ECGS Article Archives
Luthier Course in Tugaske Saskatchewan, with David Freeman of Timeless Instruments
by Ken Klatt

Several years ago I read an article in the U.K. magazine "Classical Guitar" about a book entitled "Making Classical Guitars by Roy Courtnall". The article told of guitarists who had built high end guitars using the plans and instructions from this book; guitars of higher quality then they could have afforded had they bought a comparable hand made instrument. This book is available from the "Bold Strummer" and costs $124.95 American. The 330 page book is beautifully done and has articles on guitar making and design by famous luthiers such as Jose Rominillos, Torres, Santos Hernandez, Herman Hauser, The Fleta Brothers, Robert Bouchet, & Daniel Frederich. Full size working plans, for the guitars featured in this book are also available from the author Roy Courtnall.

I thought there would be great satisfaction in learning the art of making a guitar and since I am retired it held a lot of promise as a rewarding hobby. I decided to enroll in a luthier course if I could find one at a reasonable price, preferably in Canada.

Subsequently on vacation down the American west coast in 1999 I contacted Cindy Burton, who is affiliated with the "American Luthiers Guild", to get information on courses. Cindy shares a shop with the well-known luthier Jeffery Elliotte in Portland Oregon. Cindy mentioned the name 'Timeless Instruments' located in Saskatchewan.

The Luthiers name is David Freeman and his web site is:
http://www3.sk.sympatico.ca/timeless/links.html

His address is:
Timeless Instruments, Box 51, Tugaske, Saskatchewan SOH 4BO

On Sept. 2/2000 I packed my clothes and everything I thought I would need for the next 50 days and left for Tugaske Saskatchewan. Paved road symbols on Saskatchewan road maps donšt always represent what is actually there; you may encounter gravel or even mud. Saskatchewan highways leave a lot to be desired; nevertheless I finally completed the 850 km trip from Leduc to Tugaske.

Tugaske is a Hamlet of about 200 people located 45 minutes northwest of Moose Jaw. The people there are very friendly and many of the people donšt even lock their doors. It reminds me of a time when I was young growing up on the farm; we didnšt lock our doors either; it was like going back to a kinder, gentler time. Tugaske has a lot of old houses and some of the houses in this area where purchased as kits from T. Eaton catalogues. This setting almost gives the name "O Timeless Instruments" a double connotation. David Freeman has an old house, which students can rent for a very reasonable rate, however I was able to find a place with room and board on a nearby farm with some very nice people who found it amusing when I locked my car!

During my stay there I worked at the shop 6 days a week; (the shop is open all the time) and some of the students worked almost every day. We would usually spend 10 hours or more every day at the shop. Other then that my evening entertainment was to practice on my guitar every night for several hours. I chose not to watch any T.V. while I was there and soon realized how much a person can benefit by using time constructively.

David Freeman is a very knowledgeable and talented craftsman and if anyone would like to learn to make guitars I think his course offers a lot of value for the cost. You will acquire a deep respect for the skills needed to build a fine guitar. David also makes some very nice guitars; I especially liked a flamenco guitar he built.

The Spanish method of guitar construction is taught in this course and consists of lectures; taking notes and hands on learning. Making guitars is not always easy work; the hand scraping of the top, back and sides of the guitar to achieve the desired thickness can leave you with sore and burnt thumbs. This is a very good course to learn the basic skills you need to design your guitar, make the components, assemble them, apply the finish (oil, lacquer or French polish), set up the action and adjust the intonation.

The Course cost me $2500.00 Canadian and included quality material to build the guitar of my choice. If you do a good job you can build yourself a guitar as valuable as the cost of the course. There is an examination at the end of the course and it is registered with the Board of Education in Saskatchewan; therefore no G.S.T. Also the tuition and away from home expenses can be claimed on your tax return. Upon completion you receive a certificate of luthier.

I took this course with 5 other students of all ages. They came from Regina, Victoria, Dawson Creek, Arkansas and Hawaii. One of the fellows who attended the course was the son of Bob Gleason, the owner of "Pegasus Guitars & Ukuleles", in Kurtistown Hawaii. Bob uses a lot of Koa wood in the construction of his instruments.

His web site is: http://www.pegasusguitars.com/

I plan on building guitars, and will sell the early instruments for the cost of enough material to build two more guitars. This way I can better my skills and not have to lay out a lot of capital, and as a result make some decent guitars for a reasonable price. It takes about 200 hours to build a Guitar, so it's not a get rich quick kind of occupation. It takes time, talent & dedication to develop the skills required to produce really fine marketable instruments.

There's a Joke among Luthiers, which asks:
What's the difference between a Luthier and a Pizza?
Answer: A pizza can feed a family of four!

The guitar I built during the course is special to me, as it is a reminder of mistakes to avoid in the future. Aesthetically it is not perfect, however it has a lot of the tone characteristics that I designed it to have and it is a joy to play.

This course has been a good experience for me. There is a lot of material to absorb in this course; much too much to cover here. If anyone has any questions about my experience I would be glad to answer them to the best of my ability. If you are interested in the course, the "Timeless Instruments" web site is the place to get information.

Ken Klatt

My Phone # is 780 986-6850 and my E-mail is kklatt@telusplanet.net