Wide Sky luthier thrives in Taos Valley

By Jesse Moya
jmoya@taosnews.com The Taos News
Posted 5/17/18

After several years of carpentry and cabinet building, local crafter Patch Rubin decided to try something new with his woodworking skills and take his art …

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Wide Sky luthier thrives in Taos Valley

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After several years of carpentry and cabinet building, local crafter Patch Rubin decided to try something new with his woodworking skills and take his art in a more familiar direction.

Rubin spent a decade in a traveling band, learning the ins and outs of sound and moved to Taos only to find the music itch still inside his head. His focus turned from carpentry to luthier work when he decided to start building his first acoustic guitar five years ago. The guitar, a mid-sized flat top guitar that has been altered and experimented with, became an instant calling to Rubin, and Wide Sky Guitars was born.

"As soon as I started the first one," Rubin said, "I told myself, 'I had to do this.' This has to be my five-year plan."

Wide Sky Guitars' shop is a dusty drive on the mesa to the small shop that Rubin has crafted mostly by himself to fit the needs of his customers. With a wide-open window facing east, Rubin creates his guitars in the presence of the mountains. He completes two in a month.

The specialty guitars are made by hand by Rubin with wood imported usually from Alaska. According to Rubin, the company officially started around three years ago when he decided to get serious about guitar building. Adding to the growing number of New Mexico guitar builders, Rubin simply said he was trying to build guitars the way he wanted them to sound.

From the first guitar, which he still keeps on the shelf, Rubin began working with different shapes and patterns before solidifying the seven current shapes his shop builds. From smaller parlor guitars to larger dreadnought shapes, Wide Sky guitars offers a variety of different styles that Rubin has worked to master over the past few years. His best-known shape is his recreation of the L1, which he refers to as the PL1, a modern take on a classic shape.

"For some reason," Rubin said, "it's always been the perfect shape to me."

The PL1 is crafted to pay tribute to the classic jazz guitar with a trapeze tailpiece, a bar attached to the bottom of the guitar that reaches up and meets the bridge where the strings sit. This addition on a flat top guitar produces a unique sound that brings out a different feeling than a traditional flat top acoustic guitar. The sound of the PL1 brings out low tones and allows treble notes to punch through and ring in harmony with the bass tones. Rubin said the guitar best represents his style of playing and crafting.

Rubin honed these skills from YouTube videos and various books over the years.

The process starts with slabs of tone wood that undergo the gradual and meticulous process of becoming a musical instrument. The top and back of the guitar are cut by hand.

Then Rubin shapes the sides out of a heating machine he improvised himself. Braces are added to allow the guitar to vibrate a certain way to catch all of the sound of the strings and are glued down using tent pole-like structures under pressure.

The neck is carved into the perfect shape with the small bits of fret wires added along with the dotted inlays as well. Then finishing touches, such as hardware, the tuners and bridge, are added once the pieces are fitted together, and the guitar begins its final journey into the hands of the customer.

"You make the guitar," Rubin said. "It's your sculpture, or its your art, then you hand it off to someone, and they make their art. It's the coolest thing."

Currently, Rubin makes about two guitars a month if his orders are constant. The process is completely hand done in-house at the Wide Sky workshop. Wide Sky Guitars have made their ways into the hands of locals, travelers and big time musicians alike over the past few years and have even been featured at the National Association of Music Merchants conventions.

Acoustic instruments have always held a special place in Rubin's life and learning how the instrument functions has taken the guitars to levels he had never expected. Professional musicians and even other manufacturers have expressed interest and curiosity in his guitars.

Venturing from the acoustic world, Rubin is planning on releasing a line of electric guitars in the future and is finalizing designs and specs at the moment.

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