Brian Burns Guitars
Luthier made classical and flamenco guitars

Guitar making instruction

About Me

How I got into guitar making
I grew up in a small town in South Texas in the 1940’s and 1950’s. We were poor, like most people there, and if you wanted a boat to paddle around on the big irrigation canals, or a bow to shoot arrows, you made it from whatever was available. So I got into the habit of making things at a very early age.

All through high school I was an avid “radio ham”, and of course made my own radios from scratch. I finished high school in Redwood City California and went off to Stanford University to become an electrical engineer. The transistor had just been invented, so I was a physics major.

It wasn’t long before I realized that making things was a lot more satisfying than dealing with abstractions all the time, so I dropped out of school and went to work as a technician in one of the Stanford electronics labs. Little did I suspect that someday my technical background would be useful in helping me make guitars!
In 1960, I got a cheap Mexican guitar, and began taking Flamenco lessons from Freddy Mejia, and Dave Jones (now David Serva) who both played professionally at the Old Spaghetti Factory in SanFrancisco's North Beach neighborhood.

It was easy to hear the difference between my guitar, and Freddy's 1931 Domingo Esteso, but a good guitar like that cost $400, (!) which was well out of my price range.

I was admiring a friend's good guitar one day, and 
lamenting the fact that I couldn't afford one, and he said "Why don't you build your own?". John was an armchair craftsman, and his wife, who worked in a bookstore, had brought him a slim little volume called "How to Build Your Own Spanish Guitar". He loaned me the book, and it seemed like a fun project, and later, like a satisfying way to make a living.


I spent five years attempting to make a living as a guitar maker, but by 1965 it was clear that I had to do other kinds of wood working for money. So in the intervening 25 years I did a little of everything---tool production, kitchen cabinets, high end furniture, teaching woodworking.

Finally, in 1993 I decided to go back to my first love, building guitars. I've been at it ever since, and have now spent nearly 30 years experimenting, teaching, and making guitars. It has been an endlessly fascinating pursuit, and at age 77 I'm still in the shop seven days a week, by 8:00 o'clock every morning. By a long standing agreement with my wife, I stop work at 6:00. That has worked out well, as we just celebrated our 50th year together!


Cheers,

Brian



Photos from Claremont, California 1964

Brian's shop from the air