© Justin Crann
Chris Weber, owner and operator of CW Stringworks, tests the tune on one of his cookie tin guitars — the CW Busker — in his shop Thursday. The Busker model is a compact "travelling guitar" with an amplifier installed directly inside it. Times-Herald photo by Justin Crann
Chris Weber is a man who truly loves his job.
"For a lot of us, who we are and what we do are often two different things, so much so to the point where you can ask people what kind of work they do," Weber, the owner and operator of CW Stringworks, told the Times-Herald Thursday.
"I had been writing songs, playing guitar, singing and gigging for over 40 years. I built my first mandolin 20 years ago, and I was in carpentry for 30 years, so I'm familiar with wood," he added. "Now that I own the shop, who I am and what I do are the same. They're one thing."
Weber went into business almost a decade ago after retiring from construction work. When he was looking for something to do, he stumbled on a guitar shop that had been put up for sale and made an offer. $5,000 later, he was the owner of his own luthier business.
"(The former owner) liked my style, felt I had the skills and was happy to sell me the place, so it was perfect," he said. "I walked in, had all of the tools, and had some existing clientele."
But the new job wouldn't be without its challenges.
"It's been a lot of hard work since then. I've had to work hard to win new clientele, buy new equipment, and try new stuff," Weber said, noting that he had no formal training as a luthier before taking on the shop.
Weber repairs guitars and other stringed instruments, and said he particularly relishes those that people believe are irreparably broken.
"I get many customers who have recently inherited an instrument or dug an old instrument out that has been unused for a long period of time. … They'd rather have it usable than stored away, getting dusty. I enjoy it, because I get a lot of satisfaction out of fixing broken stuff or making unusable stuff usable again," he explained.
"There's nothing more satisfying for me than when someone brings in something they think is broken beyond repair … sometimes (the instrument) is really badly broken, and I think the challenge has been laid down. I love it."
Weber said that he believes his lack of formal training has given him an edge.
"I'm pretty innovative when it comes to repair work, because I haven't had any formal training in what I do here. I'm not locked into any dogma about how stuff is supposed to be done, what's possible and what isn't," he said. "I'm more likely to just try stuff. Not with other peoples' equipment — I always have some bargain basement guitars to work on and perfect the technique."
When he has free time, Weber will design and build novelty instruments — particularly electric guitars.
"With electric guitars, the world is your oyster. You can do just about anything you want, because you just need a place to hook your strings and a pickup," he said.
Among his novelty projects have been guitars shaped like a waffle, a toilet seat, and a Jolly Roger, a guitar that used the shell of a Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) as its body, and the CW Busker — a cookie tin guitar with an internal amplifier.
"(The CW Buskers) are light, you don't have to worry about them. They're not temperamental in terms of humidity," Weber said. "They're the perfect little travel guitar."
For Weber, it's the innovation in his job that keeps him interested.
"I'm excited about what I do," he said. "To this day, I think, 'Wow, do I really get to do this? Am I really making my living doing something I enjoy so much?
"This was the dream I never dared to dream. I had heard of people who made their living doing something they were really passionate about … I'm really grateful."
Justin Crann can be reached at 306-691-1265 or follow him on Twitter @J_Crann