A guitar broken down to its most basic ele-
ments is no more than wood and strings.
Worland Guitars’ Live Edge lap steel is just
that: a slab of walnut, bark and all, and six
strings. The Live Edge series is intended more
as wall art or functional sculpture, however
these are fully functional electric guitars with
pickups and can be plugged in and played
just like a Dobro. You might be tempted to
think that Jim Worland is more of an esoteric
builder, but he’s very rooted in the history
of handmade acoustics and archtops. He
ascribes his influences to Martin and Gibson,
while looking to contemporaries like Grit
Laskin when implementing the “Griskin-style”
beveled armrest on his OM model.
Worland began as a hobbyist 20 years ago
with little more than a passion for guitars and
a background in design engineering. He says
the hobby “got out of control,” and in 1997
he became a full-time luthier, creating Worland
Guitars in Rockford, Illinois. He started build-
ing acoustic and archtop guitars, and slowly
broke the mold, using different tonewoods like
walnut, redwood and amboyna burl, as well
as exploring new shapes, string configurations
and instruments. By building both traditional
and exotic instruments, his two different styles
of guitars work like a ying and yang for his cre-
Worland’s guitars start at around $1000 for
the Worlatone hollowbody electric baritone
and go up to $5700 for the Archtop model.
He allows customers to customize any of his
models and welcomes any crazy or outrageous
instrument ideas to help feed his passion.
In woodworking circles, the term live edge refers to lumber that is milled straight from the
log and includes the outside surface of the tree. This lap steel is a slab of milled walnut with a
single-coil pickup, a top-mounted output jack, and six strings. The Live Edge series will include
an electric guitar, a bass, and even an electric harp guitar or two.
(right and bottom middle this page, bottom left page 83)
Worland designed and built this OM-style guitar with
Gary Phillips, owner of Paradise Guitars. Phillips purchased the wood and other components and helped
determine various design elements. It features a curly
redwood top with abalone purfling, a “Griskin-style” armrest, ziricote back and sides, bound ebony fingerboard,
and amboyna burl headstock and rosette.