Finetuned: In the Carolina mountains, Charlotte native Chris Capozzoli crafts instruments from reclaimed wood

Chris Capozzoli

Chris Capozzoli makes art which, by form, might surprise you. In an age when so many of our goods are produced through automation, when the things you own are one of, say, a million others just like it, seeing something handcrafted can quite literally stop you in your tracks. To find that level of detail, or a piece with a singular nature has become a real rarity.

Perhaps what such a find tells you first is that there’s a story behind what you’re seeing. It was found, used and discarded, and then lovingly restored by someone who could see a potential all along. Or perhaps it was created late at night in a cozy, low-lit little shop under the eye of someone who pursues their craft with abandon.

Chris Capozzoli

Chris Capozzoli is that someone. He believes, first and foremost, in music: “Music has the power to heal, the power to bring together cultures, to bring together the young and old.”

Born and raised in Charlotte before he retreated to the Appalachian Mountains, Chris Capozzoli is entirely obsessed with guitar-making. He crafts his instruments from reclaimed wood in a Sugar Grove, NC shop. We had the pleasure of stopping by one late May afternoon to talk music, woodworking, and motivation. Certainly, choosing to make a livelihood by handmaking guitars couldn’t have been the easiest way to earn a keep?

I love a good challenge,” Chris explained. “It helps expand my mind and abilities. You’ll never know it all, and you’ll never get close to it if you don’t continue to challenge yourself and work harder than before. If you’re not climbing up the hill, you’ll never make it to the top.

What sparked your initial interest in music?

I began playing guitar at 14 and haven’t stopped playing it since. I can’t put it down. Music is recreation, therapy, science, history, income… I’ll be playing music as long as I can hold a guitar in my hands.

Chris Capozzoli

When did you start crafting guitars?

I built my first guitar back while I was in high school. It seemed simple enough and after having played one for 5 years, I thought it was time to build one myself. It instantly consumed me and was all I could think about. It was an event that sparked a small fire that would grow into a roaring raging blaze – I was addicted.

What then made you decide to pursue this as your career?

I decided to build guitars for a living because I love it, and when you do what you love it becomes less like work and more like play. I wake up in the morning and say, “I get to go to work today” instead of, “I have to go to work.”

Ten years had passed working in the custom woodworking industry when I decided I was ready to venture out on my own.

How would you describe the technique you’ve developed since?

I would have to describe my technique as a mixture of self-learned innovations and well-studied traditional techniques. I am constantly shifting and molding the look, feel and function of my guitars. I like to sprinkle my aesthetic with influences of the past while creating something fresh and new to achieve a guitar that is familiar yet timeless.

Chris Capozzoli

What actually makes a great guitar?

Quality wood aged to perfection, durable hardware and electronics, accurate set up, a pleasing design, love and attention to detail, to me, are elements that make a great guitar. A guitar that feels good in your hands, doesn’t let you down when you need it the most, and is reliable time and time again… I put into my guitars attention to detail and elements that will hopefully withstand the test of time and will one day be the subject of admiration from music makers around the world.

Tell us about using reclaimed wood sources – that is clearly important to you.

I love using reclaimed materials for many reasons: I love giving new life to a piece of wood that once kept the weather out or kept the livestock in at night… a piece of wood that has seen more sunrises and thunderstorms than I’ll ever experience in my lifetime. We need trees, standing tall to breathe in our carbon waste. Using reclaimed lumber gives me a small sense of stewardship towards the preservation of our precious global resource.  

Chris Capozzoli

What have been the biggest challenges managing your own small business?

Some of the biggest challenges in having my own small business is absolutely everything relies on me. I’m responsible for it all. But one of the biggest rewards in having my own small business is knowing I’m making an extremely high-quality guitar for someone who is going to love and cherish it for their lifetime, and when they’re done it will be passed on to last another lifetime. The guitar symbolizes a lot. It’s more than just an instrument, it’s a lifestyle. When you have something great that stands by you, that’s always reliable and always there for you it becomes your best friend.

Tell us about your logo… it’s striking.

I get asked about it a lot. It all stems from the Appalachian mountains where I live – it’s the cross-section of a narrow gauge railroad track, specifically the piece of track that used to be the Eastern Tennessee / Western North Carolina railroad. Making guitars is my way of connecting with the world. The railroad represents many things, and is in many ways a metaphor for strength, power, stamina, stability, punctuality.