For 30 years, Jay Lichty worked as a residential home builder. When business slowed down due to the economic downturn, he found himself with more free time on his hands and decided to try building a ukulele, and he hasn’t stopped since. Within months of creating his first instrument, Lichty attended a workshop with renowned custom guitar builder Wayne Henderson. He says the phone for his construction company never rang after that workshop, so he closed it down and started a luthier business in the fall of 2009.
After making a few instruments in his garage, Lichty realized he needed a space that was especially suited for building guitars and ukuleles, one that had the proper tools and humidity for the wood he used. Thus, he set up a workshop in quiet Tryon, North Carolina, and within the first year of business, demand for his handcrafted instruments surged. Orders for custom guitars and ukuleles poured in, and Lichty Guitars was named the overall winner of Garden & Gun magazine’s prestigious Made in the South awards. Today, Lichty’s instruments are played by professional musicians from around the world, including Jody Porter of Fountains of Wayne, internationally acclaimed Australian guitarist Geoff Achison, and award-winning Japanese guitarist Shohei Toyoda.
As of November 2012, Lichty has crafted more than 65 guitars and 30 ukuleles, most of which are built to order with the customer involved in the design process. And though Lichty is already a highly regarded and sought-after luthier, he continues to expand his knowledge and skills through continuing education. Since that first guitar workshop, he has studied with master luthiers Charles Fox and Ervin Somogyi, as well as visited the shop of luthiers across the globe.
According to Lichty, the best part about his job is that it’s not a job. “I’m working harder than I ever worked but I never feel like it’s something I could call work,” he says.