Making music and guitars

56_guitars_03The owners of Mountainsong Instruments, a new business offering high-quality handcrafted guitars and mandolins, know their custom products are sought after by music enthusiasts like themselves.

Bill Lunstrum and his business partner Larry Cochran work from their homes in the Blue Ridge Mountains region of Virginia and West Virginia. Both are experienced woodworkers and luthiers who began working together in 2000 in Cochran’s custom cabinet and millwork shop. The two shared a love of woodworking and bluegrass music, which inspired them to build a pair of F-5 mandolins followed by two Martin M-style guitars, one in mahogany and one in rosewood.

“I started working in a cabinet shop in 1973 and started playing music in 1975, largely bluegrass at the time. So my love of music and woodworking have sort of paralleled throughout my life with some respites from both of them,” says Lunstrum.

56_guitars_02He built his first mandolin in 1976 and continued building instruments on a part-time basis, working in cabinet and millwork shops until he met Cochran.

“We started playing music together. He plays guitar and I play mandolin. I didn’t have a nice mandolin, so in 2002 we decided to build a few. He eventually approached me with two guitars that had sat unfinished in his shop for a number of years and said he’d give me one if I finished them.”

The two decided to specialize in making custom-made guitars and mandolins.

“We are both very detail-oriented woodworkers and Larry has an extensive knowledge of domestic woods especially, so then we decided to do a couple more and we’re just getting this off the ground.”

56_guitars_01Clients already include musicians and collectors from across the country. Prices of instruments will range between $4,000 and $6,000 and all will be individually made and customized to the player’s needs.

“We just finished and sold is a replica of a 1937 D-28 Martin in Brazilian rosewood. That is sort of the Holy Grail of bluegrass guitars. If you can find an original, it will run you about $140,000.”

Their next step is to focus on problems with woods that are difficult to obtain. They are hoping to find some green alternatives for tonewoods, which mostly come from tropical rainforests.

“The Brazilian rosewood we just used for the Martin replica is pretty restricted. You have to have papers on it where you got the material from and that sort of thing. We have that, but there are limited supplies. So with Larry’s extensive knowledge of domestic hardwoods, we’re trying to come up with some domestic substitutes, especially in the reclaimed woods, because generally, older woods tend to have a better tone if they’re from an old-growth forest.”

For information, visit www.mountainsonginstruments.com.

This article originally appeared in the September 2012 issue.

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