Download Example 1
Bridge Rock
Download Example 2
Neck and Middle
Download Example 3
Clips recorded with Nikita Classic through TomasZewicz 35112 with Lava Cable and Sony PCM-D50 recorder.
While on the prowl at Winter NAMM, tasked by PG editors to follow up with some up-and-coming luthiers, I tracked down James Mellozzo, sole proprietor of Nikita Guitars, in his booth with a handful of his artistically inspired instruments. I spied a particularly interesting, dragon-themed T-style guitar to check out, but it was swiftly liberated from my eager paws by a notable artist who wanted to use it for a product demo at a neighboring amplifier booth. It was a bittersweet moment: on one hand, his incredible chops impressed me; on the other, I wouldn’t see the guitar again—it made such an impression on him that he took it with him when he left the show. That experience and subsequent conversations with Mellozzo left me with the urge to review one of his handcarved instruments. I was pleased to find the Nikita Classic on my doorstep a couple weeks after the show.

When Fine Art Meets Fine Tone
Mellozzo’s creative and artistically inspired approach to luthiery stems from a family lineage rooted in the arts. His medium of choice is wood: he began first as a trained master woodworker, designing and creating custom cabinets for 20 years. Then, 10 years ago, he felt a calling and began to apply his woodworking skills to guitar building. After reverse-engineering countless project guitars acquired via eBay—combined with his 30-plus years as a player—Mellozzo’s self education in luthiery reached a level that led him to build his first Nikita. Since then, he’s focused on building unique, signature guitars. True to his artistic roots, none are exactly replicated, making each Nikita truly one of a kind.

The Nikita Classic, with its highly figured tonewood laminates, intricate inlays and triple humbuckers, appears at first to give a nod to the creations of Alembic, Cripe and Irwin. Looking closely at the degree of craftsmanship and thoughtful design decisions that went into the guitar’s construction, it’s hard not to be impressed. Every design decision, executed by hand, seems to blend together, creating a balanced instrument that can stand on its own. The Classic features a body comprised of a laminate of mahogany, rosewood and maple that gives the guitar an attractive appearance and prominent acoustic tone. The one-piece, solid mahogany back is more than 20 years old, features a tummy cut and is finished with three coats of urethane in an opaque brown vintage tint. Atop the mahogany body sits a 1/8" rosewood slab followed by a 3/8", two-piece bookmatched figured maple top. The top is finished in a very subtle blue burst (yes, I know that sounds like an oxymoron) that starts with an aqua hue and darkens to a Caribbean blue that accentuates the beveled edge of the top—which is carved in perfect unison with the dual ebony carved pinstripes that frame the top. Overall, it’s an impressive feat of craftsmanship.

Likewise, through the expert use of taping, the sides of the guitar give off the appearance of having a six-layer, wood-striped binding from the three wood types used in the laminate body. This deft execution of scraped binding also adorns the fretboard and headstock. The urethane-finished neck is also an attractive tonewood laminate, featuring five layers in total and comprised of mahogany, curly maple and wenge. The neck is topped with 22 6105-sized nickel-silver frets, and features an ample ebony fingerboard with shell dot inlays best described as “companion dots.” The headstock shape approximates the body profile and features a figured maple matching headstock veneer. The hand-shaped, 12"-radius neck has the feel of a ’59-style carve, but with a little more taper. It meets the body at the 15th fret. The dual-action truss rod is accessed at the headstock through a handcarved rosewood and maple cover.

The guitar is voiced with three chrome-covered Lindy Fralin Humbuckers—a 7.5K Pure PAF model in the neck, a 13.5K High Output Humbucker model in the middle and an 8.0K Pure PAF model in the bridge. This seemingly unorthodox pickup combination of vintage and high-output models is another smart design decision. To enhance playability, Mellozzo purposely lowered the hotter middle pickup to create more picking space while maintaining output balance amongst the pickups. The humbuckers are wired to a 5-way Switchcraft switch as follows: pos. 1, bridge, full humbucking, series; pos. 2, neck and middle, both pickups full humbucking, parallel; pos. 3, middle, full humbucking, series; pos. 4, neck and middle, both pickups full humbucking, parallel; and pos. 5, neck pickup, full humbucking, series. I’m a fan of unsplit humbucker combinations and was glad to see them incorporated in the Classic’s design. That said, I did experience volume loss in positions 2 and 4, which according to Mellozzo has been addressed on new guitars going forward.