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Former WVU student a master craftsman of traditional guitars

At the corner of High and Foundry stands an old building with big, beautiful windows that, until recently, were covered.

Now the windows are open and sparkling, the lights shining inside on rows of beautiful instruments, the name Andrew White Guitars lit up against a backdrop of lead glass panes.

And the “open” sign is now on. But for close to a decade — when the windows were covered — a very interesting story was unfolding behind them.

The story began 20 years ago, when Andrew White was enrolled at West Virginia University. He spent the summer before his sophomore year in Spain, supposedly learning Spanish. In fact, much of his time was devoted to visiting Spanish guitar makers’ shops in Madrid, looking for the perfect handmade guitar.

He found it and told the luthier, “I’ll buy this guitar if you’ll be kind enough to show me where you built it.” He was escorted to a small back room with a potbellied stove in the middle. It was the hot metal of that stove’s exhaust pipe that was used to bend the wood.

“As he was explaining this to me, there was a light bulb moment, as eureka as you can find, and I thought ‘that’s what I’ll be doing. I’ll be building guitars,’ ” White said.

It was 1999 and White had no skills, no materials, no plan.

“And I came back home and explained to everybody that I was going to build a guitar — really quite arrogantly, because I thought it was the coolest thing on earth,” he said.

His sister and brother-in-law put him to the test.

“They gave me enough wood to actually build a guitar, plus three clamps and three chisels. So now, I was kind of on the spot. And so, I got a book written by William Cumpiano. And the book was incredibly meticulous,” White said.

White checks his measurements are right throughout the guitar-making process.
(Ron Rittenhouse for The Dominion Post)

In a basement efficiency apartment in Morgantown, White began building a guitar, following instructions with measurements to the thousandths of an inch.

In very short order, he decided he had a better idea for a better shape that would produce a better sound.

White is that guy who bucks tradition. But what he didn’t understand was just how traditional the guitar world was.

So, at 20 years old and a sophomore in college, he was spending endless hours redoing the measurements in the book, sweating over the math, painstakingly moving that design to the one he had in his head.

Eventually he built a guitar, but was it playable?

“Oh yeah. It was a very nice guitar. I still have it.”

He immediately went to work building two more. And those two became the design for his current EOS line.

Now, 20 years later,   Andrew White Guitars gets rave reviews from guitar magazines, websites and customers, many of them performing musicians, who play one of his many guitar models. More on that in a minute.

In 2005, White won the WVU Business School’s West Virginia Collegiate Business Plan Competition, earning him $10,000, a work space for a year and a bit of notoriety. But he was still a long way from gaining acceptance in the guitar world. His instruments were totally handmade and beautiful, and the tonal quality was superb, but they were seeking acceptance where different wasn’t appreciated.

To White’s eye, the lines on traditional guitars weren’t quite right.

“There was no flow and I didn’t understand why. It was very clear to me very early on, like guitar number two, that we needed a curvier line,” he said.

His lines are curvier — tighter waist, bigger bout, a more serpentine look. And while it took years to find his market (and the market to accept him) it finally happened.

Only White’s hands are visible as he works in his new workshop space on a guitar’s face. Next to him are an array of wood chisels and wood pieces.
(Ron Rittenhouse for The Dominion Post)

Chip Wilson of Vintage Guitar Magazine said, “… acoustics have rarely strayed from tradition. Andrew White’s tweaking the system. The West Virginian has reinterpreted the shape and dimensions of acoustic guitar design.”

He called White’s Freja 1013W, “a high-value instrument with unique, pleasing aesthetics, first-class playability and distinctive tone.”

The Tone Quest Report said, “Andrew White’s guitar designs have received international recognition as have his Production Series of manufactured replicas of his handcrafted guitar designs that offer tremendous value and tone.”

And speaking of that Production Series, until 2012, all Andrew White guitars were handmade. Little did White know  an innovative South Korean entrepreneur  hired a very accomplished guitarist to search the United States for what he considered the best guitar designs, ones that weren’t a derivative of someone else’s work. He found White and the wooing began, but that didn’t happen overnight either.

The company was Artec Sound.

“To be able to find original designs from an acoustic guitar maker is hard. And they recognized that,” White said. “I was hesitant, to say the least, when I got the first email. They had to do a great deal of work, in the beginning, just to talk with me.”

But Artec kept at it.

“I slowly started to understand that they were very serious, they very much appreciated what I was doing and they were capable. It took eight months to convince me to do this.”

Again, from a Tone Quest review, “All of the guitars we received for review were from the Production Series, crafted in Korea, but you wouldn’t know that without the label inside the guitar revealing the country of origin. These guitars are well made, perfect in style and craftsmanship, and they are tonefully rich and responsive. They are also very comfortable and easy to play with no fight whatsoever. The workmanship and materials used are impeccable.”

Andrew White shows a Cybele 112 Sunburst in his new showroom at the corner of Foundry and High. This guitar is from his Production Series made in partnership with Artec Sound.
(Ron Rittenhouse for The Dominion Post)

Having factory-produced guitars brings the price of an Andrew White well into reach for most people. His handmade models average over $10,000 each. And, with the Production Series, the buyer gets an exact replica of the handmade models.

White turned over all of his specifications for his Signature Series guitars — his handmade line — to Artec Sound. He changed nothing, and musicians have shown their appreciation.

From the “Best Acoustic Guitar Brands” survey done by the website,

“I own Taylor, Ovation, Alvarez, Darryl Williams and an Andrew White EOS112. Not only is this guitar the easiest to play and most balanced sounding of any guitar I’ve owned, it is also well-built and beautiful to look at.”

“I own a Cybele and it is a spectacular instrument. The quality of his production instruments is amazing given their modest prices. They are made in Korea and the workmanship is flawless.”

Until now, you either had to make an appointment to visit Andrew in his shop or buy online. But as the company has grown, employees were added, and it just seemed like the time was right to join the downtown Morgantown business community. The retail shop opened with live music and refreshments for Arts Walk on Sept. 27.

Andrew also recently added one-on-one guitar lessons given by talented instructors.

Call 304-291-6022 or visit the website at:

By Rebecca Hunn\for the Dominion Post