I made my first electric guitar in 1997, I was 19 years old. I used an old sailboat rudder as the top, comprised of light and dark laminated wood, and the whole design was inspired by Alembic/Irwin and Rick Turner’s work. For as long as I can remember I’ve wanted to make Jerry Guitars. I played that guitar at a bunch of gigs and it served me well, what can I say I didn’t have the tools or the knowledge I have now, but it played! During this time I was deep in a book that has forever changed my life, “Steel String Guitar Construction” by Irving Sloane. In the back of the book was a piece on Jimmy D’Aquisto and a brief look into his process and his amazing guitars. In me it planted a seed that being a luthier is something you could actually do. For the first time I really believed I could make this my life and relate to guitars as a high form of art. During this time I was also in art school and graduated with a BA in Sculpture where I immersed myself in Ceramics.
Fast forward to 2005, I set out to discover how guitars really work in the acoustic sense, and because I was loving Django at the time, the first several instruments I made were Selmer/Macaferri acoustics. I played in a Hot Club, I lived and breathed Django. A few years later however, I returned to my roots. I started making Garcia inspired electrics again, as well as some unique acoustics like the Troubadour, the Lemurian Archtop and Ukuleles. Not long after I began working alongside Tom Leiber in his one man shop in Fly Creek, NY. Tom worked in Doug Irwin’s shop in the 70’s and has ornamental design credit for Jerry’s Guitar, Tiger. He has made some incredible basses with Stanley Clark, and has is own line of amazing work and more conceptual art pieces like the Gigerstein. During my time there, we made a bunch of Garcia guitars, as well as it being a fairly busy repair shop. There I worked on custom guitars for Melvin Seals, the Garcia Family, Zach Nugent and countless others. While at Tom’s, I also had been working on my own projects. This is where I made my first Dorado and, essentially, officially launched DeLuis Guitars. The concepts that were reinforced in me during this time were: Bulletproof construction, enhanced sustain and critical consistency.
I am a one man shop. I keep my chisels sharp. Every single process is done by hand, by me. DeLuis Guitars is also self funded. I didn’t have the luxury of growing up with financial resources at my disposal (I was raised by a single mom). I put myself through school and I built my workshop and acquired the tools to engage in this form of art from the ground up. It took years of pouring everything I earned and had into my work. I never sacrificed quality and instead sought out the most superbly constructed chisels and things of the like I could find. I do not use a CNC for any process, nor would I want to impart the carbon footprint associated with a monstrosity of a machine. It has no place in my workshop. I cut my own inlays by hand with a jewelers saw. Here are my thoughts on inlay…Using a CNC to cut inlay, which is essentially jewelry, is taking away this sacred exchange between artist and material and takes away the intrinsic value of the art at hand. Part of the beauty is the difficulty and the skill required to make these pieces. Many luthiers rely on CNC for the sake of speed and efficiency and profit (or lack of ability) and although it may not be revealed to their clients, there is a piece of the puzzle missing. The beauty is in the investment of skill and the constant growth and dedication that go into works of art. That’s how you can accurately price something, that is the real value. Hand work *should* cost more, so if you undercut that concept and sell something as handmade, when it is mostly made by machines you are inherently disrupting the system of the beautiful exchange of art and appreciation.
I’ve set out to make functional art in the form of guitars. It has required years of sacrifice, dedication and education. I would do it all again. I love making guitars. These years have helped me create a process and a product that I’m proud of and confident in. It didn’t happen overnight, not even in a decade. Luckily, I have a amazing wife who has put up with all the dust (figuratively and literally) that comes along with being a Luthier. The sky is the limit, I want to know what else is out there in the aether, you tell me.