The $ 275,000 guitar is part of the magical work of luthiers in Wauconda


Tucked away in a converted old aluminum foundry in this unremarkable Wauconda business park is a father-son workshop where magical things happen.

The haunting melody of Bach’s “Partita No. 2 in D minor” stems from the violin played and composed by son Marshall Brune, 37, who lives in Lake in the Hills with his wife, Stephanie, and their seven children. Brune received a degree in violin performance in 2006 from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

“I made money in college playing the violin,” says Brune. “But I made more money driving here and working one day a week.”

He is a luthier who manufactures, repairs and restores wooden musical instruments, sharing a workshop and a passion with his father, Richard Bruné, who learned the craft of luthier as a teenager out of necessity.

“I made money playing guitar in coffee shops,” says the elder Brune, 72, who grew up in Dayton, Ohio, and now lives with his wife, Pauletta, in North Barrington. “I decided I needed a better guitar, and I couldn’t buy one. So I made one.”


Showing off the first violin he made, Marshall Brune and his father, Richard Brune, are world famous for the guitars they make and for their ability to repair and restore classical guitars.
-Mark Welsh | Staff photographer

Using wood he cut from an abandoned dining table in the basement, Brune made his first guitar at age 17. “I had no experience in woodworking, but I knew, as a player, what I wanted,” he says. He mastered the fast fingering of flamenco music and “people dug it out,” says Brune, who dropped out of Indiana University in 1972 to go pro. He signed a contract to play flamenco music at Chicago’s Cafe Barcelona, ​​but he soon discovered that making guitars paid more and had better hours than playing guitar.

A beautiful guitar usually takes between 100 and 200 hours To do.

Elder Brune, whose website is rebrune.com, has made 804 guitars, 50 lutes, a dozen harpsichords, two Arab ouds and a violin. His son, whose website is mebrune.com and has a Marshall Brune Youtube channel, finished his 103rd guitar and made seven violins and a cello. While their designs start at around $ 9,000 and grow steadily, much of their work involves restoring classical guitars.

“It’s like a mid-sized house in a nice neighborhood,” Marshall Brune says of the 1888 Antonio de Torres # 124 spruce and maple guitar that he and his father spent almost a year and a half in. to restore before. sell it for $ 275,000.



Using the skills he learned while earning a master's degree from the Violin Making School of America in Salt Lake City, Marshall Brune joined his father, Richard Brune, in their workshop in Wauconda.  They are among the most sought after luthiers in the world for their handmade guitars and restoration work.

Using the skills he learned while earning a master’s degree from the Violin Making School of America in Salt Lake City, Marshall Brune joined his father, Richard Brune, in their workshop in Wauconda. They are among the most sought after luthiers in the world for their handmade guitars and restoration work.
-Mark Welsh | Staff photographer

A handful of luthiers around the world do this level of work, and the Brunees are quick to suggest that they are the best in the world.

“Every day is our goal,” says Richard Brune. “We have clients in Chicago, South America, Spain, all over Europe and even here in Wauconda.”

Her cell phone rings with a call from a customer at a store in Barcelona, ​​Spain, who is considering buying a 1907 Enrique Garcia guitar and wants to know if it’s worth the asking price of over $ 50,000. From the photos he sends, the Brunei determine he has the original frets, notice old repairs that could be done better, and advise him to spend the money.

They have spent their lives perfecting the craft.

“I started sweeping the store floor at the age of 3,” says Marshall Brune. “When I was 4, I did my first repair. I did my first crack repair at 5 years old. I made my first refret at 7 years old. I did my first major restoration on a very rare Martin mandolin when I was 11 years old. my first guitar at 18. “


The workbench looks fairly ordinary with an assortment of files, chisels, saws, and other woodworking tools, but luthier Marshall Brune uses an assortment of specialty tools, glues and shellacs to make and repair items. guitars in the Wauconda workshop which he shares with his father, Richard Bruné.

The workbench looks fairly ordinary with an assortment of files, chisels, saws, and other woodworking tools, but luthier Marshall Brune uses an assortment of specialty tools, glues and shellacs to make and repair items. guitars in the Wauconda workshop which he shares with his father, Richard Bruné.
-Mark Welsh | Staff photographer

He received his masters degree from the Violin Making School of America in Salt Lake City, and he uses his knowledge daily. But, as with his father, much of the information comes from a voluminous reading of everything from an 1830 book titled “Fundamentals of Musical Acoustics” to a more modern manuscript titled “Bug Poop. “, which explores the resinous secretions of insects. used in shellac.

“It starts with a plank of wood and a band saw,” says Marshall Brune, who notes that they also use drill presses, sanders, a table saw, a monoplane, pliers, their own recipe for special glue, files, gauges, pliers, nylon ropes. , scissors and an assortment of Japanese steel knives for carving wood. He discovered that a sailboat’s spinnaker pole is the perfect tool for bending wood when heating it with a torch.

“Most of our work is manual,” explains Richard Bruné.

A back room contains a reserve of large planks of wood, including cedar, spruce, mahogany, yew, ebony, rosewood and more.

“I bought a lot of these instruments when no one knew what they were,” says Richard Brune of the classical guitars they repair, restore and resell.

“If a guitar has a crackle, I know what the change in tone will be,” says Marshall Brune. “My ears are my life, along with my eyes, my hands and my brain.”



A crack can ruin a guitar, but master luthiers Marshall Brune, above, and his father, Richard Brune, have spent years honing their ability to make flawless repairs to classical instruments.

A crack can ruin a guitar, but master luthiers Marshall Brune, above, and his father, Richard Brune, have spent years honing their ability to make flawless repairs to classical instruments.
-Mark Welsh | Staff photographer

Repairs are so smooth that buyers can’t tell what was fixed, which is why young Brune calls it “ninja work”.

Musicians often reach a level of fame where everyone knows their name. But luthiers can overcome that. You probably can’t name the greatest violinist of the late 1600s or early 1700s, “but you can name the greatest luthier,” Marshall Brune says of Antonio Stradivari, the Italian luthier whose violins Stradivarius are always in demand.

Music is a staple in Marshall Brune’s family. Stéphanie Bruné, who grew up in Mundelein, plays the piano and is the musical director of the Saint-Pierre de Volo Catholic Church, where all the children sing in the choir as soon as they are old enough, and their father is co-director of a choir which performs polyphonic tunes from the 15th century. 12-year-old Peter also plays the guitar. Sophia, 10, plays the violin. 8-year-old Joseph plays the cello. Titus, 5, chooses between violin and cello. Maristella, 4, is starting the violin, and Thaddeus, 2, and Edmund, 5 months, will also have their chance to learn an instrument.

Richard Bruné remembers when his only child was destined to follow in his footsteps as a luthier. Marshall Brune was making money doing odd jobs and mowing the lawn when the father gave the 16-year-old the chance to apply the finish to one of his flamenco guitars, using the French polishing method which takes a lot of work but makes the instrument look and sound better. Young Brune has done a fantastic job.

“I paid $ 500 for it,” says Richard Brune. “And that’s the last time he cut the grass.”


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