Around 1994, chemistry professor and
longtime guitarist Jean-Pierre Laplante,
frustrated by the dearth of decent left-handed
instruments available on the market and tired
of playing converted right-handed models,
decided to take matters into his own hands.
“I built myself a proper left-handed electric,”
he says, “and basically made all the mistakes
that could be made when building a first guitar.
I learned from those mistakes and built a
second, then a third, and eventually I had a
number of eager customers.”
Two decades later, Laplante handbuilds
a variety of guitars—archtops, flattops, and
electrics, both solidbody and hollowbody—
in his one-man shop, in Kingston, Ontario.
His creations range from thoughtful, modern
interpretations of the Fender Telecaster, to
17" electric archtops with exotic tonewoods,
to guitars inspired by the masterworks of artists
such as Pablo Picasso and Gustav Klimt.
Laplante has recently received an uptick
in requests for archtops, and is also currently
writing a book. The planned title is
Building an Electric Archtop Guitar
will detail the building—from start to
finish—of a 16" model. He feels positive
about the change in consumer tastes and
suspects that more and more electric players
will discover the exciting range of tonal
colors they can get from archtops.
Silver and Gold
Design to withstand climatic changes, this
17" archtop is made from figured bubinga
laminate on the back and sides and a laminated
spruce top. It has a handsome organic
appearance, thanks to its maple binding and
purfling, and the bubinga backplates, pickguard,
pickup rings, and headstock faceplate.
The electronics are Seymour Duncan
Seth Lover SH-55s with CTS 250k pots.
From Laplante’s artist series, the Kiss is
inspired by the Gustav Klimt masterpiece
of the same name, and boasts more than
100 pieces of mother-of-pearl for the top
inlays. The tiny flowers in Laplante’s rendition
were painted with colored acrylics, and
faux gold dust was added to recreate the
original painting’s warm glow. While a standard
body of this type is about 13" wide,
Laplante made his 14" to accommodate
the artwork. Meanwhile, to compensate
for the extra weight, he chambered out the
Hot Club "O"
This 16" Selmer/Maccaferri-style guitar
is made from choice tonewoods, with a
master-grade solid bearclaw Sitka spruce
top and AAAA-grade solid Indian rosewood
back and sides. Like many original
manouche guitars, it has ladder bracing and
a pliure, or seven-degree top crease. Made of
curly maple and rosewood, the traditional
laminated five-piece neck lacks a truss rod,
but is reinforced with carbon fiber.
Laplante most often makes his flattops in
the OOO size first seen on Martin guitars
from the early 1900s—a body style he finds
underrepresented these days and perfect
for fingerpicking. This particular example
has Macassar ebony back and sides and a
master-grade Sitka spruce top. The ebony
fretboard is embellished with a stunning
inlay pattern of vines, and abalone trim
throughout lends to the instrument’s opulence,
while an asymmetric ebony bridge
adds a modern touch.
Lil Dragon has a makore back, sides, and
neck, and a carved spruce top. The guitar’s
old-fashioned slotted headstock contrasts
nicely with the modern, slanted elliptical
soundhole. The ornamentation is handsomely
sparse, with its simple white and
black binding, save for the elaborate dragon
inlaid with white mother-of-pearl and green
and blue abalone at the highest frets.
Pricing and Availability
“About half of my guitars are commissioned
by serious musicians who know exactly what
they want,” says Laplante. “The other half
just comes out of my passion for building
singing art.” Laplante always has a small
stable of guitars available for purchase on his
website. At press time, instruments for sale
included a Tele Twang 2010 ($1995) and
the Silver and Gold ($3250), among others.
If you happen to be in Kingston, you
can normally find one of Laplante’s guitars
at Limestone Music or Renaissance Music.
As for custom orders, archtops generally
cost around $3000-$5000, and flattops
and solidbodies begin at just under $2000.
Delivery time averages eight months, but
workload permitting, Laplante can complete
a guitar in three months for a rush order,
which does require a surcharge.