Introducing

A Visit to Gallagher Guitar Co.

We're really excited to have added Gallagher Guitar Company to our roster of acoustic luthiers. TNAG's Kim and Nick recently visited the Gallagher HQ to collect our new instruments, meet the team and take a look around the workshop.

Can tradition and innovation go hand in hand? One tends to think of these concepts as existing in different spaces; they almost seem mutually exclusive. However, a small luthier shop in Murfreesboro, Tennessee is looking to the future of guitar building while maintaining its footing in traditions of the past.On a recent Monday, Kim and I visited Gallagher Guitar Co. to pick up a custom Brazilian Rosewood Grand Concert and meet with owner David Mathis, who introduced us to his team and gave us a thorough tour of their shop.

Gallagher Guitar Co. was founded in 1965 by J.W. Gallagher, a skilled woodworker and machinist who wanted to apply his craftmanship to build quality acoustic instruments. As David showed us around the workshop, he pointed out machines J.W. purpose built for his production line: a fret slotting machine, a kerfing cutter, and a side bender, to name a few. As we ascended the stairs to the wood storage room I caught a glimpse of several original side molds leaning against the wall, adding to the sense of history around us. 

David shared the story of how J.W. met Doc Watson in 1969 and showed us a fretboard with Doc’s signature inlaid on the 12th fret. While in the wood room, a brightly colored set of back and sides caught my eye; it was the beginning of the new “Tennessee” model, which features all native tonewoods from this state. Built with osage orange back and sides, Appalachian red spruce top, and persimmon fretboard and bridge, it reflects a movement among builders who wish to feature sustainable and native wood species in their instruments.

As we moved into the main assembly area of the shop, we were introduced to the core members of the Gallagher team who were working on various steps of the production process. David showed me the method and formula by which they voice their tops, and chief luthier Daren Gallman elaborated on this progressive and innovative approach. It was at this point that I began to realize the myriad ways David and his team were carrying on the legacy of innovation J.W. began in the 1960s. Just as the founder created new methods within the building process to improve accuracy and consistency, the current team is pushing the boundaries of how to make tonewood selection and voicing more predictable and consistent. Exploring beyond the traditional parameters of what constitutes a high-quality top, like stiffness and relative density, the team at Gallagher is sharing data with Pacific Rim Tonewoods to expand the collective understanding of how sound moves through different woods. 

After conversing with the team and learning about their finishing and setup procedures, we headed out into the attached venue to check out the guitar we came to pick up – the custom Brazilian Rosewood Grand Concert. I opened the case and was immediately impressed with the build quality and attention to detail this guitar exhibited; it really brought the visit full circle for me. After learning about the build process, the intention employed in tonewood selection, and the skill with which the luthiers at Gallagher build their instruments, I was able to fully appreciate the craftmanship of this beautiful guitar. The sound was as one would expect from a masterfully created Brazilian Rosewood instrument; rich, full lows, sparkling highs, and sweet overtones with excellent projection. 

With our minds full and a wonderful new guitar in tow, Kim and I departed and made our way back to Nashville. I truly believe David and the folks at Gallagher Guitar Co. are on to something special and are creating instruments full of intention; balancing traditional hand-built instruments with calculated improvements, they are surely creating their niche within the world of lutherie. 

Keep an eye on our site for these guitars.

Have a lovely weekend,

Nick

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