Off the Beaten Path: Miniature Guitars by Rob Gwynne
Rock ‘n’ roll and Stuller
This combination probably seems like a strange pairing. Perhaps even a contradiction. But, while Stuller is known as the everything-you-could-need supplier to many, not everyone uses our offerings solely for jewelry. Sometimes a jeweler diverges from the traditional and explores a more unusual path.
Meet Rob Gwynne
Robert “Rob” Gwynne is one such unconventional jeweler. Born and raised in Christchurch, New Zealand, this kiwi turned his childhood interest in models into a skill that launched him on the path to success. But like many jewelers, jewelry wasn’t his initial plan.
Fresh out of school and 16 years old, Rob Gwynne decided against becoming a schoolteacher. His math was too bad (something he considers ironic today). Rob began working at a local factory, and for 9 ½ years, he received an all-encompassing, hands-on jewelry education: lost wax casting, finishing, polishing, stone setting, engraving, and more.
Rob’s time at the factory proved pivotal toward his success. Today, he’s an award-winning master modeler and certified goldsmith with international recognition.
From down under to the lone star state
Long before the Internet, Rob’s American pen pals and his fascination with Ford Mustangs cultivated his interest in the United States. Fast forward a few years, Rob caught the travel bug. After a trip to the States, Rob had a dream upon returning home to New Zealand. In this dream, he says, “It seemed God was directing me to the US.”
One frigid winter night, Rob received a phone call at 4 AM: San Francisco’s Granat Bros Jewelers wanted him. When he arrived in California in 1979, he couldn’t accept the position. Low and behold, another opportunity came along, and Rob Gwynne later opened his own business. But California couldn’t contain his free spirit.
In 2015, seeking a change of scenery and less expensive living, Rob and his wife Diane moved to New Braunfels, Texas. These days, Rob explores an unusual path that combines his jewelry-making skills with his love for music and guitars.
Rockin’ out at ¼ the usual size
Passion and pride flow through Rob’s voice when he speaks about his miniature guitars and the care that goes into crafting each. But these aren’t exactly the rockstar guitars of the 50s and 60s. Rob’s guitars are totally one of a kind. They’re completely handcrafted and totally scaled down. A ¼ scale, actually, and they’re 8.75” long. Without something like a pair of scissors beside the guitars, these bite-sized, flawlessly proportioned instruments are identical to their full-size 32” counterparts.
Despite downsizing to such a minuscule scale, Rob seeks perfection: “If I don’t like something, I’ll re-melt it and try again.” From the strap nuts to the head stock tuners, each piece of these miniature guitars is completely authentic. The bodies are hand-carved from real maple, and each comes with its own handmade stand and jack plug and cord.
In the details
His attention to detail reflects what a labor of love these guitars are. “God has given me these gifts. When I see something unique, I’m challenged to make it,” Rob says. While he says a keen eye, a steady hand, and patience are crucial, his most valuable asset has been his formative years spent in the factory and subsequent time crafting jewelry.
Despite such extensive background and skill, Rob is humble and knows there’s always more to learn: “I make a better guitar today than I did a year ago.”
When details down to the curvature of the bridge and saddle count, the right instruments are essential. Enter Stuller— Rob’s supplier for over 30 years for tools and metals. Some guitars in the works will even rock melee diamonds and gemstones.
When the music stops
Today, Rob and Diane are retired and pursue other endeavors. At Gwynne Fine Art, they showcase their respective talents through jewelry and oil painting. And out of the studio, you can find the pair among others in their New Braunfels community.
“We’re very much people persons,” Rob explains. They participate in community events and fundraisers, are active members of their church, volunteer at Wurstfest, and support local groups.
At each day’s end, Rob Gwynne couldn’t be happier with where life has taken him. Be it creating jewelry, crafting golden guitars, or doing charity work, his journey shows that exploring the road less traveled can bring on our greatest adventures.