A Hays duo is making a name for itself in the local music scene, and they do it mainly for the love of rock ’n’ roll’s iconic instrument.
Father and son Darren and Ryne Timken have been tinkering with building and refurbishing guitars for approximately 10 years. But in the last year or so, they’ve taken a more business-like approach to their hobby in forming 1031 Guitars.
Darren’s love of the guitar started in 1982, when he first heard Michael Jackson’s “Beat It” and wanted to know who played the guitar solo.
“It was Eddie Van Halen, and I got all into the Eddie Van Halen thing,” he said.
Through reading magazine interviews, Darren learned Van Halen built his own guitars, so he started rebuilding electric guitars he found in pawn shops in Dodge City, where he grew up.
When he was a sophomore in high school, he decided to build one from scratch, even though his shop teacher said he didn’t even know how to start.
“We kind of figured it out, and I built another one my junior year,” he said.
Darren was into the heavy-metal scene of the 1980s and played with bands in Dodge City. He arrived in Hays in 1991 to study sociology at Fort Hays State University. The music scene was changing, though, and he didn’t play with any bands here.
“By the time I got here, that scene was pretty well dead,” he said. “I decided to focus on school and things other than music.”
He dabbled in music and worked on guitars through the years, meeting his wife after he wrote and performed a song for a friend’s play, and they raised a family.
Nearly a decade ago, Ryne, now 22, joined his father in his hobby.
“We started going to pawn shops, and we’d find a guitar that nobody wanted that they were just about ready to throw away,” Darren said. “We’d just gut it, buy all new parts for it, make it really, really good and turn around and sell it.”
“We never really made a profit,” Ryne said.
“We never really made a profit, but it was fun,” Darren added.
Then in 2013, Ryne’s senior year, their lives changed when he was diagnosed with cancer and one of his teachers with the Kansas Connections Academy helped them make a big connection.
Ryne was assigned to write a paper on what he wanted to do with his life. His first goal was rock star.
“But if not that, building guitars was the next best thing,” Ryne said.
His teacher had grown up in Los Angeles and had been friends with Benny Rodriguez, a self-taught guitarist who has worked as a guitar tech for Mick Ralphs of Bad Company, Neil Young, Keith Richards, Mick Jagger, Steve Vai and Van Halen.
“She kind of rekindled an old friendship with Benny, and next thing we knew, after (Ryne) graduated high school, we were flying out to Los Angles to meet Benny,” Darren said.
While there, they toured the factories of several of the country’s biggest guitar manufacturers including Tom Anderson, Fender and Taylor.
“On the flight back, we said, ‘You know, there’s no music store in Hays and this whole area. We can do this,’ ” Darren said.
They named the business for Ryne’s birthday — Oct. 31 — and created a Facebook page. The response was quick, especially from Darren’s former ’80s bandmates.
“We were already building from scratch in the first month for guitar players I played with, and it just kind of took off from there,” he said.
In making a guitar, the Timkens use a jigsaw, hand sander and a Dremel tool with a routing tip, and work out of the laundry room in the family home. The hand-held tools allow for precision and make each instrument one-of-a-kind.
“They always say measure twice and cut once. I measure four or five times,” Darren said. “If you’re not precise, the guitar’s not going to be intonated. It’s going to sound really weird; it’s going to put together funny.”
They also, whenever possible, source American, replenishable woods such as ash and maple.
“We don’t use cabinet-grade wood. We use musical-grade wood. It’s costly, and we source it from a place that we trust. We’re trying to do our part to not cut down every tree” Darren said.
In addition, they look for the best parts to use. A basic guitar will cost just less than $1,000, Darren said.
Also among the first customers was Logan Harmon, Victoria, who plays a custom-made bass for Fact and Friction with Ryne on vocals and guitar. The Timkens gave a 1031 Guitar to Fact and Friction’s guitarist, Chase Legleiter, and reconditioned another guitar for him.
The band’s first EP, which they recorded last month at Fort Hays State University, all feature 1031 Guitars. The band also includes Sophi Thompson on drums, and they made their debut at National College Radio Day at FHSU last month. The EP is expected to drop around the first of the year.
Most of the Timkens’ work comes from repairing and refurbishing guitars. Occasionally, they get a memorable job, like one brought to them buy a country guitarist from the Lucas area.
“He called me one day and said, ‘I’ve got this guitar, and I trust you with it. I’ll tell you the story if you can get it working,’ ” Darren said.
The worn and chipped 1960s baby blue Del Rey was delivered with the body undone, the neck separated from the body and its parts in a sandwich bag. While home recuperating from surgery one day, Darren decided to see what he could do.
Within an hour, he and Ryne had it together and were playing it. They sent a video to its owner, and he recounted its story.
The guitar had come from an old club owner in Dallas who said he had received it as payment from Roy Orbison.
“I don’t know if the story is true, but we did do some research. He did play that style of guitar, he did play some baby blue stuff, the era is right,” Darren said.
“Even if it wasn’t him, this had some history to it. There’s a story to it no matter what,” he said.
He did that job for free, and for many of the repairs they do, they don’t charge for their labor. It’s a way of giving back, Darren said.
“I consider it more a community service. Because I played the guitar, I met my wife, met a lot of wonderful people,” he said. “I really feel I owe the guitar a lot and the people that play it.
“A lot of the guitars I repair, they are sentimental,” Darren said. “The smile you see on their faces when you get something working that other people couldn’t, that they hadn’t had working since they were a kid, it’s worth it.”