A Custom Guitar Can Tell You a Story
At CustomMade, we like to share the stories of the one-of-a-kind items created by our community of artisans. The guitar is a modern storyteller with few peers. Think of all the songs and compositions we’ve heard through guitar music throughout our lives.
Custom guitars tell stories before a single note is played.
Unique combinations of acoustic and aesthetic excellence, custom guitars unite musicians’ visions with the luthier’s craft. Some pay homage to legendary instruments and builders. Others capture the spirit of an era long past. Some creations literally embody history in their materials.
The 19th century Spanish guitar maker Antonio de Torres created the first guitars designed to accompany flamenco music. Artisan John Decker of guitarmasterworks returned to a design by de Torres as the basis for his Caucasian cypress flamenco guitar, which is smaller and lighter than modern flamenco guitars. The cypress for the back and sides and the spruce for the soundboard come from the Caucasus region of Turkey. The neck, heel, and head block are made from Spanish cedar. This instrument also carries the artisan’s own unique trademark inlay. This guitar’s strong, bright tone and low action are perfect for flamenco performances.
German guitar maker Walter Hofner of Karl Hofner GmbH & Co KG created only a few bat wing guitars in 1960. Robert Baker of HiTone Guitars created his striking bat wing guitar as a tribute to those instruments and to sell as a fundraiser for a local elementary school.
How is custom inlay work like illuminating a medieval manuscript? Larry Robinson of Robinson Custom Inlays found his inspiration for the inlay work on a collaboration with luthier Kevin Ryan in the illuminated Lindisfarne Gospels of the 7th century. Two-and-a-half years later, the result was the Lindisfarne Guitar. Mr. Robinson gives a detailed account in his blog of the work involved in the project and how he entered the “headspace” of the medieval monk and illustrator Eadfrith. The back and sides of this guitar were made of holly to match the appearance of a vellum manuscript.
Artisan Bruce Petros of Petros Guitars writes: “When a luthier discovers a piece of wood that is unbelievably beautiful, something that may happen only once in a lifetime, there is an irrepressible urge to build an extraordinary instrument and is compelled to put his whole soul into this instrument.” The “African Rose” came about after the discovery of not one but two tonewoods of exceptional beauty, quality, and rarity: American redwood for the top and African Rosewood or bubinga for the back and sides. The redwood for this exquisite instrument was recovered from the bottom of the Big River in Mendocino, California, where it sank over a hundred years ago. The recovered wood, or “pumpkins,” showed ax marks which dated its harvesting before the invention of the Raker Tooth Saw in the late 19th century.