Mark Wallace’s upcycled instruments include a piece of the city’s storied history.
Image courtesy of Wallace Detroit Guitars
“Detroit’s always been about making things,” says Mark Wallace in a promo video for his business, Wallace Detroit Guitars. “And it’s also always been about making music.” Wallace uses reclaimed materials from neglected or demolished buildings around the city to create his handmade instruments, taking advantage of the old-growth wood that was used to construct many of Detroit’s once-grand structures. The aged wood gives the axes a tone reminiscent of vintage instruments, not usually found in guitars made with newer materials. A recent CBS video interview with Wallace takes us to an old Cadillac plant, where the craftsman sorts through stacks of chipped, paint-covered beams. “It’s really amazing for me to take an old piece of wood that’s either been burned or has paint chips on it—looks like garbage, and most people would throw in their dumpster, and turning it into something as beautiful as these guitars.” Adding to their local street cred, Wallace’s guitars are labeled with the address of the building that each instrument’s materials came from.
In recent years, the guitar industry has faced difficulty in ethically sourcing materials for high-end instruments, particularly Indian rosewood and ebony, which often come from illegal logging operations in threatened areas. The problem culminated in a massive seizure of wood from guitar maker Gibson in 2011. But with Wallace’s guitars, buyers can actually feel good about where their instrument comes from, not only avoiding the pitfall of supporting environmentally and economically damaging behavior, but also attaining a recycled piece of Detroit’s storied history. “I love the city, and I understand that there are a lot of places in the city that look like they’re beat up, that look like they’re run down, that look like they can never come back,” Wallace told CBS. “This guitar tells you that there’s a different story.”