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Dowina Guitars, How Our Journey Started.

Dowina Guitars, How Our Journey Started. - WM Guitars

WM Guitars Ltd |

You may of heard of Dowina Guitars. If not it will probably become a rabbit hole you'll lovingly fall down. As I did. 

I was first introduced to Dowina back in late 2018 by a sales rep working for a company called CUK Audio. Back then CUK wanted to get into the world of guitar distribution and chose Dowina as one of their main brands. 

The sale rep came into our humble store with no big intentions, only to show us the brand. After I tried several models, saw the cases, labels, how the product was completed I went to his list of models and placed an opening order of a dozen guitars. This included their flagship model at the time which was a two piece cocobolo back and sides with bearclaw spruce top. 

You could imagine this sales rep left our store a bit stunned with a skip in his step.

About a month or two after the first shipment landed I had a call from Steve, the man behind the Dowina connection at CUK. He gave me a very generous offer of visiting Dowina in Slovakia along with Jon from Richards Guitars. 

I jumped on the opportunity, the excitement was uncontrollable. 

So I packed my bag, went off to London and stayed in a hotel ready for my flight the next day. Steve, Amit, Jon and myself all met up at the airport and soon arrived in Bratislava, the capitol of Slovakia. 

It was a short drive to Dowina and like in true European fashion we met Erika from Dowina and went straight to lunch. No messing around. A few plates of lamb, cabbage, mash, gravy and beers later we we're ready to meet the team and absorb their passion.

I remember stepping out of the car and seeing a couple of guys with chainsaws cutting up a massive oak tree in the car park, milling it into planks to then air out in the stores. I was a bit perplexed at the time thinking if oak would really be suitable for building guitars. Five years later we now have the Dowina DUB models made from this very oak tree that I saw that day. 

We met Stan, the founding father of Dowina and he shared his story with us over coffee. Talking about his rich history with orchestral instruments and how he has transferred the knowledge and techniques into the Dowina brand. After a little play on some new experiments they were doing at the time we went into the heart of the facility. The wood store.

Here Stan and Erika both showed us how much passion they have for natural materials. Their passion for sustainably sourced tone woods was felt by all. They weren't guided by what other companies were selling, they didn't just go for standard tone woods. Stan and Erika both travel to source unusual and responsible materials to build guitars from. Like Macauba, Granadillo, Padauk, Oak. All these woods are unusual in the guitar building world. 

They passed me some raw plates to try tap testing for the first time. How you hold the wood makes a massive difference to the ring you get when you tap it. I tried tapping, quite quickly Stan took the piece from me saying 'no, no, no... like this' I chuckled.. I could see he had the fatherly mentality that both him and my father share. Stan went on to show us why he picked these more unusual woods. Explaining stiffness, grain structure, sustainability, sound and beauty. It was a masterclass from the master himself. 

After our journey through the wood store we went to the manufacturing floor. This is where the raw wood was milled too thickness, shaped, and tap tuned. 

Tap tuning is a process using oscilloscopes, tapping the wood and finding the fundamental frequency of the ring of the wood. The thickness is then altered to 'tune' this fundamental frequency to a perfect note. This is then repeated for the top, back, and bracing. 

Dowina use vacuum to glue on their bracing. It's such a satisfying process to see the vacuum bladders clamp on bracing to the top and they make a far more reliable joint then a traditional go-bar deck. 

We we're quickly ushered into their CNC room where a pre-programmed machine will carve the waste material from the neck blanks. The necks will need a lot of sanding and shaping after this but the CNC machine speeds up this process by a considerable margin. 

Then to the sanding room. This room had all the sanding machines you could ever dream of. Disk sanders, table sanders, belt sanders, drum sanders, spindle sanders and so on. They were finishing bodies at the time, working down the sides to match the binding into the bodies. This room is also were the necks were finished and when the body and neck meet for the first time. This process is all done by hand and to see this first hand is remarkable. The skill shown in this process is second to none and takes a real keen eye to get great results.

After the neck angle is set and the neck meets the body it's time for the bridges and the frets. The finishing room is where the final touches are done to make these instruments shine. 

Stan was telling us that the person that did the fretwork also does the fretwork for a 'Stevie Hu-wa-wey' all of us were a bit confused but accepted it and moved on. When we entered the fretting room all four of us burst out laughing as we were presented with a stack of cases all saying 'Steve Vai'. 

All the frets are pressed in individually, the bridges are glued on with vacuum clamps and they are setup with bone nuts and saddles ready for strings. 

The finished guitar store was amazing, racks upon racks of guitars in various stages of finishing. We couldn't resist to help ourselves and have a little jam. 

The next day we had a similar experience but for me it was at the end of a camera. Stan and Erika were more than happy for me to take photos of every stage of the production, nothing was secret here. They wholeheartedly believe that having an open process from luthier to customer gives a far personal product. 

Overall my experience at Dowina was incredible. I learnt a lot about the manufacturing of guitars and the manufacturing of a Dowina Guitar. I had my eye's opened about why some woods are more sustainable than others and the legislations that should be taken into account when purchasing raw timber. The passion that Dowina build their guitars with is unparalleled. Small things like giving away their waste to local crafts people is a small example of this. Their guitars speak for themselves and I urge you to see them in the flesh if you haven't before. Try them and I'm sure you'll see and feel their passion through their product. The organic designs and heartwarming tones are just to die for! 

I'd like to thank Erika, Stan and the Dowina team for their hospitality. Steve and Amit for the invitation and Jon for being just an amazing genuine person.

I loved my time in Slovakia visiting Dowina and I plan to visit again sometime in the future. 


Written by
Ryan Havinga.