Since 2014, Mark Wallace has been using reclaimed wood from abandoned buildings in Detroit’s decayed neighborhoods to make beautiful, unique instruments. The guitars are a tribute to Detroit, with the website calling the instruments “the sound of the city”.
It’s an ingenious way to capture a piece of history whilst contributing to the city’s recovery attempts. The guitars are entirely unique in their composition and appearance, and each is named after the building from which the materials were salvaged.
Call it a Comeback
The Wallace Detroit Company doesn’t see their instruments as representing the lament of a fallen city, but rather a contribution to the rebuilding efforts.
All of the wood is sourced from non-profit companies based in Detroit that provide jobs for residents. In turn, the companies use the proceeds from wood sales to support their projects – deconstructing the derelict buildings of the era of decay and preserving the historic relics from times before the fall.
The Wallace Detroit Company also uses wood provided by companies performing renovations that have an excess of materials – baseboard, trim, floorboards, door frames, and other such bits that’d otherwise go into a landfill.
All of the guitars are built in the classic Telecaster shape, but a Jagstang built from the salvaging of the Detroit Fire Department appeared in the shop recently. Typically, they sell for about $3000 each – which seems like a fair price for a top-of-the-line instrument that comes with the added satisfaction of helping rebuild one of America’s greatest cities.
The bodies are CNC routed and each has a unique laminate pattern (also made from reclaimed wood). Nail holes, weathering, and distressed marks are purposely left visible rather than sanded out to show the building’s history.
“The instruments emphasize the heritage of Detroit and build on the city’s musical legacy. Each guitar is built to demanding specifications, and features high-quality hardware and hand-wound pickups.”
While the necks aren’t built from reclaimed wood, the maple wood is still sourced from local forests in Michigan. Rosewood for the fingerboards, however, is most likely not growing locally – fortunately, maple fingerboards are offered (and pretty common on Teles anyway) for anyone wanting to keep things 100% Detroit.
The pickups are hand-wound to ensure a ‘warm, vintage’ tone. The hardware is fairly standard for classic Telecasters, but Bigsby lovers will be happy to see quite a few models sporting the bridge. Finished with a logo burned into the headstock wood, the overall aesthetic is excellent.
Not only do these instruments embody the simplistic spirit of the Telecaster with natural finishes and imperfect wood selection, but they take it to a new level by laminating and staining many of the tops with interesting Boos-Block type patterns and vertical striping like you’d find on the floors of the very house the guitar is made from.
If you’d like to contribute to Mark Wallace’s noble cause and get yourself a beautiful guitar in the process, the instruments can be purchased directly from the Wallace Detroit Guitars official site.