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Stuartday

“Quality is never an accident; it is always the result of high intention, sincere effort, intelligent direction and skillful execution; it represents the wise choice of many alternatives."
- William Foster

2003-2005

Planting the seeds

Guitarist for multiple working bands while Studying political philosophy and fine art at Penn State. I didn’t know it then but my interest in fine art, design, and the philosophy and politics of labor and craftwork at this point in my life served as the foundation of my eventual career in lutherie.

2006-2008

Galloup – the beginning

In 2006 I left Penn State and moved to rural Michigan to study at the Galloup school of lutherie. After my program was complete, I then accepted an apprenticeship opportunity at Galloup and stayed for an additional year and a half as Bryan Galloup's apprentice and assistant instructor for the school.

2008-2013

Ribbecke – Planting my feet

I accepted a job with famed arch top guitar maker Tom Ribbecke. I worked and studying under tom for the next 5 years spending about 3 of those years as his right-hand man and private shop foreman. Building many instruments almost entirely by myself as well as supervising and running the shop of 1 to 2 other luthiers this time period represented the “feet on the fire” part of my career. Building world class instruments with the pressure of an intense 15 instrument per year schedule while upholding the caliber of instrument that a 45-year reputation like Tom Ribbecke's demands. I was instrumental in the construction of around 75 Ribbecke instruments in my time with Tom.

2013

Leaving the nest

I left Tom’s shop to move to Pittsburgh Pa where my family had moved. It was time to start my own business. I began with a humble shop I built in my parents’ basement and started working on my debut archtop which I would call “the church” I had a limited budget and chose to start out with quality hand tools instead of power tools because I knew I could get more versatility out of hand tools. In some ways, I took a few steps back in building process because I was now building exclusively with hand tools with the exception of my sole bandsaw.

2014

Lift off

I finished the first “church” and sold it for $9,000 in under 24 hours to the prestigious “Miki Gaki” dealership of high-end instrument in Osaka Japan. I took the money earned from that and immediately invested in material for the next 4 builds. At this point I was building everything from spec because no one really knew who I was. But everything I built over the next 2 years sold almost immediately and off I was.

Jan to April 2015

Jan to April 2015

At this point I had a few of my own instruments built and sold under my belt. I had bought a belt sander and thickness sander. I had gained some attention and was now being asked to speak publicly at universities and luthier organizations about my experience as a young craftsman, business owner, artist and luthier. While things felt like they were going well I was still struggling financially to stitch it all together. I made a big decision. After turning down two incredible employment opportunities with two living legends in luthier I decided it was time to sink or swim. I put down a down payment on a shop space and storefront that I could not afford.

2015-2018

Doing It

I build a new business plan and started focusing 50% of my time and energy on repair work and the other 50% on my builds. Very quickly word around town got out that I was now accepting repair and restoration and in no time at all I was flooded with repair work. After completing my first 100 repairs I felt, for the first time like I was now a “complete” luthier. The business was more financially stable, I was diving into difficult projects no other repair people would touch, I was dealing with clients on a daily basis, and I was still building.

25-06-2019

Bitter Sweet

I made the bitter sweet decision to close my beloved shop in Pittsburgh to move my shop to the farm that my fiancé and I have taken over from her family. The majority of 2018 has been spent designing and building out the new shop which is attached to the house and much smaller than the previous shop. The plan is for this shop to last me 2 years until I can build a freestanding shop. Until then I have had to use my space creatively and really think hard about my processes.

2018-2019

Reflections

Most of this period of time, due to my moving of shops and some other personal and family goals, is dedicated to a reduced level of repair work, focusing on my current builds, and spending some hard time reflecting on my business plan, my building process and refining my designs. My hope is to slow down in this period and work on the “behind the curtain” aspects of the business so that I can position myself and my business in such a way that allows me to actuate my future plans.

The future

Big things

As I move into 2020 and beyond, I hope to be building 6-8 instruments a year that represent the most consistent and high caliber work yet. I also hope to have an engine of content creation working hard to bring educational, inspiring and entertaining content to a wider audience then typically pays attention to luthier. I want to be highlighting not just my work, but all of my great contemporaries work as well. I’d like to explore interesting and often undervalued topics relating to lutherie, craftwork, art, design and other crafts. I’d like to be doing a lot more teaching and offering my expertise beyond the walls of my own business.

“Building lasting relationships through instruments
My thoughts on design


appearances and sightings