About Charles Shifflett
Calgary born Luthier Charles Shifflett always enjoyed woodworking. It was a hobby and passion expressed through cabinetry and custom furniture building until he became involved in music as a part of his brother’s basement band. In the late 1980s, when he heard about someone teaching guitar building in British Columbia, Shifflett, with his interest and curiosity piqued, ran off with the fiddler for a year that turned into three years and sort of wrecked the band.
The program in question was taught by Michael Dunn at Douglas College in New Westminster, and with two full-time ten month terms, Dunn taught Shifflett and his classmates guitar building in the Spanish style, and Shifflett received two ‘Certificates of Mastery’ in both ‘Musical Instrument Construction,’ and ‘Musical Instrument Construction-Advanced’. For Shifflett, his time working under Michael Dunn formed the foundation upon which he has built his own career as a luthier.
In the spring of 1992, Charles Shifflett and Fay Mascher returned to Alberta to raise their family, and set up shop half an hour south of Calgary, in High River. He has a beautiful two-storey studio/wood shop that was built to look like an older barn, in their side yard beside the house. Today Charles Shifflett is well-known in Alberta and beyond for his custom guitars, skillful repair work, and his uncanny ability to set-up on acoustic, electric and classical instruments.
In recent years Shifflett has taken a hiatus from constructing new instruments and focused largely on repair work. He continues to repair all sorts of fretted instruments including Classical and Flamenco guitars, banjos, mandolins, resophonic guitars, acoustic guitars, electric guitars and basses. Repairs are careful and respect the origins and special needs of each instrument. Shifflett’s goal with fretwork and set up is to maximize the sound and playability of each instrument while taking into consideration the physical needs of the player.
Shifflett has also developed a devoted following amongst violin family players for whom he does repairs to double basses, cellos, violin and violas for symphony, jazz, and folk. Currently, Shifflett is sought out for his ability to dramatically improve the playability of viols (especially double basses) by carefully contouring the fingerboard. Though this is usually called ‘a fingerboard planing’, it is much more than that as, in addition to the fingerboard’s obvious roundness, it must also be concave along its length, and a different degree of concavity under each string for the instrument to play well.