Dwight Grouse in his workshop, Fernie. Phil McLachlan/The Free Press

Tradesman switches tempo

Even after he retired, Dwight Gross refused to let his hands stop working. The retired house builder now uses his free time to create electric guitars from scratch out of a small shop in his garage.

With an instruction book, some electronics sourced from the internet, and a slab of wood, Gross and his son created their first electric guitar. It was such a success, that Gross immediately began making another. Together, they learned how to play at the Summit School of Guitar Building and Repair in Qualicum Beach, B.C.

Previously, Dwight and his wife Jennifer built houses in Cranbrook. Gross was raised on a farm in Saskatchewan, and moved to the Elk Valley with his family many years ago.

As their business grew, Dwight never stopped liking the building aspect of his job, but grew exhausted by the end of the day. Building guitars has been a way for him to continue practicing his trade, minus the heavy labour.

“This guitar building is kind of cool,” he said. “It’s more artistic, but still building. It’s hands on, and I can do it under my own terms.”

Gross has built houses the majority of his life, and is used to working with a tape measure.

“If you’re within an inch of where you want to be, you’re happy,” he said.

With making guitars, it’s a different story.

“With this, you work with a micrometre, and you work in thousands of an inch. If you’re a couple of thousands out, that’s too much,” he said.

This started as a project with his son, and has transformed into something much bigger. Gross is considering creating guitars full-time. He has four guitars planned for the near future.

Not long ago, a musician and friend of Gross stopped by in Fernie and tried out one of the new guitar creations. He said it was one of the best sounding instruments he’s played. This was like music to the creators ears, and motivated him to make more.

Each guitar takes approximately 50 to 60 focused hours to make, but his first guitar took a year to make. Gross considers his guitar creation almost like putting together a model airplane, for adults.

Asked what keeps him creating guitars, he said “To keep the hands occupied.”

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