In 50 years we’ve seen so much change. Vinyl has gone virtual, cars can drive themselves, shows can stream everywhere all at once, and whole orchestras can be conducted with keystrokes. In 5 decades, where generations have come and gone, Grimes has only deepened a talent to the depth and pressure where diamonds are formed. A musician and a luthier now for 5 decades; in 200 seasons and over 15,000 days, Grimes has summoned multiple lifetimes as a master craftsman of masterpieces. Strings and Steve Grimes are a tangled medley inextricable from one another, a reason today we are thrilled to feature him in this week’s edition of our TopShelf Luthier Series.
Prodigy to Paramount
Grimes was always a maestro of strings, early on he played violin and mandolin with fierce interest and passion. It wasn’t until 1974 that he found his real interests were in guitar construction. When he set out to create acoustic archtop guitars, he was quick to succeed in the endeavor. A momentum he would later carry into flat top guitars, where in 1982, he began making steel string, classical, and semi-hollow body archtop electrics, which would inevitably sky-rocket him into near universal acclaim.
Also In 1982, Grimes moved his shop from Port Townsend, Washington to its present location in Kula, Hawaii. Initially, he had not realized the serendipity of that decision. At approximately 4000 feet on the dry, leeward slopes of Mt. Haleakala, he had parted with seasonal fluctuations in temperature and humidity and in turn would enjoy climate stability and conditioning, an atmosphere that imbues his instruments with a calm and stalwart sense of pure intent like no other shop on Earth.
Soon after this move, Grimes would find himself invigorated with local music and musicians. His interests and talent therein would collide in a fusion of knowledge and instrumentation that would come to transcend guitars and ukuleles; eventually his production of violins and beyond.
Unlike competing shops, Grimes’ process goes deeper, learning not just what guitar players say they prefer, but delving even further into the player that they are, and tailoring to every aspect of the guitarist as he knows them.
Today Grimes makes guitars, mandolins, and more in concert with the beautiful scenery that surrounds him and in harmony with the patrons that prefer him.
Music in All Its Forms
Grime’s Hawaii shop has an incredible array of instruments to please players of all skills and pedigrees. His infinite expanse of creative imagination seems to summon creations that transcend even those with the wildest dreams.
Models like the Beamer Steel String werewas originally designed for and made popular by Keola Beamer, the great Hawaiian slack key artist. This double soundhole guitar produces a deep, rich tone with a bass response unnaturally pronounced compared to other bodies that size. The transverse brace, usually located just behind the soundhole in front of the bridge, can be moved up to the end of the fingerboard, effectively “opening” up the tone-producing potential of the soundboard, tailoring sound, and style to the player and even their unpredictable moods.
Meanwhile, pieces like The Bird Of Paradise model are a work of eye candy and eargasm. A semi-solid body electric guitar, the carved curly maple top, and backplates are pronounced with a rich Honduras mahogany core. The body is 60% solid, designed to sustain without the heavy excess of other solid bodies, and without the feedback problems inherent in many acoustic/electrics.
Beyond guitars, the E-7 Mandolin strums with an eclectic sound and style as distinctive as those that play them. The two-pointed body, similar to the old Lyon and Healy mandolins, harkens back to a more traditional heritage but enhanced with more modern adaptations.
Whatever he creates, Grimes sources only the finest tone woods, with the highly figured sides and backs cut from the same board. All of this is in service to a perfect visual and tonal match. He is malleable and ensures all of his guitars are catered to his guitarists, but he is also firm in that no guitar leaves his shop that he is not personally, unequivocally proud of.
The sound of a Grimes guitar is as expansive and infinite as it is amazing. He is a dynasty of quality and an era-spanning monarch of guitar making. Meanwhile, his mandolins and Ukuleles’ are as sturdy as they are symphonic and as celebrated as his music. In the end, a Grimes instrument is less a choice, but rather a blessed gift for patrons lucky enough to partake.