William “Grit” Laskin’s three-room workshop in Toronto is impeccably clean. Dozens of chisels, clamps and wooden jigs cover the walls, and pieces of precut spruce fill a floor-to-ceiling shelf. Everything is in perfect order. For Laskin, a world-renowned guitar maker, that’s the only way he can operate. “When you’re working with stuff that’s delicate, the slightest little fleck of something will make an indentation,” he says. “If I have to sand something because it got a little ding, I could ruin the guitar.”
Musicians and collectors from as far away as Germany and Japan covet Laskin’s steelstring, classical and flamenco guitars, which have a clear, rounded sound. And Laskin takes the tradition of intricate neck inlays a step further. He first etches the patterns—
For more information and examples of Laskin’s inlay designs visit:
his designs have included portraits of jazz musicians and one resembling the work of M. C. Escher. He then fastens coloured pieces of seashells, ivory, azurite and other materials. While the base price for a Laskin handmade original is around US$7,000, they’ve gone for as much as US$18,000.
The 49-year-old artisan started making guitars in 1971 as an apprentice, and two years later he set out on his own. Since then, Laskin figures he’s built about 600 guitars— and there’s currently a 2V2-year waiting list. Folk great Stan Rogers played a Laskin, Rik Emmett is a fan and the Canadian Museum of Civilization in Gatineau, Que., has four in its collection. Of course, Laskin, a part-time folk musician, plays one too. “I love the acoustics of my guitars,” he says, but adds that he’s still searching for the perfect sound. “It always seems to be just a bit out of reach.”
FILM I 50
A widower under the influence Taking creepy and bizarre roles has paid off for New York actor Philip Seymour Hoffman.
BOOKS I 50
This Friend was a decade in the making It took author Donna Tartt 10 years to write The Little Friend, the follow-up to her bestselling debut, The Secret History. But it was worth waiting for this well-crafted novel about a 12-year-old girl’s determination to solve her brother’s murder.
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