In our first Montreal gallery, we check out the electric side of the show, which was new this year, with a few acoustics thrown in for good measure.
The Montreal Guitar Show just might be the most robust gathering of high-end luthiers on the planet. Held in conjunction with the Festival International de Jazz de Montreal, the MGS features a diverse lineup of guitar makers and accessories manufacturers from around the world that reads like a Who’s Who of boutique all-stars. Exhibition at this world-class event is by invitation only, so there are no big manufacturer’s displays. The MGS is about the kind of craftsmanship practiced by artisans who have limited production capacity—when they aren’t fulfilling select orders for true aficionados, they’re inventing the new designs and innovative features that will be incorporated over time into mainstream luthierie.
There’s a lot to the MGS—in addition to the fine gear (which includes commissioned pieces for the event), there are seminars, artist performances and of course, a tremendous display of community. The interaction and exchange of ideas between these like minds is an exciting thing to witness. In addition to our on-site Twitter photos as the event was taking place, we’ve got some meaty coverage of what we experienced in Montreal. Keep an eye out for videos, a magazine feature, and some eye-popping photo galleries, the first which is below.
Stefan Barrillon is a French luthier who specializes in fine woods. He does it all--solidbodies, acoustics, hollowbodies and semihollows, customs and even banjos. His designs are based on “simplicity, restraint and comfort.”
French luthier Herve Tonnard’s Silver Top was built from a single piece of mahogany (body, neck, headstock). It has a carved maple top, an ebony fretboard and Bendetti pickups
Marc Lupien’s XXL Guitars shop opened in Montreal in 2002. His Convertible (left) and U2 (right) models feature core frames with tone chambers and some choice Danelectro appointments.
Marc Lupien's XXL U2’s electronics include Seymour Duncan pickups and a three-position pickup switch (optional varitone circuit available)
Pierre-Aintoine Roiron is a former mechanical and vibration analysis engineer who now makes 100% customizable guitars in France.
Benedetti Pickups are extremely popular in Europe. Now made by Nicolas Mercadal, a sound technician who trained under founder Michel Benedetti, the brand is known for its Mini Humbucker for archtops and the reissue of the SP90 (shown).
Canadian Ray Gander has more than 40 years of experience building electric guitars. His Taurus (left) is made with cocobola, abalone and bloodwood. His Gemini has a maple top, mahogany back and neck, and a Brazilian rosewood fretboard. Gander has his own carbon fiber reinforcement beam and patented tremolo.
Cigar box guitars from Daddy Mojo Stringed instruments in Montreal have to be heard to be appreciated. Fully playable and great-sounding, they bring the historic instrument played by poor musicians of US South into the 21st century.
Sam (shown) and Ron Evans of Cardinal Instruments build adventurous stringed instruments in Austin, Texas. They use locally-harvested and salvaged materials, use low VOC finishes and make their own pickups.
Jean Lamarche of March Guitars (Quebec) makes a compact travel guitar with a basic design that has been in use for 25 years.
The namesake behind Scott Walker Guitars (Santa Cruz, CA) has eight years of experience at Santa Cruz Guitar Company. His Phoenix model (center) is collaboration with Steve Kimock, John Cutler and Jason Lollar.
Simon Godin was at the Godin (Canada) booth showing off the company’s new Passion series guitars, a single-coil lover’s dream ride with sleek appointments and tuned chambers.
La Lutherie MF (Canada) was established by luthier Michel Fournelle and involves a host of experienced luthiers, including Jacques Simoneau, Andre Hamel, Yves Landry, Danie Bertrand and ian Hazan-Weston.
Allan Tomkins of Tomkins Custom Guitars brought a mean set of axes all the way from Sydney, Australia. His Diamondtina 2 Blue Body has a maple top and a chambered Australian Kauri Pine body.
The Tonkins Diamondtina 2 Gary Allan model is also made of Australian Kauri Pine. It has rear body contours and Tomkins’ own pickups.
Peter Mallinoski is a versatile, award-winning US artist who well versed in both form and function. Mallinoski’s instruments feature his own handmade electronics.
Garbujo Guitars is the largest guitar builder in Italy. Founder David Garbujo’s instruments are in the hands of many European performers. His Fuse hollowbody (shown) has a one-piece swamp ash body with a 5A quilted maple top and a 5A flamed maple neck, his own pickups and is highly customizable.
Canadian Francois Beausejour founded Lutherie Quatre-Temps with partner Jacinthe Desy and makes highly ergonomic guitars and basses with “perfect sonority.”
Henman–Bevilacqua Guitars (US) fuse minimalism, craftsmanship, art and old school quality for true connoisseurs. Their S1 models (shown) are available with a one-piece Honduran mahogany or swamp ash bodies and a fixed bridge or a B5 Bigsby.
Potvin Guitars of Canada turned heads with Mike Potvin’s creative designs. Lee Bowie is holding the guitar Mike Potvin (right) designed for him. Inspired by a visit to Mexico, it’s a semi-hollowbody made of Mahogany, with a quilted maple top and a flamed maple neck. Bowie chose jumbo frets and Seymour Duncan pickups (Pearly Gates bridge, SLD-1 Lipstick). The red guitar is Potvin’s take on a traditional Iceman-style guitar. It has a lightweight mahogany body that is heavily chambered.
Mike Potvin also turned heads with two guitars that could be described as the end result of leaving a Tele and a Jr. together in a closet together for too long with some Barry White playing in the background: the El Camino (left) and the Ranchero (right). The Ranchero is equipped with a hand wired Jason Lollar P90.
Finish luthier Juha Ruokangas uses unusual materials like Arctic birch and moose shin bone in his guitars.
This Riokangas strat-style guitar represents the Supreme version of the V.S.O.P. series. The top, pickguard and fretboard are matched Arctic Birch. The neck is Thermo Treated maple.
German luthier Nik Huber’s aptly named Dolphin features a quilted maple top that you could practically go swimming in. The pickups are handmade by H. Haussel.
Something brand new from Nik Huber. Keep an eye out for more details as we get them, but we couldn't resist sharing this gorgeous single-piece top.
Jean-Charles Dugain of Mediators Dugain specializes in picks and slides designed to be easy to hold on to. Dugain uses materials like olivewood, boxtree wood, hematite, bone, horn, coconut shell, silver and gold.
Texan Paul Sanchez of Red Iron Amps was the only amp maker at the show. His amps feature point-to-point wiring and custom mesquite cabinetry.
Fairfield Circuitry (Canada) makes effects that are designed to be tastefully originally without compromising a musician’s needs or creativity. The Randy’s Revenge (left) is a highly adjustable ring modulator with true bypass switching. The Barbershop (right) is an originally-designed JFET overdrive with a very wide operating range.
Quebec luthier Jean Rompre’s concert classical guitars have been used by top musicians for more than 20 years. Rompre custom makes classical and steel string guitars to order.
Gordon Bischoff’s craftsmanship garnered him the Rockler Woodworking Award by Woodworker’s Journal in 2000. The Wisconsin luthier’s Baritone Acoustelectric features splitable Seymour Duncan pickups and a Fishman Matrix bridge pickup system that can be run separately or blended.
Lukas Brunner of Brunner Guitars is a Swiss luthier who enjoys fusing traditional craftsmanship with innovative designs. This guitar, the Outdoor Guitar, has a removable neck and can fit into an overhead compartment-friendly suitcase. As you’ll see in an upcoming Premier Guitar video demo, the guitar somehow stays in tune after being put back together!
Candian Tony Duggan-Smith is a luthier who apprenticed under Rufus Stewart and served as Linda Manzer’s assistant before opening his own shop. This custom archtop has a European maple back and sides, a flamed European spruce top, a flamed maple neck and a bound ebony fingerboard. The pickup is custom made by Kent Armstrong.
You could say Linda Manzer is an all-star of custom luthierie. Not only her works played by artists like Pat Metheny, Bruce Cockburn and Santana, but they’re also on display at places like the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston. Her latest project is a limited-edition run of 30 recreations of the first guitar she made for Pat Metheny in 1982, which he eventually named the Linda 6. Known as the Metheny-Manzer Signature 6 (show here) the guitars are handcrafted by Manzer and reproduced with key specs from the original, but updated with some of the innovations that Metheny and Manzer have collaborated on together.