Common Chords By Randall Hill
Two unfinished mandolins are placed on shop towels atop a large table in Terry Holt’s shop. As he whittles the contour of a guitar neck for another instrument, the mahogany wood shavings start to collect at his feet.
“You just keep cutting and trimming but I got a right good ways to go there,” said Holt, a luthier, or someone who crafts or repairs stringed instruments. He braces the top and bottom of the guitar neck between his left hand and chest as his right hand carefully slices the wood, taking away every sliver that doesn’t look like it belongs.
Holt started making musical instruments in 1989 when the desire to play was bigger than his budget. “ I really wanted me a banjo and I really couldn’t afford one. So I just built me one.”
Shortly afterward he crafted a mandolin for his wife Tammy and then a guitar using a pre-cut kit. With that, Holt caught the instrument-making bug. He has built all his instruments since then, bending, cutting and shaping the wood himself.
“I grew up around bluegrass,” he said. “Lord, my whole life has been playing and listening to country and bluegrass music.”
After a hand injury cut short his to ability to play at performance levels, Holt decided to focus on his luthiery and in the last year or two, area players and dealers have begun to notice his instruments.
“It’s very rewarding to get through one and to see people buying them and playing them,” he said.
“It’s not like going down to the Guitar Center and buying a D-28 Martin,” said musician and friend Matt Morris of Holt’s guitars. “I mean it’s you. He’ll ask you what you like and how you want it. He makes them personal.”
Holt custom-fashions his instruments one at a time in his shop off Lumberjack Road outside Conway.
“I love music and love to be around it. It ain’t nothing else to do. That’s it,” he said with a laugh. “Build guitars and mandolins.”