‘Unlocking the Wood From Its Silence’: Wilton man crafts handmade guitars

3 mins read
Bill Russo hangs a handmade guitar in his workshop in Wilton.

WILTON – On a sunny hill on the outskirts of Wilton, Bill Russo pieces together guitars from some of the rarest wood in the world. Species like Brazilian and Madagascar Rosewood – types that you need special permits to buy – have served as the foundation for Russo’s handcrafted guitars.

“I had to build a lot of mediocre guitars to get to where I am today. It’s an amazing process,” Russo said. “I’ve always told myself it would take 500 to get really, really good at it. I’m a little over 400 now.”

Russo has crafted guitars for the likes of Rex Fowler, Tom Dean and Denny Brooks, to name a few. But claims to fame aren’t why he’s in the business.

“I don’t want to feel that typical hamster on the wheel thing,” he said. “It’s a business, but it’s still my passion.”

Bill Russo’s guitar workshop.

Building guitars wasn’t what Russo ever set out specifically to do. He learned wood working from an uncle, and fell in love with the process of building houses. Playing music was a hobby, but it wasn’t his drive.

“We need each other,” he said, referring to luthiers and musicians. “One can’t exist without the other.”

Making instruments was born out of knowing he couldn’t do carpentry forever. Roofing and construction was taxing, and Russo knew he needed to find something else to “finish things out.” Being a luthier is taxing in its own way however, he said, mostly mentally as he tries to find the balance of beauty and playability in each piece. A friend of his refers to it as “unlocking the wood from its silence,” and Russo has worked with that motto for the last 20 years.

In addition to making, Russo also does repairs and offers classes to the community. People come from across the country to take his week-long intensive workshop that actually sends students away with their own hand-built guitar. More recently he’s partnered with local colleges to offer the course for credit. Russo said teaching others makes him a better builder, and offers the chance to spread the love of the fine craft.

“Sometimes I have to pinch myself,” he said. “It’s a business, but I love it just as much now as the day I started.”

For more information about Russo’s business click here.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email