Arts and Entertainment

Made in Sequim: The art and craft of handmade guitars

Dean Moore knew he was taking a chance when he decided to get into the business of hand-crafting guitars.


He knew very well how to do it. He's been a woodworker for 45 years.


But he was a little worried about turning a hobby into a career. 


"People say, 'Don't do that. That's supposed to take the fun out of it.'"


But he's giving it a shot anyway.


So far, so good.


To date Moore, who jumped at a chance for an early retirement from Sprint Wireless, has built 29 guitars.


And it's turned into a nice little business.


Moore and his wife, Jerri, moved to Sequim two years ago from San Clemente, Calif.


These days he sells his guitars exclusively through Joyful Noise Music Center, the Sequim outlet for musical instruments, music lessons, rentals and repair. The store is located next to Hurricane Coffee on Washington Street.


Moore said Joyful Noise owner John Mangiameli was hoping to find a local source of hand-crafted musical instruments. A bit of serendipity later, the deal was done. 


Mangiameli is a big fan of Moore's work. "The quality of the guitars is really phenomenal," he said. "It amazes me that he can build this quality of guitar and that he can sell them at such reasonable prices."


"There's a lot of passion for his art that goes into these guitars," Mangiameli said.


If you build it ...
Moore got into the business backwards. He wanted to learn to play the guitar, then decided he would build one.


He saw a video about guitar-making on the Discovery Channel and decided to give it a shot.
"I thought it would be more difficult," he said.


Most of Moore's guitars retail for between $1,800 and $2,500, but they can go for much more. It's all about the details.


Each takes between 80 and 115 hours to build, Moore said. Again, it's all in the details.


Those details could include a little or a good deal of abalone mother-of-pearl inlay. 


An example is the lovely piece he's now finishing up for local musician Dillan Witherow, who with fan favorite Abby Mae is now playing as "Standing on Shoulders."


Witherow's custom guitar includes a beautiful abalone rosette, the ornamental circular band around the sound hole in the guitar's body. Witherow's name is inlaid in abalone along the fretboard.


The wood used in the construction of the guitar is also special. The back and the "rim" (the portion of the guitar that holds together its front and back and creates the acoustic chamber) is made of cocobolo, a tropical hardwood harvested in central Mexico. Moore said it's both beautiful and produces a fine sound. 


The front of the guitar is made of bearclaw, a Sitka spruce from Alaska. 


The combination is striking.


The art of building a guitar doesn't end with the choice of wood.


There's the bracing, for example, the bars of wood that when glued to the interior of the body give the guitar its backbone.


"Bracing is the one thing that most drives the acoustics of the guitar," Moore said. The looser the braces, the better for its bass. The tighter the bracing, the more treble response.


While Moore doesn't build solid-body electric guitars, he does make "electric acoustic" guitars by adding the necessary equipment.


He fills out his workdays by building ukeleles and by providing guitar repair services.


Surround sound
These days Moore spends his life surrounded by guitars.


Unfortunately, and fortunately, he spends more time building guitars than playing them. "I can tune it, and I can tell when it sounds good," he said. But when it comes to playing the guitar, "I couldn't keep up with anyone."


He seems quite satisfied with that. The only problem with his new business is that it sometimes interferes with his other hobby — fishing — which he admits cuts into his productivity during the sweet days of summer.


To see his work, drop by Joyful Noise or call Moore at 360-721-3868.


Reach Mark Couhig at


We encourage an open exchange of ideas on this story's topic, but we ask you to follow our guidelines for respecting community standards. Personal attacks, inappropriate language, and off-topic comments may be removed, and comment privileges revoked, per our Terms of Use. Please see our FAQ if you have questions or concerns about using Facebook to comment.

Read the Oct 26
Green Edition

Browse the print edition page by page, including stories and ads.

Browse the archives.

Friends to Follow

View All Updates