Geraldton luthier in tune with a magical craft

Headshot of Adam Poulsen
Adam PoulsenGeraldton Guardian
Archie Bunker, 64, hand crafts acoustic guitars from scratch at his Beachlands home.
Camera IconArchie Bunker, 64, hand crafts acoustic guitars from scratch at his Beachlands home. Credit: Adam Poulsen

Ian “Archie” Bunker has a skill shared by no one else in Geraldton — and perhaps the entire Mid West. He is a luthier.

Working from scratch, Mr Bunker builds acoustic guitars, spending hundreds of hours lovingly crafting each instrument.

Though the 64-year-old has played guitar for many years — including in various Geraldton bands — he began making them only in 2006.

“I was looking for a hobby of some sort because the kids had left home,” he said.

“I saw on a woodworking forum that guys were making guitars from kits, putting them together like model aeroplanes. I thought that might be interesting to do.

“But then I bought a couple of books on making guitars with hand tools and I thought, ‘that doesn’t look that hard’.”

When he started, Mr Bunker, a part-time fleet manager at Young Motors Geraldton, had minimal woodworking experience.

Archie Bunker.
Camera IconArchie Bunker. Credit: Adam Poulsen

But he persevered, scouring books, internet forums and YouTube videos for tips, learning from his mistakes as he went.

“I’ve made better jigs and have got better tools for doing the intricate inlay work and stuff like that, so I’m getting more skilled,” he said.

“You sort of know after you’ve done it a few times what to expect. My voicing is also getting better, but that’s just been a process of working from the first one and changing little bits.

“I’m pretty close now to the sound that I like.”

Preferring to work with Australian wood where possible, he uses timbers such as Tasmanian blackwood, Queensland maple and WA sheoak, giving his creations unique tones.

“I like to use something with a bit more pattern and a better grain, so that they look nice as well as sound good,” he said.

I tend to use the same top wood as everybody else — Canadian spruce or that sort of thing.

“But a lot of the sound is also in the manufacturing and the bracing.”

Mr Bunker likened building a guitar to “mindful meditation” — a therapeutic process requiring complete focus.

To then have the satisfaction of playing and hearing others play the finished result was the icing on the cake, he said.

“I have a friend, Frank Connor, who’s a very good guitar player. I always take it to him first and get to hear it from a different perspective, and he gives his opinion,” Mr Bunker said.

While he has sold several of the 11 full-sized guitars he has built over the past decade, Mr Bunker’s craft remains purely a labour of love, for now.

“At this stage, and probably until I fully retire, it’s a hobby. But then I’ll have more time to do it,” he said.

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