Canadian School of Lutherie
Canadian School of Lutherie is a place you'll probably never come across, unless you're intentionally looking for it - and even if you do have the address, it's still a challenge to locate. This bright, 1,500-square-foot space is hidden away in a former toy factory in Leslieville, and once you do find it, you realize it now builds a different kind of toy: quality handmade, custom guitars. It's a guitar-lover's paradise in here.
Lutherie is the art of making string instruments, and this shop specializes in building and repairing guitars (both acoustic and electric), bass guitars, mandolins and ukuleles (sorry - no violins). Guitars made by past students hang on the wall as you enter, enticing you with the prospect of building one of your own.
Owners/luthiers/instructors Jeremy Nicks and Mitchell MacDonald learned the craft from a master luthier on the east coast and opened this school in Toronto two years ago, since there weren't any other places doing the same thing here. They are clearly knowledgeable about and love what they do and the enthusiasm is infectious.
A range of courses, varying in duration and detail, teaches students how to build or repair their own guitar, from a one-day general course ($350 - all prices plus tax), to a four-week stretch where students build a steel-string acoustic guitar from scratch ($4,000), all the way up to a one-year program that teaches the intricacies of the trade so graduates can set up shop on their own ($35,000).
The school is currently running one-week summer workshops where participants build an electric guitar or bass from a kit where the finished products turn out to be customized, unique axes in the style of either a Stratocaster, Telecaster, Les Paul or Precision bass ($1,625-1,700). Class sizes are kept small, with a limit of three students per course so each person can receive one-on-one instruction.
Those who have no interest in DIY or woodworking can purchase student-crafted instruments here at fair prices, or opt to have something custom made to their specifications (starting at $1,500 for electric, $2,500 for acoustic). Professional repair services are also available.
MacDonald says they're planning to make the entrance more visible in the near future, but for now, this place remains a secret gem for guitar fiends.
Writing by Christina Cheung. Photos by Jesse Milns.