Can libraries make music? Turns out that in a way they can.
Gabriel Currie, who makes custom electric guitars by hand, made one of his instruments using a beam casing from the downtown Los Angeles Public Library, salvaged after a 1986 fire. Jakob Dylan, lead singer of the Wallflowers, recently bought it.
Currie is the owner of Echopark Guitars, which he started two years ago, but he has been making guitars since his teenage years, when he worked for Leo Fender.
Currie’s guitars sell for $3,500 to $6,500, and some of the higher-end versions incorporate reclaimed wood. Currie has also used wood from downtown’s El Dorado Hotel, where Charlie Chaplin used to stay. Brad Whitford and Joe Perry of the band Aerosmith each recently bought a guitar that incorporates wood from 1940s dining furniture.
Currie likes using older woods because they become more stable with age and create a better sound.
Each year, he goes scavenging for salvaged wood and uses it in about one-third of the guitars he makes. Doing so adds $300 to the final cost, but some customers request reclaimed wood regardless of the expense.
“I can’t even afford my own guitars,” he acknowledged, even though some other boutique guitars go for as much as $20,000.
He has only one employee, and it takes him about three months to make each guitar.
“I really like the old-school way of doing things,” he said. “If I was a tree, I’d either want to be a cello, a violin or a guitar.”