Guitars crafted from recycled Detroit rubble

A couple of years ago, Curt Novara, a sheriff's detective, was combing through piles of old lumber at Reclaim Detroit, a nonprofit that's dismantling some 78,000 abandoned homes in the city and recovering materials for reuse. As he knocked on boards, looking for just the right ones to build furniture for his home, something caught his ear. It was a sound he hadn't heard since he was a teenager apprenticing for a local luthier, or guitar maker.

"We were always listening to the tap tones of the wood," he says. "This wood was special, not like lumber from the big box stores, which gives a thud sound when you tap on it. This had a ring to it, and also a warm tone. I thought why not try to build a guitar."

The resulting instrument — an electric model with semi-hollow body — gave off a full, rich sound that was undeniably beautiful. And so was the guitar itself, handcrafted with lovely heirloom wood reclaimed from the ruins of Novara's beloved city — wood that might otherwise end up in a landfill. He was hooked.

The sounds of salvage

Woodward Guitar Company opened its doors in 2014, specializing in one-of-a-kind handcrafted electric guitars and basses that don't look or sound like any others. Part of their appeal has to do with the unusual history of the wood itself, gleaned from Detroit homes often dating back to the early 1900s. Many were abandoned during the recent recession, which hit the birthplace of America's auto industry and Motown Records particularly hard. The city filed for bankruptcy in 2013 and is currently on its way to an economic comeback....more