My name is Rory Dowling and in 2007 I set up Taran Guitars after falling in love with building stringed instruments. Prior to making instruments, I studied furniture design and craftsmanship which gave me the woodworking foundations for my life as a luthier. 

Picture by Mark Alexander

Picture by Mark Alexander

Ever since being given a Swiss Army Knife for my seventh birthday, I have always been fascinated with wood and its capabilities. Back then I would often spend hours whittling boats and making bows and arrows. Over time, the projects became bigger and the fascination grew.

The move from furniture to guitars was a fairly natural one, however the learning curve was nearly vertical. I am essentially self taught in the art of instrument making beyond the wood working. I had no preconceived ideas about what the limits of a guitar was. Over the 12 years of my career I have constantly asked questions, tested ideas whether good or bad and sought to understand these limits. I still haven’t found them! However, through this questioning and experimental approach I have gain a vast understanding of the elements that make up an instruments complex sound and its requirements over its long life. It’s because of this understanding that I am able to offer instruments that are unique to their owners taste and desires.

Every year I build 11/13 instruments to order as well as 5 mandolins out of my workshop in the East Neuk of Fife. I moved here from Edinburgh 8 years ago and began renovating and converting a dairy on Balcaskie Estate. With the help and support of the Estate I now have the most wonderful shop complete with show room, humidity controlled bench room, machine shop and spray room along with lots of space for wood storage and processing.

I feel humbled that people from all over the world choose to ask me to make instruments of their dreams that they can express their music on.

'I build world-class instruments tailored for players looking for their own sound. My knowledge of materials and construction techniques, combined with your requirements as a musician, can create something not only unique to you but an instrument that grows with you as a player.'

the taran

Taran is Gaelic for ‘Thunder’. Ever since my childhood I have spent many an hour roaming the hills of the Outer Hebrides on Scotland's West Coast. One of the hills of Harris which has always struck me with great awe and mystery is ‘Taran Mhor’. Tucked behind the steep climbs of ‘Sgianait’, its western face rises vertically from the waters of the mouth of Loch Resort and then falls north slowly until it turns into the first flat plains of Lewis. I've seen the Taran in high summer days basking in light breeze and I've seen her in deep winter gloom, brooding over days gone by. Every day she has a tale to sing.

Loch Na Cleabhaig with the Taran's steep west face in the distance.

Loch Na Cleabhaig with the Taran's steep west face in the distance.

Before guitars

I studied Furniture Design and Craftsmanship at Bucks University. High Wycombe was the furniture capital of Great Britain at the turn of the century, with greenwood workers coming in from the Chiltern hills to make chairs in the factories. Now, it's home to Ercol, a renowned furniture manufacturer.

I graduated from Bucks with a First Class Hons degree and moved to Edinburgh where I started making furniture and working on flat renovations for Oliver Debenham, now a great friend. I was green to say the least! However, the time spent in Edinburgh would ultimately set me up for the work I do today.


2005 Stripper Chair in Oak pink and black

Pink and Oak - White and Beech Strippers

The ergonomic lines of the Stripper - difficult to achieve but incredibly comfortable

One of my final year projects. The Stripper which I managed to include pink, my favourite colour. I sold this one to the head of the Design Council in 2006.


Multi Dressing Table

Multi Dressing Table - Side Table

Multi Dressing Table - Corner Table

Another final year project. The Multi Table in American Black Walnut and Turquoise Formica and Aluminium. 

The First Instruments

My very first instrument was an Octave Mandola. I was completely transfixed by Jerry Garcia and David Grisman's Shady Grove.  I was so much that I built a mandola just to learn how to play the solo! I still can't play it but have built more than 150 instruments since getting hooked on making musical instruments.

I built this Octave Mandola, my first instrument, during my 2nd year at university in the evenings. We had a brilliant workshop that we could access any day from 6am to 10pm. 

Very first Instrument

Beautiful Rippled Sycamore but with the dreaded Zero Fret...

Still using solid linings

Also use these clamps everyday now

The handmade buckle was sliver plated to keep it the same as the tuners


The first guitar I made was nick-named 'Lurch'! The ugliest guitar ever but the first for me. I built it on a drawing board in a rented flat in Edinburgh as I needed a guitar for our band 'Dirty Old Town'. The Band didn't last but my love for building stringed instruments still grows.

Classical Neck and standard X-Brace

Lurch was so wide that I had to put a maple strip in the back set

Dirty Old Town! Great fun but short lived....