The Instrument Shop teaches youths to build guitars and more from scratch

Cory Walsh

At the Instrument Shop, you don’t buy. You build.

It’s a combination of wood shop, art class and music haven for teenagers.

The nonprofit, which officially opened earlier this summer, is filled with completed instruments (electric guitars, autoharps, hammered dulcimers, custom keyboards) and ones in progress (a banjolele and even a long-term undertaking: a pipe organ.)

The founder and instructor, Ben Simon, learned woodworking in a professional studio, then branched out into musical instruments. He taught classes and performed in New York City before moving to Missoula.

“There’s a lot of joy in the building process, and for me personally, learning to be a woodworker — I started at age 24 — it made me feel like I had a skill set for the first time in life, like I had skills that could be useful for other people,” he said.

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Finishing an electric guitar, with its myriad parts that all affect the final sound, and seeing someone else try it out generates a feeling for him that couldn’t be replicated any other way.

“That’s a sense of accomplishment that you’re not going to get by just

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