I’ve always had a passion for woodworking, music and design. For me, guitar making really is the tangible expression of a lifetime of developed skillsets that continues to provide a vehicle for me to create in a meaningful and ever-evolving way.

This is my story…



My name is Michael Whitney.

Some of my earliest memories are of times spent with my late grandfather in his workshop. I remember sitting atop his workbench in my pyjamas at five-years-old and happily hammering away (tongue out for full effect). My grandfather never tried to dissuade me. I learned later that he would patiently remove all the nails I hammered in, giving me a clean slate for my next visit.

In later years, I have fond memories of spending time together building tables, shelves and other projects; it was much more than this, though. For me, the workshop was a sanctuary, of sorts, to share stories; to bring things to life from out of the ether; and to learn important life lessons such as patience, respect and attention to detail.

In fact, my grandfather taught me many things; shake hands with a firm grip; look a person in the eyes when speaking to them; always respect machinery; stay humble. Often, when I’m in my shop I can still feel his presence. In this way, the workshop puts me back in touch with myself – it’s a place that gives back.



With high-school in the pocket, our band having dissolved and life taking us all in our own separate ways, 1994 found me in Nelson, BC to attend Jazz studies at Selkirk College’s music program. The focus of the program was on ear-training, composition, history, theory and performance.

With the grunge era in full-swing, Jazz offered sweet counterpoint. These were great times filled with fond memories and also provided some pivotal experiences in terms of greater independence, exploration and self-discovery. 

I completed my studies at Selkirk and then after some backpacking in Europe, hit Vancouver to start a new chapter.



I loved graphic arts and typography from a young age. In 1996, I was brought on-board with an interior design company for a mentorship with some amazing scenic painters and airbrush artists from the film industry. Over the span of four years, I began working independently as an airbrush artist, muralist and sign-writer creating commissioned works all over the city.

In addition to being a team lead for creating period-specific ‘themed’ interiors ranging from Cuban cigar bars to Art-Deco-inspired Jazz lounges, I was commissioned by various liquor companies such as Molson, Sleeman, Growers, and Jose Cuervo to hand-paint realistic large-scale advertisements in Vancouver pubs and nite-clubs.

In 2000, I decided to take my creative talents to the digital platform and earned a degree in graphic design, web development and eCommerce. I then ran my own company, ‘Web + Grafik’ until 2007.



In 2003 I mostly abandoned my creative endeavours to pursue a career with the Canadian Army as an infantry soldier. My reasons for joining were to work at something larger than myself. The idea of becoming a peace-keeper and helping war-torn communities to rebuild and to mitigate conflict, resonated with me. In my mid-twenties, I began to look at the world through a broader lens; I wanted to contribute. I wanted to develop character. I desired a brotherhood and camaraderie.

This all changed when I suffered a debilitating back injury during a training exercise, and subsequently, was medically released after three years of service. This forced me to reevaluate my direction and sense of purpose. Ironically, it may have also saved my life as this was the peak of conflict in Afghanistan and Canada’s role had changed from that of  ‘Peacekeeping’ to ‘Peacemaking’.



Leading up to my release, I began working toward completing a hearing health sciences degree. My wife is a speech-language pathologist and I had become interested in pursuing a career in the field of Audiology, it’s “brother” profession.

By April of 2007, after completing my board exams, I was certified to practice in the province of B.C. and successfully ran my own clinic for the next decade. Despite this success, my creative side was not satisfied. At the end of 2017 I resigned from my position to pursue my creative interests.



In my 30s, my sole focus was on acquisition and building a family – all the boxes were ‘ticked’… almost. At 42, I began to seriously consider what would afford me the most happiness and balance in my life. I uncovered an obvious truth; I was the most satisfied when I was creating and I knew I wanted to work in my own shop.

I began building many projects – a few of which were cigar box guitars. While an elementary approach to guitar building, I will never forget the fire that was lit when I first strung up that guitar and plugged it in!

It wasn’t long before I began reaching out to luthiers as close as Vancouver to as far away as Israel, in hopes of gaining an apprenticeship. Ironically, it was in my own backyard that I stumbled upon an unassuming workshop with a simple sign that read ‘Luthier’.

No doubt sensing my enthusiasm, the shop owner, Bill Okos (Laughing Tree Guitars) graciously invited me in and before long, asked me to apprentice with him. I was elated! I spent the next year repairing instruments, meeting great people and working on my first acoustic guitar. For the first time in my life, things felt ‘right’.



Within a few weeks of my apprenticeship with Bill, I knew that guitar making was my calling. Being an extremely busy repair and restoration shop I saw huge value in the variety of instruments and players I was getting exposed to. I also found my hunger to learn to build was growing.

In January of 2019, I enrolled in the one-year Masters Program for Guitar Building and Repair at Summit School on Vancouver Island. I studied under Norwegian luthier, Sigmund Johannessen and my focus in the program was to build Gypsy jazz guitars using traditional construction methods as well as arch-top guitars. The program was a fully-immersive ‘deep-dive’ into guitar building and hands-on work.

It was the best year of my life.



Dust officially flew at Whitney Guitars & The Whitney School of Guitar Building on January 2020.

I now continue to build a reputation as a prominent Canadian luthier specializing in Gypsy Jazz guitars in the Selmer-Maccaferri style, ukuleles, citterns and other fine stringed instruments.

Additionally, I enjoy teaching others the art of guitar making and offer a limited number of guitar building courses during four months of a given calendar year here in the Okanagan, BC Canada.



‘Guitar Building for Vets’ is an initiative I’ve created to align with military veterans suffering with PTSD or MDD (major depressive disorder). Being a veteran myself, I can speak first-hand to the far-reaching effects that depression can have, both on oneself and on the important people in that person’s life.

Often, having a creative outlet in a neutral environment can help a person to regain focus, clarity of purpose and can serve to help quiet the mind from over-thinking and rumination as one applies and immerses oneself into a project such as guitar building.

The course benefits are two-fold; first, the veteran or first-responder gets to learn the art of guitar building; and second, the veteran gets to help improve the wellbeing of a fellow-veteran by offering the gift of music by way of a guitar that they’ve created.

Learn More

This is the story of how Whitney Guitars began as well as a glimpse into our goals moving forward. I endeavour to consistently produce premium Gypsy Jazz and arch-top guitars that are as stunning to play as they are to hold.

Paralleling this dream is my passion to teach others how to build guitars by way of the ‘Whitney School of Guitar Building’.

Order your very own ‘Whitney Guitar’ or sign up for one of our guitar building courses here in the Okanagan, BC Canada.