Belfast or Bust: Brian Michael visits Lowden Guitars
Recently, I had the rare opportunity to spend a few days at the Lowden Guitars workshop in Northern Ireland. The impetus for my trip was to the gain some of the knowledge and hands-on experience it takes to properly repair/restore a Lowden guitar. Over the years here at Gryphon, we have worked on quite a few of these instruments and have always liked the way they sound. With Gryphon hitting the ground running as a Lowden dealer in early 2016, we have now been given the honor of becoming an official Lowden service center for the U.S.
The countryside near Lowden
The visit was spectacular and exceeded my expectations in many ways. Every morning, I was picked up in Belfast where I stayed by Colin who is a recent Lowden hire, and a really nice guy.
St. Patrick’s Grave (near the factory)
We traveled 45 minutes North through the picturesque countryside and villages until we reached a business park in the County Down, where Lowden is located (along with St. Patrick’s cathedral and burial site!)
The Lowden Crew
Upon my arrival, I was greeted by the crew, including George Lowden who still spends most of his time at the shop. Three of George’s sons and one daughter also work there, as well as his son-in-law Dave who helps run the business.
Dan Lowden cutting the finish out to inlay a bridge
I was given pretty much free reign to roam around the workshop and ask as many questions as I could think of. As I learned my way around the shop, it became clear just how much genuine care and passion goes into making a Lowden guitar.
Top braces being hand carved
Tops and sides waiting to be joined
Bodies getting their necks
Every craftsman working on these guitars takes pride in their work, and all have the utmost respect for George Lowden’s vision and legacy. The quality control that goes into these instruments is astounding, although fairly obvious when seeing and hearing the end result.
Side bending machines
A rosette channel being cut
Guitars in the finishing process
Lowden seems to be mastering the delicate balance of utilizing new technology where it makes sense, while relying on highly skilled hand work to bring their instruments to life.
Arturo, expert repairer, putting a new top on an older Lowden
I spent much of my time shadowing Arturo Mieussens, who is Lowden’s sole repair luthier. He is a busy guy to say the least, and was very gracious with his time and demonstrations.
Practicing my chisel skills on an old cedar top
It was fun trading repair stories and picking up a few tricks I’ll certainly use in the future.
George Lowden with Brian
After talking tonewood with Steve the production manager, I got to sit down with George Lowden and talk shop. He is an inspiring, genuine person who refuses to let quality slip at any step in the process of making a guitar. His company has grown significantly over the last 15 years, and isn’t showing any signs of slowing. I always liked them, but now I can say I am a true fan of Lowden guitars. The Guiness was pretty good too!