Reuben Forsland in his East Sooke studio with the guitar he crafted from hemp wood that he hopes will start a conversation about sustainability. (Rick Stiebel - Sooke News Mirror)

Reuben Forsland in his East Sooke studio with the guitar he crafted from hemp wood that he hopes will start a conversation about sustainability. (Rick Stiebel - Sooke News Mirror)

B.C. artisan strikes a chord with unique and thoughtful custom guitars

Forslund channeling Hendrix for Slash and finding Equilibrium for his father with his creations

Every custom guitar Reuben Forsland crafts begins with conversations and connections.

“The focus is how to create an artisan guitar that inspires the player to make an emotional and spiritual connection,” said Forsland in an interview from his East Sooke studio.

“The guitar to a guitarist is their voice. It has a large effect on what and how they express through their music. I think the guitar is the best connection of storytelling outside of written words, and music’s a beautiful way to show that connection.”

Forsland went to great lengths to find a source of inspiration when he was hired by renowned rock guitarist Slash to make an acoustic guitar.

ALSO READ: Groovy B.C. wedding a throwback to Woodstock ‘69

Once he found out Jimi Hendrix was one of Slash’s heroes, Forsland spent six months tracking down Pete Sikov, the owner of the Seattle house Hendrix grew up in.

“I asked Pete if he was open to the concept of using some of the wood from the house for Slash’s guitar, and he was good with that,” said Forsland, who has since completed four other guitars using some of that wood.

Another one of his guitars, Equilibrium, embodies the sense of spiritual connection and conversation that permeates his work.

“It was inspired by my father’s struggles with addiction, and that guitar is a broader conversation about the human experience,” he said.

Forsland, who grew up in central Alberta and Ottawa before moving to B.C. in 2008, worked as a Red Seal carpenter for many years before gravitating towards building guitars.

“I’ve done every field of carpentry, including bridge building, large commercial, custom houses and log homes,” he said.

He also made furniture in the evenings and weekends, searching for something he couldn’t put his fingers on that would feed the creative fire burning within.

After working on skateboards and longboards for five or six years, Forsland crafted his first guitar in 2008.

“I was looking for something different that incorporated my carpentry skills that totally fueled the passion I was looking for,” he recalled. “I felt like, ‘OK, now I know what I want to do’ and wanted to put everything I have into it. I base my work on 50 per cent art and 50 per cent guitar. Every guitar has a part of me and what I believe in.”

ALSO READ: B.C.’s ‘Captain Maniac’ has seen close to 1,000 concerts since 1964, starting with The Beatles

By 2013, Forsland was devoting his time to his business, JOI Guitars, with 99 per cent of his orders coming from outside of Canada. His work has been featured with Jimi Hendrix memorabilia at Northwest African American Museum in Seattle, the Robert Bateman Gallery in Victoria, the National Music Centre of Canada in Calgary, and the Sarah McLachlan School Music in Vancouver.

Although Forsland has worked exclusively on acoustic guitars until now, he was recently commissioned by a musician in New Hampshire to make a reproduction of Eddie Van Halen’s electric Frankenstrat guitar.

When asked if he plays guitar, Forsland shared a story about how he collected pop bottles when he was young until he had enough money to buy a guitar and cover a year’s worth of lessons. He picked it up again in his late 20s, acquiring a level of skill that resonated sweetly through the workshop as he strummed a few chords on one of his creations.

Forsland’s focus these days, however, is on his most recent acoustic creation, the first world’s first traditionally built guitar made from hemp wood, a wood substitute made from hemp fibres.

“It’s 20 per cent stronger and grows 100 times faster than oak,” he said. “Environmentally, it absorbs four times more CO2 in its lifetime than the same area as a forest.”

If just 2.6 per cent of the farmland in the U.S. was dedicated to cultivating industrial hemp, it could displace a massive amount of the annual consumption of wood, letting the trees stand, Forsland said.

Hemp wood is also an agricultural diversity plant that allows farmers to make a good living, he added.

Forsland embraces environmental sustainability with the same passion he brings to making guitars because they strike a similar chord. That’s why he chose Earth Day (April 22) as the perfect time to unveil his hemp wood guitar officially.

“Although this guitar can’t save the environment, it’s a piece of the conversation about what can be created with a sustainable product in today’s marketplace. Hemp wood can have a dramatic positive influence on the future market of wood production.”

Take a listen to a video of Forsland playing the hemp guitar at https://youtu.be/Al6RC2Mnr-o.

“It’s more than just an instrument. It’s an opportunity to have conversations for different reasons, social and environmental.”

Check out joiguitars.com/hempwood for an in-depth tour of Forsland’s hemp wood guitar, and joiguitars.com/guitars for more photos and info on his work.]

For more news from Vancouver Island and beyond delivered daily into your inbox, please click here.



editor@sookenewsmirror.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

West Shore

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

“Skeena,” by John Hudson and Paul Hanslow is one of five fonts in the running to become the default for Microsoft systems and Office programs. (Black Press Media File Photo)
Font named after Skeena River could become the next Microsoft default

One of the five new fonts will replace Calibri, which has been Microsoft’s default since 2007

Accessibility improvements and more classrooms at the Houston Christian School should be completed by the new school year. (Houston Today photo)
Accessibility improvements coming to Houston Christian School

Construction package includes two classrooms

The soft opening of the nature centre at the Buck Creek CANFOR hatchery took place mid-April. (Angelique Houlihan photo/Houston Today)
Houston hatchery and nature centre’s upcoming events

The conservation group to host summer students this year

Council wants a say in the expansion of long term care services in Smithers. Pictured here is the Bulkley Lodge facility in that community. (Google photo)
Long term care remains on council priority list

Wants to be involved in expansion plans in Smithers

Jose Marchand prepares Pfizer COVID-19 vaccination doses at a mobile clinic for members of First Nations and their partners, in Montreal, Friday, April 30, 2021. The National Advisory Committee on Immunization is coming under fire after contradicting the advice Canadians have been receiving for weeks to take the first vaccine against COVID-19 that they’re offered. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz
Trudeau says he is glad he got AstraZeneca, vaccines are only way out of pandemic

‘The most important thing is to get vaccinated with the first vaccine offered to you’

B.C.’s provincial health officer, Dr. Bonnie Henry. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Dip in COVID-19 cases with 572 newly announced in B.C.

No new deaths have been reported but hospitalized patients are up to 481, with 161 being treated in intensive care

Solar panels on a parking garage at the University of B.C. will be used to separate water into oxygen and hydrogen, the latter captured to supply a vehicle filling station. (UBC video)
UBC parkade project to use solar energy for hydrogen vehicles

Demonstration project gets $5.6M in low-carbon fuel credits

FILE – A student arrives at school as teachers dressed in red participate in a solidarity march to raise awareness about cases of COVID-19 at Ecole Woodward Hill Elementary School, in Surrey, B.C., on Tuesday, February 23, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C. ‘should be able to’ offer 1st dose of COVID vaccine to kids 12+ by end of June: Henry

Health Canada authorized the vaccine for younger teens this morning

A woman in the Harrison Mills area was attacked by a cougar on Tuesday, May 4. B.C. Conservation Officers killed two male cougars in the area; the attack was determined to be predatory in nature. (File photo)
2 cougars killed following attack on woman in Agassiz area

Attack victim remains in hospital in stable condition

A woman wears a face mask and shield to curb the spread of COVID-19 while walking in North Vancouver, B.C., on Wednesday, January 6, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C. CDC updates info, acknowledging small respiratory droplets can spread COVID-19

Large droplets, not aerosols had been fixture of public health messaging for many months

A picture of Shirley Ann Soosay was rendered from a postmortem photographer and circulated on social media. (DDP graphic)
B.C. genealogist key to naming murder victim in decades-old California cold case

In July 1980, Shirley Ann Soosay was raped and stabbed to death

Mary Kitagawa was born on Salt Spring Island and was seven years old when she was interned along with 22,000 B.C. residents in 1942. (B.C. government video)
B.C. funds health services for survivors of Japanese internment

Seniors describe legacy of World War II displacement

Most Read