modern builder vault

A one-man operation building approximately 10 guitars per year and winding his own pickups.

Knowing that her father dug artwork and crafts, making furniture, playing guitar, and had a keen interest in electronics, Michael De Luca’s eldest daughter thought a book on building electric guitars would make a great gift for his 50th birthday. A great gift indeed—De Luca read the book from front to back several times that same week. “Each time I read it, I understood more and more, and I remember being totally magnetized by the prospect of actually making a guitar from scratch,” says De Luca.

Hooked and “totally possessed” by the idea of building a guitar, De Luca further researched the craft through various internet sites and many other books. “I spent at least eight to nine hours per day from the moment I was home from work until the early hours of the morning, seven days a week, over a period of about six months researching and honing my skills,” he says. In this ramp-up time, he made guitar bodies and necks from scrap wood until he felt he was ready to take on building a guitar from “proper wood.”

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As a high-end boutique builder in Brazil, Freire faces some unique challenges.

It’s somewhat ironic that the home of the world’s most revered guitar tonewood is not a hotbed for a relatively large base of guitar builders and available instruments. That’s part of the reason Brazilian luthier Celso Freire started building instruments for a living, forming his company Dreamer Guitarworks.

When Freire started playing bass at the age of 15 in the 1980s, it was very difficult to get a good bass in Brazil, even with money in hand. He was frustrated with the lightweight, unbalanced body of the J-style he owned that was manufactured in a Brazilian factory, but he did find a well-balanced Fender P in 1984. Freire immediately went to work trying to clone its body with a piece of mahogany to use with parts from his old bass. Though the first attempt at the body didn’t work out, the aspiring builder bought a router and had better results the second time around. Once he got the body right, he took it to a luthier to install a fretless rosewood fingerboard onto the neck of his old J-style, but ended up having to learn how to do the job himself because “the guy was so slow,” says Freire. When it came time to paint his project bass, Freire found a small guitar factory near his home where he ended up working for three years and learning the craft. A luthier was born.

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