Harmonic euphoria

Kettering-based Timberwolf Guitar Company focuses on quality

By CC Hutten

Photo: [l-r] Shawn Rotterman, Rick Wolf and Tim Rotterman of Timberwolf Guitars

“Quality over quantity” is a phrase that can stir a household debate – but when it comes to Timberwolf Guitar Company and instrument craftsmanship, there’s no question that quality reigns.

Founded and owned by Rick Wolf and Tim Rotternan, Timberwolf Guitar Company is a place where patrons can customize handcrafted guitars right in Miami Valley.

“Timberwolf is a sacred name,” Wolf says. “We want it to reflect how people view our instruments. We really, really care about what we’re doing.”

Timberwolf guitars can be found in the hands of country music icon Tim McGraw; composer, studio and touring musician Adam Shoenfeld; multi-Grammy-winning producer Paul Worley; and country music legend and Grand Ole Opry musical director Steve Gibson.

Even though Timberwolf Guitar Company has grown from a small, curious experiment into a company with guitars used by stars across the country, Wolf and Rotternan say the original idea for recreating guitars “just happened.”

“It’s kind of the way Tim and I both are,” Wolf says. “We talk about things and just, one day, brought it up and started tearing up pick-ups.”

After taking apart guitars, what they discovered that day was relatively shocking to them: most guitars were all doing the same thing. Wolf and Rotternan wanted to change that – and after developing for about 10 months, Timberwolf Guitar Company was born.

“We found that most people are limited by traditions or the past,” Rotternan says. “But not everything has been tried yet.”

And after a lot of trial and error, Wolf and Rotternan came up with something that is anything but traditional, and even though they consider themselves to be their toughest critics, they still believe Timberwolf guitars are “better than most guitars on the market.”

And through their signature sound, deemed “Harmonic Euphoria” by the duo on the day they decided to take apart pick-ups, Timberwolf guitars deliver. Wolf and Rotternan don’t know what caused it, but have certainly kept track of how to recreate it.

“Harmonic Euphoria is a term to describe what’s really going on with our pick-ups,” Rotternan says. “It produces a much more dynamic response than other pick-ups. When you pick lightly on a guitar, there are things that can be lost, and it doesn’t pick up all the subtle nuances as if you would strum hard. But with ours, you don’t lose anything.”

“It is not something that only a ‘tone-freak’ can hear,” Wolf says. “Normal people who just listen to Sirius in the car can strum a chord on any of our guitars and can hear the difference.”

Harmonic Euphoria is as close as Wolf and Rotternan can get to describing the type of sound they found that fateful day – and they continue to create it through a fun working environment that is not held back by any limitations.

Though both are highly involved with the company, Rotternan is “the creative one” and Wolf manages the business aspects. They both agree, however, that different personalities and skills are essential to an inventive working environment.

“As a group, we all work together very well, even though we don’t always see eye to eye,” Rotternan says. “But that’s how it should be.”

Wolf describes the behind-the-scenes environment as an “active think tank” that maintains the value of freedom.

“If someone wants to experiment with something, we do,” Wolf says. “We pride ourselves on always being approachable. If we don’t put limits on ourselves, we certainly don’t put limits on our customers. That’s what sets us apart from those big companies.”

And their availability isn’t limited, either – the company began countrywide dealer distribution last year. Now a Timberwolf guitar can be found in the original Timberwolf Guitar Company in Kettering, Sylvan Music Shop in Santa Cruz, California, and by appointment at Digital Audio Post in Nashville, Tennessee.

Though driven by wild imaginations and constantly improving through acute self-awareness, Wolf and Rotternan are not looking to make billions of dollars. They hope to be more efficient and produce better instruments. They simply work to make the best guitars.

“The drive isn’t financial,” Wolf says. “I still look forward to going into work every day and have a blast doing it.”

Though the pair prides themselves on craftsmanship, thoughtfulness and Harmonic Euphoria, they both admit Timberwolf guitars are not for everybody.

“It’s the difference between white cake and chocolate cake,” Wolf says. “Yes, there is taste involved, but often people make a decision based on the name on the guitar. That’s fine. We’re certainly not looking to compete with people who have been around 50, 60, 100 years. They are good at what they do, and we are good at what we do.”

But the key to masterminds behind Timberwolf Guitar Company is that they can identify each individual’s strength – and allow them to flourish.

“We do not stifle imagination, whether it’s mental or verbal,” Wolf says. “Life’s too short and we’re not made that way.” And neither are their guitars.

“Patterson was maybe not the best engineer in the world, but he sure had it going for him,” Wolf says. “Dayton, Ohio, got its name on the map based on people who didn’t limit themselves.”

Timberwolf Guitar Company is located at 4690 Wilmington Pike in Kettering. For more information, please call 937.294.4434 or visit timberwolfguitars.com.

Reach DCP freelance writer CC Hutten at CCHutten@DaytonCityPaper.com.

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Reach DCP freelance writer CC Hutten at ContactUs@DaytonCityPaper.com

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