Custom Acoustic Guitars

The 2nd Annual Maine Luthier Exhibition & Showcase

Oct 12-14 2018
Historic Downtown Hallowell
1 Winthrop St, Hallowell, ME 04347
Friday 5pm thru Sunday 9pm

Come say hello to WR Custom Guitars Luthier Bill Russo (me) at the show. I’ll be there for all the events.


Behind every guitar is a luthier. Never heard of one? A luthier is someone who makes or repairs stringed instruments. The name “luthier” originally came from lute making, but today includes makers of acoustic and electric guitars, banjos, violins, cellos, and basses.

On October 12 – 14 Hallowell welcomes you to celebrate the craft of lutherie at the Second Annual Maine Luthiers Exhibition and Music Showcase at central Maine’s “New Orleans on the Kennebec”, with a gallery exhibition of Maine made instruments, craft demonstrations, and great live performances at auditoriums, restaurants, and pubs in the most charming, and rocking, downtown north of Portland.

The Second Annual Maine Luthiers Exhibition and Music Showcase is brought to you by the City of Hallowell, in partnership with The Harlow Gallery and Maine Craft Weekend, and funded in part by a grant from the Maine Arts Commission, an independent state agency supported by the National Endowment for the Arts.

Join Hallowell in celebrating big sounds from “The Little Easy”, just a short drive from Portland. For more information visit

Weekend Passes

Those who purchase weekend passes will be showing their support for local music and Maine craft, and to thank you we are giving a FREE raffle ticket for the amazing NS Design WAV4 Radius bass and Yamaha REVSTAR RS502T electric guitar to the first 200 advance online purchases of weekend passes, PLUS drink specials for pass wearers at local restaurants and pubs.

VIP Pass purchasers will be invited to attend two special receptions featuring live music and food, and will receive a special gift from the City.

Friday night’s reception at City Hall includes a meet and greet with Ned Steinberger, our keynote speaker and an internationally recognized innovator in musical instrument design and construction. He is an incredible example of innovative intellectual property producer who lives and works in Maine, and is part of an international manufacturing network.

Saturday night’s reception at The Maine House will be a low key gathering with live music and light hors d’oeuvres.

Pass holders will have access to events in various locations around downtown Hallowell, but venue space is limited and early seating is recommended for all events and performances, including:

Friday Night Welcoming at Hallowell City Hall

Keynote Speaker: Ned Steinberger, internationally recognized stringed instrument design innovator, City Hall Auditorium, 6:30 PM, with VIP reception at 5:30. General seating starts at 6 PM.
Featured Performers:
Adam Frederick, bassist, NS Design Featured Endorser, City Hall Auditorium, 7:30 PM
The Katie Matzell Band, City Hall Auditorium, 8:00 PM
With Performances in Downtown Venues by:

Marcia Gallagher, Easy Street Lounge, 5 PM
Poulson, Sampson and Thibodeau, Hydeout at The Wharf, 5:30 PM
Brett Shain, Slates, 6:15 PM
The Scolded Dogs, The Maine House, 7 PM
The Boneheads, Hydeout at The Wharf, 9 PM
The Whitefields, Easy Street Lounge, 9 PM
Ellis Falls, Quarry Tap Room, 9:30 PM

Saturday: Music performances at Hallowell City Hall and in venues downtown
Featured Performers:

Mark Horn featuring banjo maker Jimmy Cox, City Hall Auditorium, 11 AM
Living Lime, City Hall Auditorium, 12 PM
Carl Tosten, Yamaha Featured Endorser, City Hall Auditorium, 1 PM and 3:30 PM
Boogie Mob, Quarry Tap Room, 1 PM, part of the Ian Parker Foundation fundraiser
Mes Amis, featuring luthiers WR Guitars, Patkus Guitars, and Harpley Slides, Joyce’s Restaurant, 2 PM
Maine Academy of Modern Music, City Hall Auditorium, 2:30 PM
Katie Daggett, The Maine House, 4 PM
Tiger Saw, City Hall Auditorium, 4 PM
Kenny Cox, Slates, 6:15 PM
The Awesome, Quarry Tap Room, 7 PM, part of the Ian Parker Foundation fundraiser
Robby and Maggie Coffin, The Maine House, 7 PM
Brian Smalley, Easy Street Lounge, 9 PM
Music and woodworking vendors and demonstrations including:

WR Custom Guitars, Harlow Gallery
Bourgeois Guitars, Hallowell City Hall
Kennebec Instrument and Amplifier, Hallowell City Hall
Carter Ruff, Luthier, Hallowell City Hall
Shelter Tool, Hallowell Bandstand (next to The Harlow Gallery)
And Featuring on the City Hall Auditorium Stage:

Yamaha Musical Instruments, Hallowell City Hall sponsored by Musicians First Choice, Western Avenue, Augusta, Maine

Sunday: Music performances at Hallowell City Hall and in venues downtown
Featured Performers:

Nick Apollonio, City Hall Auditorium, 10 AM
Steve Lynnworth Guitar Improvisation Workshop and Jam (in-tune guitars welcome!), City Hall Auditorium, 11 AM
Anna Schaab, Luthier and Violinist, City Hall Auditorium, 12 PM
Maine Singer / Songwriter Showcase, Hydeout at The Wharf, 12 – 5 PM – hosted by Christine Poulson with The Robby Coffin Combo with guest guitarist Tim Leighton
Ellen Gawler and Friends Contradance, City Hall Auditorium, 2 PM
Featuring youth performances by The Pineland Fiddlers starting at 12:30 PM
Denny Breau, The Harlow Gallery, 4 PM
The Cowboy Angels, The Liberal Cup, 5 PM
Electrocutie, Easy Street Lounge, 9 PM
Join our Luthier Jam at Hydeout at The Wharf on Sunday night 5:30 – 9 PM to hear Maine musicians playing Maine-made stringed instruments, or
Join our partner Johnson Hall as they welcome singer / songwriter Jonathan Edwards Sunday night 6 – 8:30 PM (tickets available at

All days Featuring:

Maine-Made Stringed Instrument Exhibition at The Harlow
Raffle drawings for great stringed instruments including a NS Design WAV4 Radius electric bass guitar and a Yamaha Revstar RS502 electric guitar

First Ukulele Builder’s Class

Master Luthier Bill Russo took time out of his busy schedule this week to build 3 custom Ukulele’s with these Block Island Beauties during their vacation here in Maine. The resurgence of the Ukulele is evident in the increased interest and inquiries here at the shop. In response to that, we’ve decided offer a Custom Ukulele Builder’s Workshop. There’s nothing wrong with the base models at the local music stores, however, these custom builds are personalized with specialty woods and marquetry, and as you’d expect we use much higher quality materials. Prices will vary from build to build so please call for pricing and scheduling. 

  • Soprano Ukulele
  • Concert Ukulele
  • Tenor Ukulele
girls ukelele class wrcustom guitars web


girls ukelele class wrcustom guitars web


Claro Walnut & Silver Limited Edition Block Island Beauty

Custom OM Claro Walnut with Pure Silver Marquetry
Heather Littlefield Russo of Block Island, RI

This incredibly special guitar is the first one of its kind to come out of WR Custom Guitars and features Claro Walnut back, sides, and top. It’s a limited edition Block Island Beauty. The top is very unconventional, typically spruce would be used, however, I was looking for something that would create a totally diff sound and appearance. The Claro was the right choice. Warm, dark overtones, tremendous sustain, and wonderful balance. I raised the bar with the marquetry on this guitar by installing a .063 pure silver braid on the top perfling of the body, and a double-braid of silver for the rosette. It’s got a high-gloss finish to bring out the figure in the wood. This guitar is equipped with a Fishman Matrix Infinity preamp. Played acoustically or plugged in, this guitar surpasses all my expectations.

A special thanks goes out to Peter Gibbons, master jeweler of Block Island, who prepared the .063 pure silver braid for the marquetry on this custom guitar.

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Leroy Moore Tribute Custom Acoustic Guitar Build

Harrison Hughes – 000 12 Fret Short Scale

This Leroy Moore Tribute Custom Acoustic Guitar Build, in memory of the late great Leroy Moore, features Claro Walnut Sides & Back, Torrified Adirondack Spruce Top, and a custom inlay fingerboard mural of Leroy Moore. It’s played in a special B Tuning

This is one of a number of custom acoustic guitars that I’ve built for Harrison Hughes of Dallas, TX. Harrison has become much more than just a client. The interaction between us as we’ve worked together on these builds has created a real bond and friendship. Harrison is a real professional on many levels. His dedication and commitment to the building process has made my job not only enjoyable, but delightfully challenging as well.

We’ve already started our next build, which is a 00 12-Fret Short Scale Parlor Guitar with Brazilian Rosewood back and sides and a Torrified Swiss Spruce Top.

Harrison Hughes Testimonial

IHHughes Headstock Custom Acoustic Guitar’ve been what I call a decent guitar player for almost twenty years. Even after several years in school for jazz guitar, I was only decent, not terrific. However, that never stopped me from loving and playing the best guitars. I am partly a gear-head but also convinced a great guitar can elevate, or the very least, inspire one’s abilities and willpower to want to practice and be better. Up until a fateful late-night Google search of Luthiers close to my home of New York City, I thought I had been playing the best, or at least the barometer of which all other guitars are judged: the Martin HD-28. I’ve had this beauty for almost 15 years. It was one of six at the store at which I bought it, and it sounded the best of the lot. I’ve accumulated other great guitars including a custom Tom Anderson Hollow Body Telecaster, a Gibson Montana Custom shop J-60, and a Taylor 914ce. As far as Luthiers, I had heard of the famous shops whose prices are in the upper 4 to 5 digits. I’ve played most of them at demos or in stores. The idea of owning a custom acoustic was always intriguing, but financially out of reach. However, on that fateful night of Google searching, I found what would elevate my perception of high quality instruments. That search led me to Bill Russo, and I am incredibly thankful for finding him.

First and foremost, Bill is a stand-up guy who I found myself calling unnecessarily and frequently with hardly any reason, but I enjoy talking guitars, woods, and all things in-between, and Bill took the receiving end of those discussions. Maybe I would come up with some minor excuse like discussing a different binding option, which would lead to a fascinating conversation about wood types and ultimately some great pieces of Koa binding for my guitar. Perhaps even more importantly, a friendship and level of trust came into play where I knew I was in good hands. There were several times when Bill would call me and ask what I wanted with this or that, and my reply was simply, whatever you think will look or sound best. And that is a safe answer with Bill.

1-dave-matthews-band-triple-000-custom-acoustic-guitar-front-photoAs a business-person, Bill’s only flaw is his honesty and inability to totally rip you off a-la the well-known custom shops. As a customer, aside from the finished product, this is his greatest selling point. I came away with a guitar that was so far above my expectations but yet so far within a reasonable budget. Had I known Bill when I bought my Martin or Taylor or Gibson, I wouldn’t have. And I’d certainly have some dollars to spare. My guitar pictures are under the photos tab as the DMB-000 model with the most stunning Zircote back and sides, sweet sounding Adirondack top and expertly-laid abalone rosettes and inlays. Whatever Bill does with the bracing–it really sings. This was my first 24.9 scale guitar and despite the 000 size, it sounds like a canon. I’m a short scale for life guy now. The most unexpected result of Bill’s methods is that it is hands-down the most balanced guitar I’ve ever heard. As far as playability, it’s like the neck and fret board were mixed with some hefty percentage of butter.

I’ve not touched the above-mentioned guitars since I received Stella (that’s what I named her!) In fact, I’ve since sold several of the above-mentioned guitars. No need to “play-down”. She sleeps next to the humidifier in case she gets cold and dry. We’ve already started discussing the next one we will build (I say “we” in the same capacity in which men say “we are pregnant” while the wife rolls her eyes). I’ve a hunch I’m going to have more of Bill’s guitars than I’ve room to store them in a short period of time. I need at least one of each possible model. Then we’ll do everything again, but in cutaways.

Thanks, Bill, for what I believe to be the most beautiful and best sounding guitar on the planet today. That is, until our next one is done.

~ Harrison Hughes, New York

Click Here to see the Gallery Photos of this Guitar

Zach Laskowski Performs Original Piece for upcoming WR Custom Guitars Video

Zach Laskowski of Anchour Studios performs an original song on a WR Custom Guitars Triple-000 built for Harrison Hughes of New York. The song lays down the foundation for an amazing new video we’re releasing this week which was produced for us by Anchour.

Harrison is an accomplished musician and it was easy to work with him as he has a solid understanding of the guitar building process. This was a very unique build as both Harrison and I collaborated and planned for many hours on the design and key performance characteristics of this guitar and selecting just the right components and materials for it. This was one of the most enjoyable builds I’ve undertaken yet. Harrison was very professional yet relaxed and very passionate about this custom acoustic guitar. There were certain elements that he really wanted to include but to his credit he left the final choices to my experienced touch. He was a lot of fun to work with and I was blessed with a new friend as we worked through some of the more challenging aspects of this build.

This was a very special custom build using the finest materials offered. We used Zircote back and sides, an Adirondack Spruce Top & Braces, and custom Koa marquetry and embellishments. This guitar produced one of the most open and warm sounds that I’ve built to date. The response and overtones are stunning. The guitar has immense power and sustain yet when played lightly displays a delicate, even balance. It’s set up with a super-low action and a slender and fast neck, so the playability is as good as it gets. This is the first guitar I’ve built using Zircote but it certainly won’t be the last. It’s rounded out with a Fishman Matrix Infinity preamp under-saddle transducer so whether playing this guitar acoustically or plugged in you’ve got the best of both worlds. This guitar truly could take the stage anywhere in the world.

Zach Laskowski WR Custom Guitars Triple 000

Here are some rough photos a friend snapped in the shop. We’ll have some real ones from our photographer Jose Leiva very soon!

HHughes Headstock Custom Acoustic Guitar

HHughes Back Custom Acoustic Guitar

HHughes Front Custom Acoustic Guitar

Devonsquare’s Tom Dean – Custom Cutaway Acoustic Guitar


I have not put the new guitar down yet. What a beautiful instrument you have made me. This guitar responds to every nuance you can throw at it. For a while I thought I was losing my ability to play as well as I used to, but the feel of this guitar is amazing. The playability is superb. Thank you for a beautiful new friend.

~ Tom Dean

Click the photos to zoom in…

Longtime Bluegrass Musician Gene Schramm, A Welcome Friend

Longtime Bluegrass Musician Gene Schramm is a welcome friend here at WR Custom Guitars. Originally from Springfield, NJ, he is a long-standing member of the New Jersey Bluegrass Association. Gene has played with some of the very best, and at 71 years of age is still an active player. And he’s versatile, playing guitar, stand-up bass, banjo, and mandolin. Gene’s visits to the shop are always a blast! Playing some of the old standards is always on the menu when Gene shows up. This visit included Gene’s cousin Rick Carmella, a talented artist and art instructor at Kean University, and Gene, Rick, and I spent some time jamming together. Thanks for the encouragement, guys, and Keep On Pickin’!

~ Bill


Bluegrass Jam at WR Custom Acoustic Guitars WIlton ME photo

The Joys of being a Custom Luthier

For the past eight years I’ve been dedicated to building high quality steel string acoustic guitars, and making it possible for others to experience the complete building process in The Builder’s Workshop. The quest for the ultimate sound and playability is the driving force and passion at the center of every guitar built here. With this video I wanted to share the fulfillment I experience spending my days as a custom Luthier, and how much I enjoy the experience of working with people all across North America and having this part in creating the custom acoustic guitar of their dreams.

Singer Songwriter Tom Dean Martin D-18 Acoustic Guitar Retop

Singer Songwriter Tom Dean was here recently for a retop repair on his 1970 Martin D-18 acoustic guitar. This is his first guitar and he’s had it for his entire 30+ year career, writing songs and singing and performing not only solo but with prominent bands Devonsquare, Schooner Fare, Dave Mallett, and The Nutopians. The Martin D-18 had seen some serious music-making, and called for a new Sitka Spruce Bear Claw top and hand-carved Adirondack Spruce braces.

Due to several partial repairs made over the decades, the guitar was not as playable as it had been, and was lacking tonally due to general and wear tear. Having been re-fretted, its neck reset, and bridge replaced multiple times, as well as hard use in live settings, with the old top removed we were able to find and correct a number of structural issues inside the guitar.

Tom and his band mates were a bit of a nervous wreck about literally tearing the top off this beautiful instrument with so much history. “Will he live, Doctor?” It was a privilege to undertake this major acoustic guitar repair knowing that it had been with Tom all those years. Robby Coffin was concerned about undoing the Martin guitar but in the final analysis both he and Scott Elliot were very impressed with the excellent mechanical and cosmetic installation, not to mention the incredible sound.

We’re not always blowing our own horn here at WR Custom Guitars if you haven’t noticed. We’re just sharing this because we feel it is important for people with valuable instruments in a state of disrepair to know that there is a shop right here in Maine that is fully qualified to take on these advanced, intricate types of acoustic guitar repairs. People are quite reluctant to have someone tear into their instruments, but we’re building a reputation for high-end quality work, and for putting people at ease through the entire process.

Tom’s final word on it is that the seasoned Martin D-18 plays and sounds better than it ever has, and he will continue to write and play on it. The icing on the cake for us was seeing him and the band at The Olde Post Office Cafe for the guitars second maiden voyage, seeing it in action for the “second first time” was really special. There is a lot of potential left in the guitar and Tom says it sounds better than it ever did.

Feel free to call us or stop by to discuss your acoustic guitar repair needs. No job is too big or too small to get your instrument back into playable condition.

Click on photos to advance to next image – or <click here> for the hi-res gallery photos

Tom Dean – 6 & 12 String Guitars, Mandola & Vocals
As a singer, songwriter and producer of the distinguished folk/rock band Devonsquare, Tom’s song “Walking On Ice” helped earn them a coveted record deal with Atlantic Records in the 1990’s. As producer, arranger, singer, multi-instrumentalist and co-leader of The Nutopians, Tom brings a wealth of experience, charm and talent to the stage.

Robby Coffin – Electric and Acoustic Guitars & Vocals
Robby Coffin is one of Maine’s most respected guitarist. He has recorded and toured with such notable artists as Peter Paul and Mary, Jeff Pevar, Dave Mallett and of course Devonsquare. Robby constantly blows away our audiences with his ingenious guitar styling’s, bringing rich and sundry colors to the sound palette of The Nutopians’ concerts.

Scott Elliot on Bass