The Luthier

Matthew Tolley Luthier

My lifelong passion for music, musical instruments, fine woodworking, and design led me to build my first mandolin in 2000. In the spring of 2002, I attended the respected Roberto-Venn School of Lutherie located in Phoenix, Arizona. After graduation I moved to Santa Cruz, California to work for luthier Rick Turner at the Renaissance Guitar Company. During my tenure at Renaissance, I was exposed to all phases of electric and acoustic instrument design and construction in a unique boutique shop environment. In 2008, I returned to SeattleĀ  and took a position at Gurian Instruments designing and cutting inlays for musical instruments. This invaluable production experience introduced me to many lutherie concepts, both traditional and cutting edge, which I apply to my own archtop guitar and mandolin designs. As a luthier, I build guitars and mandolins with an aesthetic rooted in traditional elegance but crafted for the modern player. Tolley Stringed Instruments have been proudly exhibited at the annual CMSA Convention, the Wintergrass Festival, the NW Handmade Musical Instrument Exhibit, and the Healdsburg Guitar Festival.

Every Tolley Stringed Instrument is a collaboration, from wood selection through delivery, between myself and the client. Unlike mass produced instruments, a custom built instrument is constructed according to the clients needs as a musician. With many options available including custom finishes, voicing, tone woods, and hardware, a truly unique and personalized instrument can be created. I build instruments that will reflect the individuals personal and musical style, and supply a lifetime of inspiration. I look forward to working together with you as we create your new custom instrument.

Please visit the Instrument Gallery to view recently completed instruments

The Building Process

Carving Guitar Top
All instruments are made from the finest seasoned tone woods and highest quality materials available. The wood is selected based on its contribution to the desired tonal qualities and aesthetic of each instrument. Every component is then meticulously hand crafted. Each top and back plate, aperture, bridge, neck, and many other components of the instrument are hand carved and shaped to achieve the best possible fit and acoustic response. Although labor and time intensive, I believe this is the best method for me as a luthier to interpret the materials at hand and to create and control the instruments voice, dynamics, and playability.

I believe that no musical instrument is greater than the sum of it parts. As a one person operation, building instruments individually, I am able to focus on the specifics of each instrument to compliment the finished product. Custom ornamentation and details are incorporated to create the ideal musical statement. All Tolley Stringed Instruments are designed and handcrafted in my Seattle workshop to bring the customer a lifetime of playing enjoyment and service.


Please visit the Workshop Gallery to view the building process

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