LOUISVILLE, Ky. — You’ve probably heard the expression, “I'll know it when I see it.” Well, when building an acoustic guitar it’s, “I’ll know when I hear it.”
In his well-kept basement shop, T.J. Burch is chasing the right sound as he works on his latest six-string.
“The tone is sort of voodoo. It’s kind of nebulous; it’s all in the ear of the listener,” Burch indulges.
He was around 40-years-old when he started learning how to make acoustic guitars. He’s almost 50 now. Even if the husband and father of two is by all accounts a “novice,” luthier, he’s making objectively, high-end guitars.
“This will be…I'm working on the 10th one right now,” Burch tells Spectrum News. His tenth guitar, like a good song, tells a unique story inspired by a bad day but followed by a good deed.
One of Burch’s earlier works was gifted to his brother-in-law. Unfortunately, that guitar was stolen over Derby weekend 2019.
"And we still don’t know who stole,” Burch explains.
However, the family knows who found it! The guitar was gone for months until about 9 months after it was stolen a young man in Clay City bought it during Court Days in Mount Sterling, Kentucky more than two hours east of Louisville.
Burch says a young man by the name of Jacob Rogers bought the guitar and while researching the instrument online found a social media post Burch made months earlier on Facebook reporting it stolen. Rogers contacted the owners and returned it.
Appreciating Roger’s actions Burch reciprocated, “Our family, our extended family was just elated to have the guitar back so I just decided that’s the kind of kid I want playing a guitar with my name on it.”
So Burch went to work building another guitar from scratch. He’s using donated Bubinga wood for the instrument’s body, Cocobolo for the trim, a Mahogany neck, and handmade fret inlay made from Abalone shell.
Once word got out, friends, and family members, even strangers wanted to help cover the cost of materials. In a few weeks, Rogers will have a one-of-kind Burch guitar, one he can hold on to for good.
Burch adds, “I said if there is anyone wondering if there are good people out in the world, we found one, this young man in Clay City.