Wallace Detroit Guitars gives new life to reclaimed wood

The city of Detroit has tens of thousands of abandoned homes and buildings waiting to be torn down.

Mayor Mike Duggan has made this a priority but wouldn't it be great if some of these buildings could find a new purpose - a second chance at life.

In the FoxE Report, Sherry Margolis spends time with one Detroiter who is turning vacant buildings into beautiful instruments and a local musician who's singing his praises.

Stewart Francke is one of Detroit's brightest musical stars, he's a singer and songwriter who has won all kinds of awards.

He's recorded with Bruce Springsteen and he's done tour dates with Bob Seger and Hall and Oates. 

And he knows a thing or two about guitars.

"This is a Wallace Detroit guitar," Francke said. "It's a Telecaster copy, a Fender Telecaster copy, that's the model. But the wood is all refurbished pine from the Cadillac Stamping Plant."

That's right, Francke's guitar is made from reclaimed wood. that came from a Detroit auto plant built in the 1920's.

"It's a gorgeous instrument, plays beautifully," he said.

Here's the guy behind Wallace Detroit Guitars: Mark Wallace. 

He was working in real estate, when he got the idea to use something that was going to be thrown away - wood from old buildings in Detroit - to create something beautiful.

"People from all over the country are interested in the guitars," Wallace said. "That's the great thing about it. There's interest in the story of Detroit, there's also interest in the story of having instruments that come from a place."

But there's something more. Using the old wood gives the guitar a sort of vintage sound, like guitars that were made in the 1930s and 40s.

It is the same type of wood that made some of the most valuable instruments in the world.

"The tree that went into this could have been 200 years old," Wallace said. "And it was probably cut down 100 years ago.

"If you add all that up, you are talking this wood may have seen 300 years of Detroit history."

Wallace has gotten wood from a house on Pearl Street, from the old Cadillac plant and from the David Whitney building, while it was being renovated.

"I went over there on a lunch break," he said. "And filled up the trunk of my car with what looked like garbage. I took that garbage and cut it down, milled it, planed, sanded it, laminated it and I ended up with some really beautiful guitars."

Wallace sold his first guitar a year and a half ago, and since then he's sold 30 more .to musicians in Sweden, California and all over the country.

They even come with straps made from reclaimed seat belts straight from the Motor City.

Stewart Francke says the craftsmanship, the aged wood and modern electronics make the Wallace Guitar something very special.

"Just beautifully built and playable," he said. "It's like vintage Gibsons or Fenders. The finest guitar I have ever played."

Mark Wallace is proud of his guitars.  He says they represent the city of Detroit.

We've had our problems, but we know how to turn them around and create something beautiful.  

"I want people to look up on stage and point, and say 'What is that, where did that come from,'" Wallace said. "And for people to say, 'That came from Detroit.'" 

To learn more about Wallace guitars CLICK HERE.

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