Santa Cruz artisan transforms vintage wood into treasured guitars

By Bruce Newman

The philosophical riddle is posed so often it has grown mossy with cliché: If a tree falls in the forest and no one is there to hear it, does it make a sound? It turns out the answer is yes, it makes an amazing sound, although the eruption of this joyful noise may not occur for centuries, when it is sliced into pear-shaped tones at the Santa Cruz Guitar Company.

Just as Michelangelo — a Renaissance master with whom Santa Cruz Guitar guru Richard Hoover likely feels an artistic affinity — believed every block of stone had a statue hidden inside, craftsmen in the Cruz who make artisanal acoustic guitars crave fallen timber for its distinctive timbre. A thin membrane of California sycamore produces small sonic detonations as he taps along its surface.

“Flavors, colors on an artist’s palette, that’s what we’re creating,” says Hoover, whose groundbreaking guitar company is preparing to observe its 35th anniversary.

By harvesting rare rosewood from Brazilian forests cut down in the 1920s, and 100-year-old mahogany planted for Britain’s Royal Navy — a reverberating echo of empire — Hoover has indulged the “scientific romance” of a boutique guitar-making movement that he himself carved out.

For the rest of the article and an excellent slide show of photos from the shop, visit:

Santa Cruz Guitar Company