Hello, my name is Tom Bills, I’ve been hand crafting guitars professionally since 1998 for players and collectors worldwide. Hand crafting guitars is something very special to me, something I greatly treasure, and that deeply influences every aspect of my life. I don’t see it as a business or a career to pursue, to me it is the art and the song of my life, one of the reasons I’m here on this earth now at this time and in this place.
As I have grown in my skills and understanding over the years, an interesting and unexpected thing happened to me in the way I perceived and thought about the craft of hand making guitars, what it is really all about, and why it is important to understand it, and preserve it.
In The Beginning
It all started when I was in college earning my degree in Jazz guitar; like many students I didn’t have a lot of cash laying around to spend on guitars, though I needed something decent to play. Since I came from generations of woodworkers, craftsmen, and inventors, and grew up on construction sites and in workshops, it wasn’t much of a stretch for me to think that I could just make myself a guitar. So that’s what I did. At the time I had no intention of becoming a guitar maker, but soon after graduation, and some of life’s unexpected twists and turns, it became clear that creating unique hand made guitars was what I was made for.
In the beginning I was young and full of fire and even a little rebellion too. I wanted to make my mark and change the world. Don’t get me wrong, I’m every bit as passionate about the art of lutherie as I was then and even more so, it is just a little more controlled these days, yet probably burns hotter and runs deeper now.
I didn’t really pay much attention to the history of the craft in those days, I was part of the Golden Age of lutherie, or at least I thought I was. I had more of the “if it feels right do it” approach, and combined with a lot of naiveté, it served me well in that phase of my development.
The Value Of Tradition
Through the years however, I began to understand more about art, and about the humanity of it, the generations of men who developed it, the basis of thinking that holds it up, and the framework of tradition that makes up the backdrop for the way we as a culture define what a guitar is.
Much of this traditional craft has been question and tried, but through it all, there is something solid in the background, something of greater value than the surface fluctuations and fads. I have come to call this solid foundation, The Art of Lutherie.
The guitars I make now at first glance may not seem too traditional, but I have learned to incorporate the tradition into their core and into their soul. The traditional hand crafting techniques and approaches are a treasured part of my lifestyle and my work. I have found that only by understanding the past on a deeper, intuitive, and experiential level, can we find and fulfill our part in advancing this craft into the future.
I can’t say I have it all figured out, but my hope is that I can use this blog to share my experiences as I continue to explore the art of lutherie, both introspectively, by sharing my thoughts and experiences in my own work, and also as I seek out and visit many of the great men and women building guitars today and try to understand what the art of lutherie is to them.I’ll be taking you with me on these adventures through my writings, photos, videos, and more.
I will also include technical “how to” information here on this site, but my goal is through it all, the underlying importance of this craft we share, remains in focus. I’m really excited about this blog and I am thrilled to be taking you, my readers along with me on this journey to further explore, The Art of Lutherie!
You can see my work by visiting my website here: tbguitars.com