Scene Report: 50 Women Builders and Repairers in the Guitar Industry
Mamie Minch, co-founder of Brooklyn Lutherie, compiled a list of 50 women builders and repairers in the guitar industry that you can support.
This Scene Report originally appeared in She Shreds Magazine Issue #19, released December 2019.
If you’re reading this, you probably know what it’s like to pick up a guitar and find that it just feels right in your hands. Or maybe you know the reward of picking up your axe from the repair shop and finding that the old magic is back. Luthiers, builders, and repair people are in the business of providing musicians with these incredible feelings. Carving out a place in the field of instrument building and repair means years of study, apprenticeship, and mentorship while you develop a specialty and build a client base. It’s no small feat, but it’s certainly a special achievement for women and non-binary individuals in a field where we historically haven’t had much company.
Here’s a list of 50 women builders and repairers of guitars, basses, amps, and effects—so you can express your politics by supporting women-owned businesses while getting your creative needs met.
Nicole Alosinac Luthiery
Blue Lion Instruments
Santa Margarita, CA
HepCat Steel Guitars
St. Paul, MN
As a completely self-taught electronic and mechanical engineer, Fran Blanche started Frantone, one of the world’s first boutique guitar effects companies. In addition to designing the 25-year-old Frantone line of effects, Blanche was the designer of the Electro-Harmonix NYC Big Muff. In 2011, MusicRadar’s list of the 42 best fuzz pedals of all time included both the NYC Big Muff and the Frantone Peachfuzz. Blanche is also a published photographer, graphic artist, musician, and space technology researcher and historian. She currently maintains a popular YouTube channel for FranLab that showcases her many interests, projects, and art.
Vinegar Works Guitars
Jessi Carter specializes in repair and restoration of mid-century department store and budget guitars, both for clients and resale. She lovingly stabilizes and maximizes their playability—they come out in better shape than when they were born!
Cathy Carter Duncan
Santa Barbara, CA
Meredith Coloma Guitars
Vancouver, British Columbia
Meredith Coloma started building as a teenager, and is one of the most productive young luthiers out there. She specializes in the design and construction of acoustic guitars, but also makes ukuleles, mandolins, and electric guitars. Coloma also does repairs and teaches lutherie classes out of her Vancouver shop.
Currier’s Music World
Joshia de Jonge
Joshia de Jonge Guitars
Joshia de Jonge designs and builds fine classical guitars in the Gatineau Hills of Western Quebec, Canada. A second generation luthier, her father is the well-known builder Sergei De Jonge. She has set herself apart as a dedicated builder with finely honed skills and tastes, but it likely didn’t hurt to debate the merits of Sitka versus Engelmann spruce over the dinner table while growing up.
Sophie Dockx calls herself the “guitarchitect” at Dorian Guitars, and designs and builds not only instruments, but also a line of guitar hardware, including the LRQC-1, a stop tailpiece bridge that will give any guitar a huge boost in sound and playability.
Los Angeles, CA
Colleen Fazio started building guitar amps for fun after finishing high school. She got a repair job at Deltronics, the Chicago audio repair shop, where her love for guitar amps flourished under the patient teachings of owner Mike Delvalle. Earlier this year, Fazio moved to LA to launch Fazio Electric, where she does repairs and builds her own line of stylish guitar amps out of her Atwater Village workshop.
Sound Guitar Repair
South Hero, VT
After finishing the luthier program at Minnesota State College in Red Wing, MN, and spending six years honing her craft with William Cumpiano, Cat Fox opened up Sound Guitar Repair in Seattle, where her repair and restoration work made her an important part of the city’s music community for 28 years. In 2017, Fox relocated to South Hero, VT where she is repairing, restoring, and advising musicians on how to take care of their instruments. Check out her website for a photo of her with Phil Everly and his famous black Gibson J185, which she was able to perform some intense magical triage on in the early ‘90s after a roadie fell on the guitar and split it from waist to waist—Cat repaired the sides and block and got it back to him in time for a show in Seattle that night!
Hayling Island, England
Susan Gardener is a very interesting guitar builder, repairer, and thinker, with a penchant for making her own tools and running thorough experiments with materials and supplies. Her YouTube channel is worth checking out for anyone who is curious about all the processes involved in guitar-building, restoration, and repair. And she is quite entertaining to boot!
Lisa Ellis Hahn
New York, NY
Jane Hamel Lutherie
Lyn Hardy is the go-to luthier in Upstate New York’s acoustic music scene, and she also repairs and restores stringed instruments. (Check out her Facebook page for plenty of news and photos from her life at the bench.) Hardy also has been writing, performing and recording music for decades in folk and old-time traditions.
Kathrin Hauser, a fifth-generation luthier, designs and builds fine classical guitars in her family’s workshop. Her great-great-grandfather, Herman Hauser, started as a zither builder and music publisher, and his descendents—Herman Hausers I, II and III—went on to be some of the most influential classical guitar builders in the world.
E. Jayne Henderson
EJ Henderson Guitars
E. Jayne Henderson makes custom acoustic guitars with a focus on smaller bodies as well as ukuleles with local, sustainable wood. This second generation builder is the daughter of Wayne Henderson, the luthier who Allen St. John wrote about in Clapton’s Guitar: Watching Wayne Henderson Build the Perfect Instrument. Wayne runs a humble and humane luthier shop in the hills of Rugby, VA, where rock stars and ordinary folks alike wait the same length of time for their guitars to be finished—but when they are, it’s extraordinary. Henderson got the building bug after first pursuing a career in environmental law, and finding that she was drawn strongly to the workshop. Her designs tend to emulate pre-war Martin styles. Where her dad specializes in dreadnoughts, she focuses more on smaller body shapes.
Amy Hopkins String Works
New Freedom, PA
New York, NY
Cindy Hulej builds a stylish line of electric guitars that feature intricate wood burnings that depict stories and images from NYC and the music born there. Her designs reflect her years spent working with Rick Kelly, the longtime owner of Carmine Street Guitars in NYC. Kelly builds mostly Fender-inspired designs out of reclaimed wood from historic NYC buildings, such as roof beams from the original Trinity Church.
Pickup the World
Corte Madera, CA
Red Sands Ukuleles
Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island
Heidi Litke has been building ukuleles and guitars for over 10 years, and is active in the online lutherie community. She runs an online forum for women builders, and she and Robbie O’Brien debuted their online ukulele building course in 2017. Litke is always willing to talk about building, and her website is a singular resource for any aspiring luthier.
Linda Manzer is one of the most highly regarded acoustic guitar builders working today, and her guitars are in the hands of players of the highest echelon around the world. Manzer may claim to be a traditional guitar builder at heart, but her innovations—including the “Manzer Wedge” and the Pikasso (a three-necked guitar with two sound holes and 42 strings built for Pat Methany)—have secured her place in the modern legacy of guitar making.
Eve Meister Luthière
Eve Meister completed the Bruand guitar building program in 2014 and then joined the Collectif de Luthiers La Corde, a shared guitar building space and hub in the former Cadbury Candy factory in Montreal. She has spent the last five years working as a technician in archtop builder Martin Tremblay’s shop. As for her own work, Meister builds a line of vintage-inspired acoustic guitars, and takes repair commissions.
Chace Miller Guitars
Juliette Mossé Guitars
Quebec City, Quebec
Vancouver, British Columbia
Shelley Park designs and builds demurely-dressed Selmer-style gypsy jazz guitars. Her instruments embody the visual and tonal qualities of the original instruments while reflecting her contemporary approach to building. Park’s guitars have the characteristic richness and projection that gypsy jazz players look for, all the while balancing authenticity with originality.
Big Crunch Amp Repair
As well as teaching design at RISD, Rachel Rosenkrantz builds many kinds of stringed instruments, but guitars are her focus. She delights in experimenting with unconventional materials and techniques, like a stingray skin pickguard, or putting a guitar mold inside a beehive to see what the bees build. She calls it “nature’s 3-D printer.”
Samantha Cay Royall
Class Customs at Electric City
Class Customs is the name that Samantha Cay Royall uses for her line of custom built amplifiers. She also repairs and restores vintage amplifiers, high end vintage hi-fi equipment, guitars, and basses. She is the all-around tube lady at Electric City Repairs in Denver, CO.
Dylana Nova Scott
This ten-year-old Nashville company, a favorite of electric players worldwide, makes pedals and amplifiers. Owner/operator Dylana Nova Scott is a patented inventor, session guitarist, and industry veteran.
Leila Sidi designs and builds a line of electric guitars that have been inspired by the vintage futurism of mid-century designs. Think all the cool parts of Silvertones, Harmonys, and Kays, but with higher-quality materials and craftsmanship. It’s also important to this builder to make instruments that work ergonomically with all body types. Bonus info: Sidi named her company after her beloved cat, Tuna!
Aviva Steigmeyer designs and builds her line using local woods in the style of traditional guitars from the early 20th century. Her guitars are built with time-tested techniques, from using hand tools for nearly every job to finishing them with a hand-rubbed French polish. Steigmeyer apprenticed with Todd Cambio of Fraulini Guitars before returning to Arkansas to set up her own one-woman shop. Her finished guitars are lightweight, resonant, rich in tone, and affordable.
Mamie Minch and Chloe Swantner
Mamie Minch and Chloe Swantner own and operate this repair and restoration shop servicing fretted and orchestral stringed instruments in Brooklyn’s Gowanus neighborhood. Swantner also takes commissions for custom violins and violas, and Minch runs the Ukulele Building Camp for Girls every summer.
Maegen Wells Guitars
Maegen Wells designs and builds guitars and mandolins, specializing in archtops and smaller guitars. Her background may be solidly rooted in traditional archtop building techniques, but during her study at the Galloup School of Lutherie and her apprenticeship in master luthier Tom Ribbecke’s shop, she learned the value of having your own vision for your instruments. Her stylish archtops tend towards jewel-toned sunbursts that highlight her careful choices of wood.
Peggy White Guitars
Peggy White builds her line of custom steel-string guitars in close connection with each client. She studied with Sergei De Jonge and apprenticed with Linda Manzer, who were both very influential to her current line. White’s designs start with traditionally solid and smart constructions, but the details are what make them visually lovely and fluid.
Kathy Wingert Guitars
Rancho Palos Verdes, CA
Kathy Wingert is a veteran guitar builder known for her tone and gorgeous designs from parlor-size to harp guitars. She started doing repairs in the mid-‘90s and was soon building her own line. She is deeply in love with and emotionally invested in her job, and is also a consummate pro. Bonus info: her daughter, Jimmi Wingert (jimmiwingertinlay.com), is a talented inlay artist, and they collaborate regularly.