the treble ranges and adds sustain. As a result, he is confident his classical guitars are as good as any in the world. “At one time when I wanted to own an instrument like [the ones I am producing] it would have cost me $15,000 to buy the equivalent.”

The Push
After three years using Letourneau’s hand tools to build his own instruments, Geza Burghardt, renowned instrument craftsman in Vancouver, encouraged
Letourneau to make guitars.

Beginnings
St. Albert guitar maker Michael Lazar taught Letourneau to make guitars in his basement. “Once I saw the process once, I was off to the races,” Letourneau says.

Marketing
Letourneau’s marketing budget is zero. His sales have been based on ­word-of-mouth and recommendations from past clients.

Production
It takes Letourneau approximately 200 hours to hand-craft each instrument, though he’s now able to build several at once. “I’m not interested in driving the speed of construction up at the sacrifice of quality. So for me, quality first, speed second.”

Click below for another tune where Eric Meier is playing a Letourneau Guitar

Cremona, Alberta’s Will Hamm is also a formidable luthier, with his signature editions going for as much as $12,000. One of his international fans is Brazilian guitarist and composer Yamandu Costa, who will be playing with the Calgary Philarmonic Orchestra on April 25 and 26. Listen to Costa play Hamm guitars here and here, and pick up tickets at cpo-live.com.

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