Kamloops man with Kelowna business finds a new edge for an old instrument

Mike Miltimore wants to win $100,000 to develop his Riversong Guitars business. - Jennifer Smith
Mike Miltimore wants to win $100,000 to develop his Riversong Guitars business.
— image credit: Jennifer Smith

Guitar players may not be known for their squeaks like those who play the clarinet, but musical innovator Mike Miltimore has an unusual habit of squeaking in under the wire with his instrument.

Last year, Miltimore just missed qualifying for the Business Development Bank of Canada's Young Entrepreneur Award as he didn't own enough shares of the family business, Lee's Music on Sutherland Avenue in Kelowna, to qualify.

"It was just a little technicality. We run it like a partnership my dad, my mom and I," said Miltimore, who co-owns the Kelowna and Kamloops based stores.

This year, he has the shares, but almost didn't qualify again due to a birthday date guideline.

Miltimore has invented a streamlined method of building guitars that will shave hundreds of hours off building and tuning the instruments; but his nomination papers to make a run for the award were filed on April 28th when he was 35 years old.

The very next day, he turned 36, the contest closed, and he appeared to be one year too old for its requirements.

Thankfully, a quick read of the rules and regulations revealed the guitar designer qualifies within the time frame as he had to be 35 years old before Dec. 31, of 2011.

And with his squeaky clean idea on how to revolutionize guitar building, he's now riding second place in the online contest, hoping a few more votes will put him over the top.

Miltimore's guitar system takes building a guitar from a 100 hour process to 24 hours—or really the course of an eight-hour shift.

"I call it progressive traditionalism," he said, noting the guitar is no less a high-end product than any other guitar he repairs or sells in his shop.

In order to create the perfect instrument, Miltimore figured he needed to reduce the force from the strings, so that the guitar would have less tuning fluctuation, by eliminating the need for bracing.

He also wanted the guitars built for precision in a manner that allowed anyone to be trained to build the same instrument to the same specifications and consistency.

"You have all these different luthiers who specialize in different areas. This way I could hire a high school student that's shown some promise, or maybe someone with joiner experience, and get the same product," he said.

As such, he designed a one-piece body with a single piece neck that runs the length of the guitar, sliding into the body for the perfect fit and eliminating the 14th fret hump that eventually develops as the wood warps from moisture changes in the air on a standard, traditional guitar.

He added a series of keys and adjustment holes to the base so the bridge can be raised or lowered without loosening off the strings.

The overall product is quite unique and has a somewhat naked look.

"We have more resonate area than any other guitar on the market because we've eliminated all the structural bracing," he said, noting the sound quality is quite phenomenal.

Miltimore has spread the word through his own music industry contacts, in the National Post, the Vancouver Sun and he's using every social media medium available.

But he needs significant help to win. Anyone can vote daily for his Riversong Guitars project. The contest ends June 19.

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