Hemp Guitars prove music making sustainable
Guitars don’t need to cost thousands and be crafted from rare woods to produce great sound. That’s the principle Canadian Hemp Guitars, a partnership between luthier Boyd Pellow and musician Stewart Burrows, was founded on. Set in a 200-year-old barn in rural Quebec, the company is a shining example of what can be accomplished when alternative and sustainable means are employed to business practices. We caught up with Burrows to discuss the environmentally-friendly approach he and his partner employ to building their hemp units – guitars he says are unique, but designed affordably with working musicians in mind.
You emphasize that rare and endangered woods don’t make the guitar, that the “difference is in the build and the builder.” Can you explain?
Guitars don’t have to be made out of Adirondack spruce. My partner decided to try and prove this long ago by making guitars out of different things [like] old plywood doors, old pallet and recycled woods, and he made wonderful instruments. One day he was surfing about on the internet and found this company out of Chatham, Ontario, that were developing hemp composites and he decided to try that. It worked so well that we’ve run with it.
Hemp Guitars are reported to reward players and respect the environment. In what ways are hemp units more environmentally-friendly than traditional instruments?
It takes a very small percentage of both energy and effort to produce a guitar out of hemp than wood; it’s just how it’s farmed. It’s more renewable and it’s quicker to grow because it grows quicker than a tree does. The idea is that you don’t need to use a 100-year-old maple tree to make a guitar, that’s the idea for us.
You’re a vocal supporter of the use of hemp products. Are you optimistic at the future outlook for industrial hemp?
Absolutely! That’s another one of the reasons we make guitars out of hemp. My popular quote is we make guitars out of hemp because everything should be made out of hemp. You can do everything with this plant – you can make buildings out of it, you can eat it, you can make clothing out of it.
Just last week I read that researchers at the University of Louisville were trying to develop ways to use hemp as a replacement for fossil fuels…
I’ve heard of it. I don’t know if they’re the only people who are doing it but I believe there’s someone out in California that’s working that up as well. Again, we could make these guitars out of any number of things but we chose to make them out of hemp because we want to raise the profile of hemp if we can.
The design also serves a practical function. How does hemp help play?
When Boyd originally started designing the type of guitars we’re making, the idea was [to produce] a hand-built guitar in a small shop by a builder. It costs thousands and thousands of dollars for domestically-made, artisan guitars. You don’t have to do that. Boyd wanted to make very high-quality guitars that working guitar players could afford. It’s a quality guitar and it’s built and priced at a point for working musicians.
Why did you guys decide to set up shop in a 200-year-old barn in rural Quebec?
The world has evolved enough, and there’s enough technology, that you can do business anywhere. I think doing business in a 200-year-old barn is pretty cool. We don’t have to but it’s what we had, and I’m a believer in taking what you have and making the most it. How can you use what you already have to get to where you have to go?
To learn more, visit Canadian Hemp Guitars
Here’s to Future Growth!
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