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updated: 1/6/2012 3:02 PM

See inside Marengo man's instrument workshop

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  • Brunkalla tests a violin that he repaired in his Marengo workshop.

       Brunkalla tests a violin that he repaired in his Marengo workshop.
    Brian Hill | Staff Photographer

  • Brunkalla plays one of his handmade dulcimers in his Marengo workshop.

       Brunkalla plays one of his handmade dulcimers in his Marengo workshop.
    Brian Hill | Staff Photographer

  • Brunkalla plays one of his handmade dulcimers in his workshop.

       Brunkalla plays one of his handmade dulcimers in his workshop.
    Brian Hill | Staff Photographer

  • Brunkalla's workshop is lined with instruments in different phases of completion.

       Brunkalla's workshop is lined with instruments in different phases of completion.
    Brian Hill | Staff Photographer

  • A unfinished violin is ready for more work in Brunkalla's workshop.

       A unfinished violin is ready for more work in Brunkalla's workshop.
    Brian Hill | Staff Photographer

  • Some of the tools that Brunkalla uses to make custom string instruments at his Marengo home.

       Some of the tools that Brunkalla uses to make custom string instruments at his Marengo home.
    Brian Hill | Staff Photographer

 
 

"I asked my wife to give me five years," said Martin Brunkalla of Marengo when he started building custom instruments full time more than 12 years ago. Now he has customers from all over the globe.

"When I was a teenager I wanted to play guitar, but the only guitar that I could afford was a $25 mess. So I started reading about instrument repair and before I knew it I had everybody and their brother who had a guitar coming to me to repair it," Brunkalla said.

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As a self-taught luthier, Brunkalla draws from a background as an expert woodcarver, technician, engineer and musician. "I know that to be good in this industry you have to make a pretty good instrument," he said. "There is a lot of competition."

From violins to dulcimers, a great deal of work goes into making one of Brunkalla's instruments. "Usually 160 hours or a month, which ever comes first," jokes the Marengo artist who has made 29 violins and countless other string instruments. A typical bow takes Brunkalla about 33 hours to complete. He said he understands that his specialty hobby doesn't pay very well, but he truly loves doing it anyway.

"What I really enjoy is having some really great musicians play on something that I made," Brunkalla said.

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