Toronto’s William “Grit” Laskin is truly a Renaissance
kind of guy. He’s been building guitars since 1971, but
he’s also a guitarist and songwriter, and he runs a successful record label, Borealis Records, with a partner.
He’s written a novel and a major reference work on
lutherie, The World of Musical Instrument Makers:
A Guided Tour. He is a founding member of the
Association of Stringed Instrument Artisans (ASIA) and
wrote the first ever Code of Ethics for Luthiers. In 1997
he won Canada’s very prestigious Saidye Bronfman
Award for Excellence in the Crafts, and shortly after
that his work was captured in a book, A Guitar Maker’s
Canvas: The Inlay Art of Grit Laskin. He’s also a very
articulate man who has spent almost as much time contemplating the craft as he has pursuing it.
BY GAYlA dRAkE PAUl
You’re a very gifted player and songwriter in addition to building these lovely guitars. What made you
decide that you wanted to pursue lutherie?
For me it was near the beginning, shortly after my 18th
birthday. I was just very intrigued by the idea of building
guitars. I loved woodworking and playing, so it encompassed everything that interested me. I had left a job I
was in and was just living off performing when I ran into
Jean Larrivée. This was before he even had a shop; he
was working in his basement and showing his wares at
the Mariposa Folk Festival. I had seen his instruments
previously, and being a naive teenager, I asked if he’d
take an apprentice. He said when he started up again in
the fall to come on by and we’d give it a shot. This was
before the climate controlled shop so he couldn’t build
in the summer: it was too humid. He said, “We’ll try it
out for three months and if you have no aptitude for
it, I’ll tell you.” So I think I must have done pretty well!
This was in the first shop he rented. I was there when he
strung up his first steel string.