Tucked in the beauty of lakes and rolling hills of Plainwell, Michigan is Whiskey Hotel Instruments. Wayne Hayward started his journey building custom instruments 15 years ago. It happened almost by accident. A friend had come to visit from Ireland with a baroque flute. In case you’re not familiar with a baroque flute, it’s simply a cylinder with holes and no keys. Wayne was looking at it and thought to himself, I could make that! After a few dozen of those, he had so many he was giving them away to anyone he met. His wife asked him to get a new hobby. Not one to back down from a challenge, he purchased a mandolin kit. The kit proved disappointing. “It was a real piece of junk. I hated the way it sounded, I hated the way it looked.” So he decided to make his own. His efforts paid off when he finally achieved the sound he wanted.
As his skill and confidence grew he was soon making guitars, violins, mandolins and whatever people requested. His work evolved into his own custom designs. You can tell from the schematics around the workshop this is an ordered, disciplined person. Someone who appreciates the intricacies in the details. He isn’t there to make 1,000 instruments on an assembly line, he is a craftsman, one musician and his personal custom-made instruments. I asked Wayne about his process, “I start with the customer, and we have a conversation about how they envision their instrument. How is going to sound? What does it look like? They explain to me what they are looking for and I create a plan for creating the instrument. My designs are my designs. You will never see another one like it,” said Wayne describing the personal touch he puts into each creation. “You can see and hear the difference. You’re not going to get this kind of quality anywhere else.” Though he has a passion for making mandolins, the most frequently requested instrument is the guitar.
He can make any string instrument requested. He shared several instruments with me including his daughter’s violin he handcrafted. He still has the original Baroque flute that introduced him to woodworking instruments. Some of the wood used to make these instruments has a story all its own. Wayne once saved some high-quality maple from becoming a pig’s trough at an auction. That wood is now a part of several instruments including a mandolin and violin. Much of it wood is local and some of it comes from as far away as Sitka, Alaska. The wood itself has a second life in these beautiful, handcrafted instruments. It was a privilege to see these instruments being made by hand. From the selection of wood to his personal care of instruments crafted only for his use, Wayne Hayward is passionate about his craft. Wayne Hayward of Whiskey Hotel Instruments can be found at Whiskeyhotelinstruments@aol.com or 269-209-9568 cell. In addition to handcrafting musical instruments, he also repairs existing instruments. Visit his website at https://sites.google.com/site/ whiskeyhotelinstruments/.