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Letter: Lutherie in South Africa

Letter: Lutherie in South Africa

by Rodney Stedall

Originally published in American Lutherie #70, 2002


Dear Tim,

Ron Bushman was in South Africa recently on a business trip. He’s a part-time luthier living in Fullerton, California (hometown of Leo Fender) with about twenty-five classical and flamenco guitars carrying his label. He also plays flamenco very well.

Ron Bushman admires a Portugese guitarra made by François Pistorius. Both photos by Rodney Stedall

I took the day off to offer Ron a bit of South African luthiers’ hospitality. After collecting him at his hotel we went off to Silverton Houthandelaars (wood dealers) to look for indigenous woods. He selected some impressive backs and sides from kiaat and a nice piece of tambotie for headstock veneers.

We then visited François Pistorius who impressed Ron with his Portuguese guitarra, an offset-soundhole classical, and his famous double-neck steel string/bouzouki combination on which he plays Celtic music that he learned during his apprenticeship in Galway, Ireland. François added to Ron’s load by kindly giving him a back and side set of bubinga (African rosewood).

François plays his double-neck guitar/bouzouki.

Then to my workshop where we cut the kiaat into luggage-size pieces. I was able to give Ron a nice quartersawn neck set of boekenhout (African beech) with its beautiful flaming as well as some leadwood (hardekool) and black ivory which I had previously cut into thin bookmatched pieces for head veneers.

We then treated Ron to a traditional meal of stywe pap (stiff corn porridge) and bredie (tomato onion gravy) with sosaties (shish kebab) braaied (barbequed) on an open fire made from bushveld leadwood. We sent Ron off, fully laden with his stock of South African tonewoods to remind him of his visit to our beautiful country. ◆