Stepping inside the Mowry Stringed Instruments shop brought back memories of watching "This Old House" with my grandfather. The smells of wood, glue and the sight of the hand tools gave me a feeling of nostalgia.
Andrew Mowry builds handmade mandolins, mandolas, guitar-bodied octave mandolins and guitars—plus other stringed instruments. He said he started hobby building as a teen, then got serious about it 13 years ago.
Mowry said he's self-taught and learned his craft originally by reading books.
"With the internet, I've learned a ton," Mowry said.
He also gives props to the other guitar builders in town, including Breedlove Guitars and Bowerman Guitars.
Mowry said he only builds 12 instruments per year. He works in batches four to six at a time, with a total build time of about four to six months each.
On a recent trip to his shop, Mowry had four instruments hanging upside down, letting the finish cure. Many words could describe Mowry's product, but I'll choose just one: beautiful. If looking at big leaf maple polished to a mirror shine, and rings resembling ripples on a pond, makes your heart skip a beat, you may need to learn how to play if you don't already.
Mowry only makes archtop instruments, which vary from flat-top guitars because of the defined arch in the middle of the instrument. Mowry said he uses mostly maple for the backs of the guitars and spruce for the tops, but will incorporate some burl into small dedicated spaces on the instruments—for inlays, for example.
Almost all of Mowry's instruments are made to order and he sells most online. He builds a few for the annual Wintergrass festival, a bluegrass music event held in Bellevue, Wash., toward the end of February.
"I've only sold one instrument to someone in Bend in the 13 years I've been here," Mowry said.
Mowry said his favorite build is the Octave Mandolin because not many people build them.
To build his instruments, Mowry said he's mostly purchased used equipment, except for the Computer Numerical Control router used for the intricate work on the headstocks.
Mowry said his business doesn't pull in a ton of money, but it allows him other benefits, like time with his children.
"I like how it is and am pretty happy to have enough orders to keep busy," Mowry said.
Mowry Stringed Instruments
557 NE Quimby Ave., Bend