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
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, which 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 mahogany body.
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.