Looking for a guitar in Poland? Let me say, The Queen of Guitars, this fine instrument, costs over 60,000 zlotys (15,000 EUR). At first glance, you might think it’s no different from the guitars you see in music stores or online. Sure, its neck is wider and it has ten strings, unlike the standard six. But, is that enough to justify its price tag?
I can tell you, the price isn’t about the sound or the number of strings. The true secret lies in the material it’s made from. This guitar is crafted from a rare and pricey resource, the Ancient Kauri wood.
Allow me to introduce you to Rafał Turkowiak – The Luthier. The guitar wood hails from New Zealand and is over 45,000 years old. Believe me when I say, this wood dramatically influences the price.
Even so, the cost is no obstacle for a true enthusiast. For instance, Walter Downs, a renowned American guitar collector, snapped up this incredible instrument soon after it hit the market.
↳ PRO TIP: Do you like traveling? Then before you buy any ticket or book an attraction, check if it's available in this worldwide Viator Database. You may save a lot of money and time. No need to thank me :)
Rafał Turkowiak – A Luthier’s Tale
Rafał Turkowiak, the mastermind behind The Queen of Guitars, hails from a small village, Gołanice in Wielkopolska, near Leszno. But, let me tell you, he isn’t new to this. He’s spent his life immersed in the craft, honing skills he learned from his carpenter father and wheelwright grandfather.
If you want to understand his journey, picture a fifteen-year-old boy, finishing a three-year music school course in half a year, mastering the classical guitar. In the same year, he embarked on the creation of his first guitar, morphing a dismantled instrument into his own design.
I believe it’s worth saying that he’s now made over 130 guitars, producing ten to fifteen masterpieces a year. Although, there were years when he created less. Each guitar is a labor of love that takes about two years to craft.
The Craftsmanship behind the Instruments
In one of the interviews I read, Rafał emphasizes that it’s not about crafting one guitar at a time. The guitars are made piece by piece. The necks, bridges, sides, and backs of the resonance boxes are all created individually.
Being there, you need to know that this meticulous process contributes to the unique charm and value of each instrument.
The Art of Assembling A Guitar
Putting together a guitar, especially the painting and assembly, could take even longer. You see, a luthier-made guitar is nothing like the mass-produced ones from big brands like Gibson or Taylor. These guitars, as Turkowiak points in the interview, are churned out too quickly.
If you need a guitar that will stand the test of time, you’d want one crafted by a luthier. I can tell you, guitars assembled over two years undergo processes and adjustments that ensure their longevity. These guitars are built to last.
Yet, every passion has its price. Turkowiak’s love for building guitars has slowly replaced his passion for playing them. While he needs to play to assess the comfort and sound quality of his creations, he lacks the time to become a great musician.
Keeping the Guitar Craft in the Family
It’s worth mentioning that Rafał’s passion has inspired his sons. Now in their twenties, they too have embraced the art of lutherie. They’ve begun building guitars, assisting with simpler tasks and bringing relief to their father.
It might be hard to imagine how one can innovate in guitar making. The components – the box, the neck, six strings – seem straightforward. But trust me, in Turkowiak’s workshop, new, innovative solutions are born.
First off, the acoustic tubes, which are spaces hollowed out in the neck of the guitar. These tubes act as additional resonance boxes, enriching the sound. This makes a notable difference in classical, jazz, and flamenco guitars.
There’s another secret innovation – the „Wave Resonator”, a unique design of the soundboard that Turkowiak prefers to keep under wraps. It serves to counteract the tension from the strings, allowing the guitar’s body to behave like a drum membrane.
Turkowiak doesn’t stop there. Using special techniques involving specific temperature, pressure, and injected chemicals, he modifies the resonant properties of the guitar’s sides and backs.
Introducing the Through Bridges
The final innovation is the „through bridges”. These modified saddles for strings might seem more delicate than standard bridges, but their ipact on sound quality is profound.
Rafał constructed bridge weighs half as much as a standard bridge, significantly enhancing the guitar’s sound.
So you see, it’s these little things that make Rafał’s guitars special. And while these techniques may seem small, I am convinced they make a world of difference in crafting guitars that don’t just sound good, but resonate with excellence.
Crafting Unique Instruments for Life
Each guitar that comes out of Rafał’s studio is one-of-a-kind. And the price? Well, the cheapest guitar costs several thousands of zlotys. Sure, it’s an investment, but if you want a guitar that’ll last you a lifetime, then this is the way to go. Buying from a luthier means you won’t need to keep buying replacements like you would with store-bought guitars.
Global Reach for the Perfect Components
The small Greater Poland workshop has a far-reaching operation. Rafał sources wood and other guitar parts from at least seven countries, while his customers hail from across the globe. The search for the right compnents is no small task.
You’ve got to search high and low, and that sometimes even takes you to the antipodes: New Zealand, USA, Canada, and Spain.
For instance, take the Ancient Kauri wood from New Zealand. This isn’t something you can just pick off a shelf. The export of this wood has long been banned in New Zealand, and only a few companies that purchased stocks before the ban have it.
Guess what? Turkowiak found one such company in the USA. The story is similar with Brazilian rosewood, stocks of which were accumulated back in the 70s, 80s and 90s.
Paying for Premium Parts
The same meticulous sourcing applies to other guitar elements, like the guitar frets. When crafting his most expensive guitars, Turkowiak uses the so-called Gold-Evo alloy, an alloy three times harder than the hardest commonly available.
We look for companies that supply components, and we choose the most expensive ones,
Turkowiak candidly states.
Striving for Unmatched Sound Quality
You might be wondering, what’s the end goal here? Well, it’s all about creating a guitar that sounds unique. And by unique, I don’t mean making a guitar that just sounds „like a guitar”.
Turkowiak's goal is to craft an instrument with such a distinctive tone and personality that a musician can step onto a stage and say, "no one in the world has a guitar like mine".
It’s about blending different types of wood and employing precise craftsmanship to create a sound that’s as individual as the musician who plays it.