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Andrew White Guitars
Based in West Virginia, luthier Andrew White builds primarily fingerstyle guitars.

By Simone Solondz




Some people spend their whole lives searching for meaningful work—the job that not only pays the bills, but satisfies the soul. West Virginia guitar maker Andrew White stumbled upon his passion at the tender age of 20. Traveling around Spain, he visited the workshop of classical guitar maker Ignacio Rozas, and suddenly, his path became clear. “I only spoke to him for five minutes,” White says, “and that was it. I had to do it.”

After returning to the States, White purchased William Cumpiano and Jonathan Natelson’s book Guitarmaking: Tradition and Technology (Rosewood Press), and set to work designing and building a classical guitar for his sister. Perhaps because of his sudden entry into the world of guitars, White’s approach was novel and irreverent. He didn’t study Spanish master instruments or American prewar steel-strings, but sat down with a pencil and a sketchbook and drew hundreds of guitar tops until he settled on the shape that would become his Model C and the essence of all his instruments.

“The Model C is the most comfortable guitar you can hold,” says White, who developed the instrument with input from his friend Wayne Rowand, a classical guitar player from his hometown. “It has a moderately large [15-inch] lower bout, but it has a tight waist so it sinks right down into you. It has a very full, big sound, but it feels like a little guitar.” White’s signature design element is the rounded curve along the neck joint and the butt of the guitar. “Having flat spots there didn’t make sense to me in terms of design or structure,” he says. “It puts a lot of stress in that area. By using a curve, you’re strengthening that joint.”

With the help of such players as 2004 Canadian fingerstyle champion Robert Taylor and indie guitarist Kaki King, White went on to develop the Model E, which has a 16-inch lower bout. “I wanted to offer a bigger sound but keep that articulation, the separation of notes, the fingerstyle feel,” he says. From there he added to his line the even larger Model F, with a fuller bottom bout and a waist less tight than the Model C’s.

White’s design sensibility is classic and contemporary, with an emphasis on clean lines, all-wood bindings, and mitered purflings. His sense of adventure is more apparent inside his guitars than outside. He has experimented with radial bracing, which, he says, made his guitars louder and more clear; fanned frets, which boost the bass, he says; and I-beam braces, developed with the help of his father and brother, both engineers. “I get a lot of sustain out of those guitars,” White says. “It makes sense because the I-beams are no heavier than other braces, but they produce really stiff tops. So it doesn’t reduce the volume at all. And they really open up over time. The problem is that most people are used to hearing the X-braced sound.” He now offers a modified scalloped X-brace as well as his more radical radial I-beam bracing.

Starting out as a low-budget, back-bedroom operation, White’s business morphed into a full-fledged, tooled-up venture in 2005, thanks to a business plan competition at West Virginia University, where he won $10,000 as well as legal and accounting support. “It was phenomenal!” he says. “It changed my life.”

White used to build in batches but has recently returned to building one guitar at a time. “Building in batches is without a doubt more efficient,” he says, “but it’s also more stressful. I’m self-employed for a reason! I don’t want stress.”

Now 28, White is close to completing his 100th instrument. He builds 20 to 25 guitars per year, and his current waiting list is six to eight months long. Base price for an Andrew White guitar is $3,700, and a wide variety of options are available (see his website for more details).


Andrew White Guitars
(304) 291-6022

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