Kim Kennedy makes handcrafted musical instruments at her studio in Fernie. Phil McLachlan/The Free Press

Meet Fernie’s own Luthier, Kim Kennedy, who creates precious handmade instruments

Luthiers are few and far between these days, which is why Fernie is fortunate to have its own.

Kim Kennedy’s passion for making instruments was fueled by her love for music – something she has continued to pass on to her children.

Raising kids is a challenge which requires much time, but in her free moments, Kennedy will be in her workshop, slaving away tirelessly at her newest creation.

A cozy workshop, lit by a south-facing window, is where Kennedy escapes to.

Thirteen-years-ago, Kennedy took a course on how to make guitars at Timeless Instruments in Saskatchewan. At the time, she was expecting her first child, and assumed she would have time for both, but was mistaken. She was forced to put this aside, but three years ago, she picked up her tools once again.

Before taking the course, Kennedy played the Appalachian Dulcimer, and was seeking to expand her musical knowledge through the practice of other instruments. While searching for something else, she found she could not buy what she wanted, and decided to make her own.

“With every build, you learn a little more,” she said.

“The most challenging part, is probably, because I’m a perfectionist, accepting mistakes or learning how to hide them.

“The biggest learning curve… to not be in a hurry. That’s my biggest thing, is learning patience.”

The art of creating an instrument is a lengthy process, and can sometimes be frustrating. While working on a guitar, Kennedy reached a road block and became frustrated. She decided to hang it up for a while and come back to it later.

She finds that it is sometimes easier to work with several instruments on the go, because different stages of construction can be tedious and it’s good to have something else to work on in order to avoid frustration.

Although she admits that an instrument could be completed in four to six weeks, she prefers to take longer. Sometimes, the finish itself could take a month to cure, after the surface has been sanded down to 12,000 grit.

Kennedy makes a variety of stringed instruments; dulcimers, ukuleles and guitars. She finds that the ukulele’s are the most popular. While in her workshop, she listens to a variety of music, but especially likes to listen to guitars, while making guitars.

The craftsman sources her wood from all over, including places such as Alaska. Kennedy does try to obtain some exotic woods, but with so many restrictions in place for wood imports, she finds herself mainly sourcing from North America. Kennedy always takes into consideration, whether the wood has been ethically logged. Every wood has a different tone, and Kennedy enjoys the process of selecting a certain kind of wood for a certain instrument or playing style.

Even now, this craft of hers takes on a hobby status, as she has so many other things to do. When she can, she works while the kids are at school, or after they go to bed.

She does not consider herself and expert, but enjoys getting better with every creation.

Kennedy is still experimenting with where she wants to go with this craft. She admitted that she doesn’t aim to create ripoffs of Gibsons or Martins, as many already do this, and do it very well. Custom orders may be something for the future.

“I want to build what I want to build, because I want to learn from those builds,” she said.

Kennedy is always looking for guitar players willing to give an honest review of her work.

“I think that’s how you get better,” she said.