Calgary guitar maker crafts unique instruments out of barn wood and old furniture
These aren’t your typical axes.
The New Vintage handcrafted guitars are unlike anything many have seen before.
Kevin Gullion creates the pieces in his Calgary workshop and describes his work as an art form.
“I like to label my instruments as playable art,” he says.
“It’s art first, guitar second. But you don’t discount the guitar part. They’re extremely playable instruments. They’re as good as anything out there.”
Turning a hobby into a business
Before he became a guitar builder, Gullion spent 20 years as a water treatment technician and contractor.
After experiencing some health issues, Gullion switched to building furniture in his home workshop to keep busy.
A musician himself, Gullion was inspired to make his own instruments after seeing a guitar made out of barn wood on Pinterest.
He built his first guitar about eight years ago, and what started as a hobby has grown into a successful business.
To date, Gullion has built about 650 guitars, honing his craft with each one over the years.
Using reclaimed and meaningful materials
What makes them so unique is what they are made out of.
“I use a lot of reclaimed materials, old barn wood, old pieces of furniture, legacy pieces,” Gullion says, adding he also likes to use reclaimed hardware from vintage equipment.
“As an example, my wife’s grandmother bought her a piano when she was little and it was at the farm and they wanted it out of there. So we disassembled it and I’m making guitars out of it right now. One for the family and then the rest will be sold.”
Gullion says he has also built guitars out of chunks of redwood used in the original fencing at the Calgary Zoo.
He is currently building a guitar for Glen Peters—guitar player for Edmonton band Revolution Engine—with old barn wood taken from Peters’ family farm in southern Saskatchewan.
Temperature and humidity can change wood, so Gullion likes to work with old barn wood.
“It’s old and dry and it’s been, you know, hanging on a barn for 150 years or whatever. So it’s a good wood to use for stuff like that. It won’t change unexpectedly.”
Unique statement pieces
While there are a lot of guitar builders who make more traditional instruments, Gullion prides himself on his one-of-a-kind statement pieces.
“I try to make mine as unique as possible. Pretty much every one of them is a one-off. There won’t be two of them out there,” he says.
“You can go into any guitar shop in Canada, and you’ll see, you know, 50 Fenders, 50 Gibsons, 50 whatever, and they’re all lined up. They’re all different colours, but essentially, they’re basically the same guitar over and over again with different hardware.”
Gullion is proud of every guitar he makes, but he admits there are a few he wishes were still hanging on his wall.
“I do a lot of word burning on my pieces,” says Gullion, adding one of his favourites is a wood-burned raven on the front of a Les Paul-style guitar.
Some stand-out creations
Another piece that stands out is a guitar inspired by a 1957 Chevrolet Bel Air that Gullion made for the son of an old high school friend.
“I just kind of, off the top of my head, cut it out and built it like that for his kid. And it turned out fantastic. It’s meant to mimic the fenders on the old ‘50s Bel Air cars,” Gullion says.
One of Gullion’s guitars was also reviewed in the December 2021 edition of Vintage Guitar magazine after writer Bob Cianci came across his work in a Canadian guitar forum.
The review used adjectives like beautiful, exquisite, and flawless to describe Gullion’s handiwork.
He says it was gratifying to have his guitar reviewed in such a long-standing and highly-regarded publication.
“Vintage Guitar magazine has been around since the late 70s, early 80s. And it’s the biggest publication worldwide for guitars and they did a review on one of mine. So that was a pretty exciting moment for me.”
A partnership is formed
Every guitar is different and takes varying times to finish depending on the availability of parts, but Gullion has several on the go at any given time.
For the past couple of years, The New Vintage guitars have been sold exclusively out of Roosters Acoustics in Canmore.
Gullion builds the instruments and Roosters Acoustics sells them in-store and online, ships and distributes them, and he says it has been a beneficial partnership.
“I can concentrate more on building and product design and that kind of stuff,” Gullion says.
“I basically take an order every month, build them, deliver them out to Canmore, and then they deal with them from there.”