Since the start of the pandemic, LsL Instruments, a Santa Clarita-based guitar manufacturer, has seen an uptick in people buying custom guitars as music fans begin to once again pursue their hobbies.
While the quarantine has left many with newfound time to fulfill their passions, others have the opportunity to pursue them every day.
“When I’m working, it’s like I can’t believe I get to build my dream guitar every day,” Matt Atkin said.
As a luthier, Atkin is a craftsman who builds handmade guitars from scratch and says he now realizes how lucky he is to be able to do so.
The Toronto-born guitar builder knew early in life that he was attracted to the guitar, though it took him some time to realize what that meant for him.
“I knew early on that I wanted to dedicate my life to it, though I didn’t know how,” Atkin said. “I’ve always played, and I dreamt of — well, I still dream of maybe one day — forming a band, but what I was really drawn to was the instrument itself.”
Once he realized that it was the feel of the instrument — the way it looked, the way it sounded — that attracted him, he began to realize what a joy it would be to be able to build them.
“About two years ago, I decided to quit my job and find a good school where I could learn,” Atkin said.
So, the Canadian moved to Los Angeles to attend Musicians Institute in Hollywood, where he began to learn the basics of building a guitar from scratch.
“When I graduated, I just applied to all my favorite companies, and LsL was one of the companies that answered the phone when I called,” he added.
Now, he’s been working at LsL Instruments in Santa Clarita for a little over a year, and says he has learned a lot.
“I got to learn from Lance Lerman, who’s the founder of LsL,” Atkin said. “He’s a really talented builder, and I got to learn all the tricks and the magic from him. He understands woods and the beauty of materials, which is, like, part of the vibe of an instrument.”
Though he enjoys it, building a guitar is hard work, and Atkin says you have to be determined.
“It’s like turning your vision into a reality. You have to have a vision of what you want,” he added. “What you’re doing is you’re taking a raw piece of wood and you’re turning it into this perfect instrument to the thousandth of an inch, so you have to be really driven. … You get better and better as you are doing it. It’s like muscle memory — every movement becomes easy.”
Atkin’s job is to round out the roughly shaped wood to get it to properly form into a guitar, sanding down the inconsistencies.
Even so, what Atkin likes most about the guitar is those imperfections, which make each one unique.
“When you start to see some of the lines and all of the wear while you’re trying to make it as beautiful as it can be, that’s the beauty of it, actually,” he said.
After it’s completed, Atkin and his colleagues get to play each guitar, hearing their hard work come to life.
“I get to see, ‘Oh, I could improve on this, maybe make the neck a little bit smaller,’” Atkin added. “And you can see how it gets better and better each time. And you get to enjoy it.”
These instruments then go to musicians all over the world, something Atkin says is akin to them meeting their love. For Atkin, his dream is to one day meet his own love.
“I want it to be this amazing sounding guitar that, when I play it,” Atkin said, smiling, “our band will become a huge success just because of the sound of the instrument.”