The Story Behind The Bedell Guitars Custom Shop

In his teen years, Two Old Hippies founder Tom Bedell started his first guitar business, importing instruments from the Pacific Rim, branding them under his own name and selling them throughout the Midwest to aspiring players. Many years later, after he retired from the family fishing supply business, Bedell realized his greatest desire was to return to the wonderful world of guitars. (Top Image: Tom Bedell working with songwriter Dean Dillon in the Custom Shop. Right: Various steps in the custom build process).

When he purchased Breedlove Guitars in late 2010, he immediately set to revamping the workplace, making it safe, productive and friendly to all employees. He also saw an opportunity. While switching Breedlove wood sourcing to responsible, sustainable and certified partners, and while developing Sound Optimization to make the very best use of those precious resources, Bedell grasped that he could now make his youthful dream an even more amazing reality.

He re-launched Bedell Guitars, this time as a stateside boutique, hand-made brand based on the great guitars he remembered from his time as a burgeoning folkie in Spirit Lake, Iowa. Now, in addition to a beautiful, varied line of ultra high quality production instruments, Bedell players can also make their own dreams happen via the Bedell Custom Shop.

Bedell is a true believer—in peace, in music and in the relationship between the natural world and acoustic music making. His belief in wood is, in many ways, the basis for the Bedell Custom Shop in Bend, Oregon.

The wood you choose for your Bedell Custom Shop masterpiece will be fully certified, sanely harvested and carefully tracked from its position in the forest right through to your hands.

“To me,” Bedell says, “there’s an emotional, value-driven relationship between Mother Nature, the acoustic guitar and the acoustic guitar player. If we go back to the beginning of time, when humans started to gather together in small groups, music was the way they communicated, even before they invented language. Rhythms, sounds, Mother Nature contributed to all that. That’s how people spoke. Music has been a part of our DNA since then.”

“You take a musical instrument that has no electronics, no dials, no mechanical production—an acoustic guitar. The only way that music comes out of that guitar is when a human being transmits what’s inside of them through this Mother Nature-given instrument to create their music. To me that’s something very special, so I wanted to know where every piece of wood came from. I wanted to know the forest. I wanted to know that the families that had the mills in those forests were being treated properly. I didn’t want to use any clearcut wood.”

As Bedell points out, an instrument from the custom shop is more than just a guitar. It’s an adventure.

“I can show you to within less than a square mile exactly where that tree came from, and in fact if you asked me to, I could probably go back into my files and tell you those six people who were there that felled that tree. So to us there’s an adventure built around that guitar.”

He chuckles at the fact that many custom buyers who visit the shop—a truly life-altering experience—end up with something other than what they had originally planned.

“What happens,” Bedell says, “is that your eyes start to go to various woods when you’re here, building your guitar. They might be completely different than the ones you were tethered to when you booked your trip. Somehow you connect, and it’s an emotional connection. It might be because of the incredible figure in the wood. It might be that when you picked it up, you tapped on it, and you experienced its exquisite response and it just hit you.”

At the shop in Bend, the team will watch how you play. They’ll listen to your concept for your perfect guitar. They’ll note your personal style and attack; how hard you hit the strings with a flatpick; how gently you strum with a bare thumb; how crisply you fingerpick; how wide a dynamic range you express …

The team will not only talk with you about different woods, but show you amazing sets in a variety of species from the Bedell Exotic Wood Library, each with specific tonal and visual qualities.

“It’s really like going to a tailor to get a suit made,” Bedell says.

Your Bedell Custom Shop experience can be as immersive as you want it to be. If you’ve no great desire to sit in the design room, for example, Bedell says, “We will happily email you pictures of woods. If you’re excited by the Revolution and want to add some tweaks, we can send you photos, so you can actually visually pick your back woods.”

“It just depends on how thorough you want the experience to be.”