Wade Leitner Photos | Digital Traditions

Over 40 years ago, Wade Leitner decided to make himself a guitar after seeing one in a downtown Columbia pawn shop. Although his first effort became only a conversation piece, this longtime Lexington County resident became renowned as the Stradivarius (maker) of acoustic stringed instruments.

Famous now for fiddles and guitars with his trademark sound holes strategically placed on the face of the instrument, Leitner crafted his first fiddle using a $3.50 instruction book, "Practical Violin Making." Approximately 150 to 180 hours go into the process of building a fiddle. Woods such as fine curly maple, birds-eye maple or rosewood, coming from as far away as Germany, are shaped into the much sought after violins, guitars, mandolins, banjos, dobros and dulcimers.

Traveling to acoustic music festivals from Florida to Virginia, Leitner sold his instruments primarily through word-of-mouth. The professional building contractor also taught classes on dulcimer and guitar making, and appeared on television specials on South Carolina ETV. He passed away in 2010. Leitner received the Jean Laney Harris Folk Heritage Award in 1996.