Sergey Semenov, a musician, owner of a guitar shop and a founder of Woodstock Guitars company tells about manufacture of electrical guitars in Ukraine from a piece of wood and a handful of metal, about the needs of Ukrainian musicians and problems of guitar production business in the country.
For already 15 years Sergey Semenov has been selling guitars, accessories and spare parts for them. The story started from the shop “Guitar House” that was, in fact, the first specialized guitar shop in Ukraine. Sergey was always charmed with the atmosphere in guitar manufactory shops: a piece of wood next to a half-made guitar, and an almost ready-made instrument somewhere in the corner.
Sergey’s idea was different from the usual approach of Ukrainian guitar masters. Due to the rich experience with the guitars, he precisely knows the physics of these musical instruments and understands that the needs of Ukrainian guitar players are different from the ones of American or European ones.
What a Ukrainian guitar player needs is a high-quality instrument for a reasonable price. Sergey’s company does not produce expensive ‘custom shop’ instruments that might cost a few thousand US dollars. They produce guitars with excellent sounding and sell them for half of the real price.
Problems of guitar production in Ukraine
In Ukraine there are no specialized colleges or specific schools for guitar craftsmen: they teach carpenters, brush painters, but do not deal with training of musical instruments’ craftsmen. There are no experts who can say what to do to create a musical instrument. So to say, there are traditions, but with the roots in furniture production.
During the USSR times, there were factories, producing musical instruments, in Chernihiv, Zhytomyr, Lviv and Odesa, but because of low quality what they made could hardly be called ‘a musical instrument’. At the moment, there is no whole-sale manufacturing company producing guitars – including electrical guitars – in Ukraine.
Sergey’s company has been developing their technology for two years. Everything starts from selection of proper wood. Most often it is red wood – the mahogany – for electrical guitars. That is ash, alder, maplewood, rosewood. The type of wood influences the sounding and the appearance of an instrument a lot.
First the wood is subject to a specific humidity range. Afterwards the wood is processed and glued together (finger boards and sounding boards consist of a few pieces) that is followed by calibration and machined processing. Then, with the help of machines, controlled by computer, out of a simple piece of wood, a finger board or sounding board are shaped, with all curves and details.
The next step is coating with varnish and paint that is also a complex process. The basic layer of varnish, painting or lack of painting, in case a craftsman wants to give a natural look to the guitar. Then goes the finish layer of varnish. And mid-stage grinding works, partially done by hand, and partially – by machine that is followed by polishing, if the guitar is supposed to be glossy. In the very end, the guitar is assembled and calibrated to have proper sounding.
The equipment is partially of Ukrainian origin, and partially not. Specific machines, purposed for guitar manufacturing, were produced on the company’s request. Such machines are not imported to Ukraine.
According to Sergey, the main mission of the Woodstock Guitars is to create a domestic producer of guitars in Ukraine, which does not exist at the moment.
Unlike Poland and the Czech Republic, where world-known guitars are produced. That is the company’s purpose.
Made in Ukraine
The Woodstock Guitars try to use maximum possible number of components produced in Ukraine. If the traditions and manufacturers allowed, they would use 100% of Ukrainian origin materials.
Non-Ukrainian materials: adapters, strings, hitch pins, string holders. All electronics. Varnishes and paints.
The Woodstock Guitars produces tailor-made guitars and guitars of definite models. A similar guitar abroad would cost approximately 5-7,000 USD. The Ukrainian price is much cheaper. That is why a professional musician with specific requirements for shape of a finger board, body and sounding of the instrument, can order a guitar with custom design. For example, Evgeniy Galich from O.Torvald plays the Woodstock guitar. Also the company offers a standard choice that any person can buy in the “Guitar House” shop.