Q&A: Maegan Wells


VIGF welcomes Maegan Wells to our roster of 2018 Exhibitors. Maegen Wells Guitars & Mandolins is a one lady shop tucked in the great Redwoods of California. Maegen has been building guitars since 2006 and specializes in archtop guitars and mandolins.

VIGF Producer Meredith Coloma interviewed Maegan to learn more about her background and work as a luthier.

Q: What inspired you to get involved in guitar making?

A: My inspiration to build guitars comes from a lifelong love of music and woodworking. By the time I was ten years old, I was a pretty serious and dedicated guitar player. I was also obsessed with helping my dad cut down trees with a chainsaw. I wrote music and performed all throughout high school, as well as took all of the woodworking courses my high school offered. A few months after graduation is when my lutherie light bulb came on, and my two loves in life became one.  I’ve been chasing this crazy dream ever since. Looking back on it now, I can see so clearly that so much of it is a direct result of my parents putting guitars and tools in my hands when I was very young.

Q: What influences your design and building style?

A: My main influences are tradition, modern design, and the beautiful materials I get to work with. I am absolutely in love with the traditional archtop guitar, but I also believe there are certain modern design elements that we should not be afraid to introduce, especially if it results in a better, more ergonomic instrument. Between these two things, and the absolutely stunning materials I get to work with, I’d like to think my guitars help represent the evolution of the archtop guitar. They have the aesthetics of a traditional archtop, with a touch of modern and natural designs that will attract the modern player.

Q: How many models of instruments do you make? 

A: Archtop Guitar: I offer one body style that ranges from 14” - 17” at the lower bout. Each instrument is available with a variety of custom options for sound holes, cutaways, binding and purfling choices, and color. I also offer a range of material choices, that include the popular and traditional flamed maple back and sides, as well other beautiful tone woods such as Sapelle, Walnut, and Koa.  Tops are Sitka or European Spruce.

Mandolin Family: I also make carved top and back mandolins, mandolas, and mandocellos. The mandolins and mandolas are offered in an A Style body with fholes or an oval hole. Materials are flamed Maple back and sides with Red Spruce top. The mandocellos have an archtop guitar body with lower bout dimensions of 12” - 14” and are offered with the same material choices as the archtop guitar.

Q: What techniques do you use to get the sound you're after? Is there a favourite wood selection that you use, or do you employ tuning techniques? 

A: This is one of my absolute favorite things about archtop guitars! The ability to change and control the sound of the instrument by carving the top and back. It’s very easy and convenient to string up an archtop before it has finish on it, and voice the guitar. I can play a few notes and chords and if it sounds a little tight on the trebles, I can take my scraper to the top or back, and remove material on the treble side to help loosen things up a bit. I can then immediately pick up the guitar and play the same notes and chords, and see what changed. It gives me a clear understanding of how the materials behave, and how that translates in the voice of the guitar, all without ever having to loosen or take the strings off!  It’s incredibly valuable information, and not to mention, a lot of fun. Currently, my favorite wood combination is a Sitka Spruce top, flamed Maple back with Walnut sides, and Mahogany neck. The finish involves color on the top and back, to compliment the natural sides and neck. It makes for a beautiful contrast, and you still get the classic Spruce and Maple tone.

Q: Do you have a favorite process during a build?

A: My honest answer?  All of it. I absolutely love every single part of this crazy endless process. No matter how tiny or tedious it is, and whether or not it’s anything anyone will every see again or notice. I love all of it.