British Columbia·Inside the Craft

Nicole Alosinac breathes new life into old string instruments

Nicole Alosinac is a Luthier in East Vancouver specializing in string instrument repair and refurbishing. She spoke with the CBC's North By Northwest as part of the Inside the Craft series.

'In repairing it's almost like the campsite rule ... you want to leave it better than you found it'

Luthier Nicole Alosinac restores and repairs all kinds of string instruments out of her shop in East Vancouver. (Nicole Alosinac Luthiery/Facebook)

Bring a box full of parts into Nicole Alosinac's workshop in East Vancouver and she'll turn it into a guitar.

The talented instrument repair artist was once tasked with returning a shattered Les Paul guitar to working order. She guesses that it was in about 80 different pieces when the heartbroken client brought her the guitar in a bag.

"That was a project where I didn't want to hide what had happened to that instrument… It was sort of like a patchwork quilt in a way when it was done," Alosinac told North By Northwest host Sheryl MacKay.

"But if you closed your eyes and played it and felt it… you'd never know anything happened to it."

She began her woodworking career as a cabinet maker and enjoyed the close connection to the materials achieved by working with hand tools.

"It's really meditative and cathartic, and it demands your focus," she said.

Nicole Alosinac's workshop is full of speciality hand tools to get the finest of details into her projects. (CBC)

When she learned to play guitar in her early 20's, Alosinac said she discovered the beginnings of her first true obsession and knew she wanted to learn how to make the instrument.

A friend recommended she take a tour of the local Larrivée guitar factory, but instead of a tour Alosinac found a job. That was 20 years ago.

Now she works out of a studio of her own not far from the busy roads and train tracks running along the waterfront in East Vancouver, doing custom repairs for some of B.C.'s well known guitarists and string players including Dan Mangan, Jody Peck (aka Missy Quincy), and Randy Bachman.

"I think it was just mostly in my nature, like the problem solving, the details and a little bit of a challenge, to try and figure out what to do with them."

Alosinac said she'd rather spend the time figuring out how to fix an instrument than to see one thrown away. 

"In repairing it's almost like the campsite rule where you don't want to do anything that can't be undone, and you want to leave it better than you found it."

To hear the full interview listen to media below:

With files from North By Northwest