Doug Grainger, Joyce Carroll, and Steve Moore carry on a proud legacy of instrument making, repair, and restoration at their historic shop in Sparta. All trained by respected instrument maker and repairer Jim Grainger, Doug’s father, the three now continue a tradition of precision work at Custom Fretted Instrument Repair and Restoration. Started by Jim in 1989, the shop has earned a reputation across the country for first-rate repair and pearl inlay work on guitars, banjos, mandolins, and other instruments.
Following his father’s instructions, Doug was refretting guitars already at 8 years old. He continued to work in the shop from his grade school years through college, on weekends, and during the summers. Following several years working in the computer science field, Doug returned to the business after his father passed away in 2016. Joyce Carroll began learning pearl inlay from Jim over thirty years ago, and today continues the meticulous work, as well as pearl and metal engraving, and wood carving on musical instruments. She also designs layouts for certain special finishes offered at the shop. Steve Moore has been with the business since 1995. He is known for his high-quality repair work and has become a specialist in re-setting guitar necks. Steve is also an accomplished musician with deep knowledge of electric and acoustic guitars and banjos.
“Especially with the advent of CNC (computer numerical control—the automation of machining tools), certain aspects of the hand work that we do are increasingly rare,” Doug explains. “Most pearl inlay work is now performed by machines. Most wood parts such as guitar bridges and fingerboards are also now created by machine. We create these things by hand using only simple power tools such as belt sander, drill press, and band saw.”
Apprentice Trenton Caruthers, of Cookeville, has already logged many hours observing this trio of masters in the shop. An award-winning fiddler, banjo player, and buck dancer, Trenton sees this work as an extension of his musical interests and a possible career pathway. “I would love to make this my life’s profession,” Trenton says. “It is very important to the community because as long as there are musicians around, they will need instruments to be worked on.” Trenton participated in the Apprenticeship Program in 2018 as a fiddle student of the late Michael DeFosche.
*This team is funded through a special partnership with the South Arts’ initiative In These Mountains: Central Appalachian Folk Art & Culture.