On a quiet street in the middle of Methven lies a hidden gem. From the outside it looks like the world’s coolest man cave – but it happens to produce some of New Zealand’s most beautiful hand-crafted guitars, built by local Mac McElwain.
Each guitar – ranging from amplified to acoustic – takes around a year to craft. Using native timber such as kauri, rimu and Totara, Mac takes his time and allows natural processes to happen, such as the timber’s response to humidity and temperature. Each requires 12 to 15 coats of varnish, which has to be left for a month, and hours of polishing.
And it’s not just guitars that this handy man can build. All the tools required for the job were made by Mac from scratch, including a motorised polishing machine made out of the motor from his late father’s lathe.
Mac reckons a handmade, constructed-from-scratch guitar is hard to beat. Each type of timber makes a different sound. Kauri has a mellow sound, “as befits Kauri” which he describes as a “warm, gentle, mellow kind of wood.”
Rimu is “bright and tinkly, like water going down a waterfall.”