Made for, January 2016 (link)
As the birthplace of love songs, rock songs, hits and misses, folk songs, jazz and the blues, this guitar maker’s hands is where musical magic starts.
Stepping into the light-filled studio of luthier Tim Kill, located just outside of Melbourne in the town of Cockatoo, the aroma of cedar, rosewood and various other woods hit us like a major chord. Rows and rows of guitars, mandolins, classical instruments and various long-necked bodies from around the world line the windows, and fine shavings of wood cover the floor. It’s here a piece of wood, salvaged, vintage or new (some of the wood in his studio is centuries old), is manipulated by hand into to a perfectly tuned medium of expression – pretty impressive when you think about it.
Like so many artists you meet on the road, Kill is the personification of his work: warm, harmonious, and so lovely to listen to. He’s also the kind of guy you’d love to take on a camping trip, a great storyteller. Growing up in his furniture maker grandfather’s workshop, Kill has been in love with wood since he was a boy and he’s been making guitars since he was just 16. “I just knew that this was what I had to do, what I was here for, you know?” he says, reflecting back on his first self-made guitar. “I just fell in love with the timber and the smell. I was in my grandfather’s workshop all the time as a kid, and would be covered in sawdust from an early age. So I think it just rubbed off from there.”
A musician himself, Kill lives for “the tone”, also known as the elusive element that guitarists and bass players spend their lives searching for, and once found in a perfect form, is oft the crux of their love affair with their beloved musical axe. But what also gives this maker pleasure is seeing his work in action, up on stage, on YouTube or just when the instrument returns to him for a tune up years later. “To see an instrument come back after 10 years and see all the scratches, the love marks and know that’s it’s been played… and to actually hear the instrument – because all instruments open up and change and develop their tone… and when it sounds perfect…” he smiles before trailing off.
A “maker” in the truest sense, Kill gears his life towards supporting handmade, and even though he deals in chords, tones and classical instruments, that doesn’t mean he’s a perfectionist. “I just love creating something that pops up into my brain, I suppose, and seeing it come to life,” he muses. “And that challenge…. I kind of get off on stuff when it doesn’t go right. It’s weird, but when it doesn’t turn out how I pictured it in my head, I get fired up to go, ‘Well, let’s give it a shot next time and make it work in a way’, so when something goes bung, it makes me feel kind of normal in a way, or good about making it better next time.”