Jim Hunton found the rhythm in guitar and violin repair over two decades ago.
Hunton has spent the past five years perfecting his trade in downtown Waxahachie, where he works on tens of dozens of instruments a month.
As Hunton spoke from the front counter, several customers entered the business located at 211 W. Jefferson St. The visitors did not seem like clients, but more like friends.
A gentleman named Rusty walked through the door with his two children and a guitar case in hand. Hunton greeted Rusty with a smile and familiar handshake. The two had been friends since they worked together at Brook Mays Music — Rusty was 19 at the time.
Together they also played in a band, with Rusty not even old enough to legally enter through the front door of most bar venues.
Rusty typically arrives with both arms full of guitars, but this time brought in a friend's guitar for some work. He emphasized what a gem Hunton's store is to Waxahachie and Ellis County since a specialized, trained luthier is hard to find in the area.
Through the trade, Hunton has created new friendships with customers and also strengthens relationships between the clients and their instruments.
In 2015, customer Jimmy Siddens presented Hunton with a Harmony four-string Tenor guitar that was first played in the 1950s. Siddens had discretely removed the old guitar out of its run-down case that remained shut. His father had no idea it vanished.
For about three weeks, Hunton completed cosmetic work and repaired a large crack in the base of the guitar. When the instrument was built, it was relatively inexpensive and had painted on binding. Hunton focused on the details to create an authentic look.
"They are very precisely painted," Hunton explained. "The paint was real yellow and chipped off and missing a lot of paint. I went and bought little bottles on enamel and mixed colors to where I got it pretty close and repainted it."
Siddens then took his father to Jim's Guitar & Violin Repair and he was presented the unrecognizable guitar. Hunton shared it was a special moment for the father and son. Unfortunately, the father passed away two years after the experience.
As Hunton filed the fret of a Taylor guitar, he shared his experience as a professional musician and tricks of the repair trade.
Before opening Jim's Guitar & Violin Repair, Hunton worked for Brook Mays Music where he began a luthier apprenticeship under Larry Thettaplace.
At the warehouse, he underwent a year of intense training and then fulfilled a three-year apprenticeship. Through his experiences, Hunton created his own tools to fix stringed instruments.
In the shop, Hunton grabbed one of 10 violins next to him and managed to find a wooden tool among his cluttered work desk.
"I made this to take tops off violins," he explained. "It's made from a tapered dowel. It was a dowel that tapered down, and I carved it so I could hold it like this."
Hunton taps a rubber mallet or uses a vibrating method on the wooden tool around the frame to remove the top.
"I use this thing for all sorts of things. It's goofy," he laughed.
He also worked with a thin safety edge file with a short handle, which made it uncomfortable to maneuver. So, he removed the awkward part and cut a dowel rod to replace it, and it was smooth sailing.
Even with two decades of experience, Hunton encounters moments where he is unfamiliar with necessary repairs. These challenges inspire Hunton to learn new tricks of the trade.
He then noted the project that took the longest consisted of three years. It was a Gibson guitar in dire need of restoration.
"I had not restored one or repaired one to that point like I did that one," Hunton elaborated. "I did one like that with an old Gibson guitar, and the top was destroyed — completely destroyed — so I made a new top for it. I'd never done that before."
Every instrument has its own story and uniqueness as to how it was assembled. For this reason, Hunton crafted tools of his own to perfect his repair tactics.
PASSION FOR STRINGS
The love for stringed instruments all started when Hunton picked up the guitar at the age of 14 and was paid to play gigs in the band, Rock Creek.
"I've been in more bands than anyone could remember. I've played all over Dallas-Fort Worth, all over Texas and several states," he elaborated.
He also played with Dallas blues musician Jimmy "Preacher" Ellis and even showed a video of them playing on FOX 4 News. A recognizable Hunton jammed to "Please Come Home For Christmas."
Hunton played music and fixed jewelry for a living 15 years before he repaired stringed instruments professionally. He realized he could incorporate those skills into his passion — music.
Jim's Guitar & Violin repair is located at 211 W. Jefferson Str. and can be reached at 972-822-3824.
- - - - - -
Ashley Ford | @aford_news | 469-517-1450