Wizard of Wood: Bay Shore native transforms NYC wood into guitars

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NEW YORK -

From the famous to the infamous, the buildings of New York City tell the story of its 535-year history.

A chapter closes every time one of its landmarks is lost to redevelopment. But in Greenwich Village, Rick Kelly keeps the story alive in his little guitar shop - Carmine Street Guitars.

His customers call him the "Wizard of Wood."

Kelly says he's been building guitars sicne the late 1960s.

For many of his 65 years, the Bay Shore native has transformed reclaimed wood into one-of-a-kind, beautifully carved guitars.

"It's great being able to recycle this stuff and have it return into something useful again and the fact that it becomes kind of art that really makes music is just so wonderful," says Kelly.

Kelly calls his creations "The Bones of Old New York City." They're made out of the 19th Century white pine from upstate New York that formed the framework of the city's old buildings.

The wood, which is usually thrown away during redevelopment, is gold to Kelly. He collects it from dumpsters and construction sites.

"A lot of them look at me like I have two heads. Why would you want this, full of nails? It's old," says Kelly. 

But he visualizes something beautiful. He says that lumber that good can't be bought, and it's the most resonate wood.

Each guitar embodies the tone of the building it's made from.

Kelly salvaged a charred beam from the Serbian Orthodox Cathedral that burned down last year - and turned it into a symbol of resurrection.

An instrument made of wood from the bell tower of Trinity Church near Ground Zero - resonates that day of disaster.

And a guitar, built from pine planks of the historic Chumley's Pub, for rock and roll legend Bob Dylan - holds notes of nostalgia.

Each one of Kelly's guitars is as unique as a fingerprint. The knots and cracks give the instruments character. The centuries-old wood is aged and seasoned in ways that provide great resonance and sound.

Musician Seth L. Johnson loves how every chord echoes the sounds of New York's past. The wood for his guitar came from a building that happened to be a music venue called Sammy's Bowery Follies.

It's the stories of old New York City brought back to life - by the magical touch of the "Wizard of Wood."

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