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Colin Vance banjos

Blue Lake, CA, USA

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Luthier Since: 2002

Listing Created: 5/30/2020
Listing Updated: 5/30/2020

More About Me

Colin Vance’s path to building banjos began with a near death experience in the form of a car accident at 20 years old in the year 2000. After recovering from the experience and needing to begin making a living, the purchase of a banjo was an inspiring object that led him on a path of finding ones’ craft.

Sometime later Vance came to the realization that his banjo did not grow on a tree. It also happened to be that there was a banjo builder (Wildwood) in Arcata, CA, where Vance lived.

Growing up in boatyards and woodshops with his father a boat builder, it was natural for him to find a trade. Now with a family of his own and water under the bridge it’s clear how much his father’s boat business, ‘Vance and Son wooden boat building’, was an influence in becoming a self employed craftsman himself.

Vance’s hands on training in musical instrument manufacturing began in 2002 working for WildWood banjo company for Mark Platin (now retired). Hundreds of banjos and thousands of electric guitar necks and bodies were produced during seven years with a crew of 4-5 shop coworkers. Platin was a great business owner to work for and Vance always respected him very much. These were formative years for his skillset.

In 2007 Platin sold the OEM manufacturing business he ran within the same building, Wildwood manufacturing to Bruce Hamilton and moved his Banjos to Bend, OR. Vance worked under Bruce’s ownership for a short time before leaving the nest to start his own banjo business in 2008 after years of employment under the same roof.

Great credit is also given to Jason Romero. During the years they worked alongside each other at Wildwood and played in a band together, Vance was a sounding board for Romero’s pontification about what made the best banjo. Much of this banjo banter back and forth between close friends in a shop environment influenced Vance’s own designs which he developed further and personalized. Vance is grateful for Romero’s encouragement to build his own banjo brand name and not to be afraid of self employment. His encouragement was that of a real friend who Vance looked up to in those years.

Arcata Bouzouki builder, Phil Crump, of P.W.Crump Company taught Vance the intricacies of finishing and building guitars. Crump was also employed and mentored by Mark Platin in his own formative years back in the 70’s when Platin’s Wildwood was just a little music shop in Arcata, CA. Phil Crump’s mentoring and good advice over many years are something cherished by Vance.

Another local luthier, Ken Lawrence, of Ken Lawrence Instruments building fine electric basses has always been an inspiration to Vance and something to strive towards in building practices and shop upkeep. He’s been a friend and veteran luthier for a long time locally, always sharing information or knowledge graciously.

With lessons learned and processes honed through almost twenty years of building, Vance offers unique banjo models and maintains a small waiting list of select clients and projects.


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