Wunderkammer

ˈvʊndəˌkamə,German ˈvʊndɐˌkamɐ/

noun

  1. a place where a collection of curiosities and rarities is exhibited.

Liam Kirby, Founder, Proprietor, wearer of proper trousers.

What on Earth am I doing?

There's something about old instruments, ones built in the early 20th Century and before. Working for several years in a folk music emporium I've been fortunate enough to have had many of these treasures pass through my hands, as grudging trade-ins and oblivious attic discoveries.  When played, they ring against you excitedly. They are often nearly-but-not-quite symmetrical. The varnish is thin - easily scratched, yes, but the natural beauty of the wood glows through.  They are artifacts, not products. 

That is the feeling I am trying to replicate in my work. The design inspiration comes from a host of sources: Early Martin and Kumalae ukuleles; Stella, Kay & Harmony guitars; Chris Knutsen's 'New Hawaiian Family'; Larson Harp-Mandolins. Would make a good Pinterest board, no? Here you go.


Built by hand

I make these instruments entirely by hand, using traditional hand tools and, as far as I can, techniques. I own neither bandsaw, nor thickness sander. But I've got a hell of a block plane. I wouldn't suggest for a minute that my instruments are made empirically better by my luddite habits, but by eliminating the noise and dust of machines from my workspace I'm happier in my work, and I hope that comes through in my instruments.

I use a Spanish or Slipper Heel method in my instruments - as in traditional Spanish guitar construction, the neck piece extends into the body of the instrument, with the sides fit into slots in the neck, rather than building the neck and body as separate elements and joining them afterwards.


Sometimes I do other stuff

I also play in the occasionally-critically-acclaimed Old Time Stringband The Ninetree Stumblers. By now you've probably got a handle on my aesthetic preferences, and will not be surprised to learn that we perform authentic American Roots music, as recorded in the 1920s and '30s. If you are in need of a hoedown, look us up.

I can also teach you to play. I play old-time fiddle; ragtime mandolin; trad ukulele; clawhammer banjo, and pre-war Blues and Country guitar, and I can teach you to do these things too. Contact me for information about that.

Did you really read all this?

That's sweet of you, thanks!

Liam Kirby