If you haven't heard of Pratley Guitars, there's every chance you'll get to know them very, very soon. For years, luthier Martin Pratley and his team have been creating incredible custom guitars, stompboxes and cajons out of their workshop on the Gold Coast, sourcing local timbers to create unique instruments with a tone and level of pedigree that separates them from the rest. As well as having a prominent following in Canada, Pratley's designs have been co-signed by Australian heavyweights such as John Butler, Tash Sultana and Ash Grunwald, and it only looks like more musicians will be jumping aboard the Pratley train as the company continues to expand its horizons. Ahead of the Melbourne Guitar Show, we caught up with Martin to chat about the history of the company, the benefits of using local tonewoods, and what to expect from Pratley Guitars in the near future.
Tell us a little bit about the history of Pratley Guitars. How did you get into luthiery?
I started designing and making guitars when I was 19 years old (1999). I was fascinated by the design and learning the craft so I didn’t even try and sell any for the first few years. I received some recognition for a travel acoustic guitar that I designed in 2002, and ended up on the Channel Nine news and being interviewed on ABC Radio. I had completed a 4 year degree in Design and Technology Education, but was set on making a living from guitars.
As I was trying to start my Guitar Brand / company, I was asked to make a stompbox by a musician in Brisbane. Around the same time I played an acoustic gig with a friend who played slide guitar. He had a piece of ply wood with a sensor stuck to it. I then realised I could make stompboxes as well and expand my business. I didn’t realise that I was actually becoming one of the original inventors of the modern stompbox!
I added Cajon’s and landed a national deal with Billy Hyde Music. I got a bigger factory and started making guitars for Karnivool, The Amity Affliction, etc. Then Billy Hyde went into receivership and I went back to barebones production for five years. The last three years (2017-now) have been a rebirth and we are now producing some of the best Australian made acoustic and electric guitars.
Give us a rundown of what to expect from your stall at the Guitar Show this year.
At the show we'll have a selection of both electric and acoustic guitars, as well as some merchandise for sale. Our Melbourne friend @keatsbeats will be doing demos on guitar and stomp. Ash Grunwald will be there on the Sunday to meet fans and show off his new signature semi-hollow electric guitar.
Your designs tend to implement native wood types such as Silver Quandong and Johnstone River Teak. How do Australian tonewoods compare to other internationally grown variants?
Yes, I really believe in championing our unique Australian tonewoods. I think our guitar woods are beautiful and stand up against the traditional tonewoods from other countries. The beauty of Tasmanian blackwood or black heart sassafras and the stability and workability of Queensland Maple Silkwood is simply incomparable. When selected correctly, you can make a guitar with all the tone of the traditional woods and even create an original voice that stands out in the world.
You’ve just teamed up with Ash Grunwald, one of the main attractions at this year’s Melbourne Guitar Show, for a new signature guitar. Tell us about that!
The RBJ-90 Ash Grunwald is the first of its kind for the company, designed to pay homage to old school blues guitars with a classic look and sweet tonality that draws from the use of unique Australian tonewoods.
It may have a vintage look, but this instrument feels entirely modern. Comfortable to hold and with a fretboard that makes playing effortless, this spectacular instrument utilizes premium hardware and pickups to bring to the market an instrument combining classic looks, a modern design and unparalleled Australian craftsmanship.
Where can international musicians get their hands on Pratley Guitars?
We ship worldwide already! The new website will be launched in August with all the new production acoustic and electric guitars. A custom order form will also be available.
What can we expect to see from Pratley Guitars in the near future?
With our new 200m2 factory now set up we are working hard to get guitars out to our dealers across Australia, with solid tonewood acoustics starting from $1499 and electrics from $1899. We are exporting to Canada and have big things on the horizon with the USA - stay tuned.
Check out the range of Australian made instruments available for purchase today at Pratley Guitars.