A while back I did a post about 10 cool guitars that were very much to my liking. This follow-up post is kind of more of the same, but focuses on mainly smaller / less well known makers. Most of these are custom shops in the truest sense of the word - building guitars to order, possibly with the exception of Mayones which is Poland’s leading guitar manufacturer and more mainstream really. For most of these there is only the occasional instrument found in the wild - on specialist retailer’s site, but generally you would need to place an order yourself direct with the luthier / manufacturer or through an exclusive dealer.
Pricing here ranges from £1,450 to nearly £7,000. If I had to pick just one here, I would most likely go for a Scott Walker Santa Cruz. My next two choices would be either a Framus Panthera II Supreme or a Frank Hartung Enigma or Embrace.
You might notice that all guitars here feature either 3+3 or 4+2 headstock tuner layouts - meaning they are all optimised for tuning stability - even though not all come with locking tuners, which really should be a must-have requirement. I generally prefer the doublecut body shape, but the Framus Panthera II Supreme and Frank Hartung Embrace (see here) are both amazing examples of really modern evolutions of the singlecut shape - and would be good modern Les Paul replacements.
Of course I am a long way off owning any of the higher priced models, most of which have up to 12 months waiting lists in any case, such is the demand on their luthiers. At the other end of the scale for just about £1,500 (plus shipping, customs duty etc.) the 4 Lienhard brothers - including founders Scott and Greg will happily make you your own guitar in around 2-3 months.
Beautiful modern and streamlined instruments family-made in Southern California. Headstock has the fairly rare Music Man -style 4+2 configuration, and pickups are typically Seymour Duncan. Plenty of choices of wood, and some really great PRS-quality finishes.
A very modern instrument made from a new molded compound - ’Arium’ which is supposed to mimic resonsance and tonal qualities of tone woods. The guitar body and neck are a one piece construction as such, albeit made from 9 sandwiched layers of Arium at the core, then carbon fibre, glass fibre and two different coatings which lock and seal the core unit. Fretboard, hardware, electronics etc. are then all fixed to this singular molded core.
A little-known Japanese boutique manufacturer that produces some stunning instruments, including this beautiful Susanoh Ace Signature - featuring 3 humbucker pickups (2 mini dual rails) and some very clever swtiching options - combined with a really elegant shape.
Hungarian, Tom Quayle endorsed guitar manufacturer, and maker of elegant natural wood finished instruments - including this Santana- body-style / inspired Doublecut Jazz model.
Luthier Frank Hartung has a deft touch with modernising guitar shapes - the very modern superstrat-like Enigma and evolved Les Paul -style Embrace are pretty unique instruments. I really prefer Frank’s Enigma, and would take the Framus Panthera over the Embrace if wanting a modern Les Paul Variant. 12 month waiting list on most of these though. The Enigma Scratchburst finish is particularly stunning (see here).
Henning Pauly / EytschPi42 put me onto this - he has this exact model. Of course seriously expensive, but a really beautiful instrument with amazing depth of finish to instrument. You can check out Henning’s EytschPi42 YouTube Channel for full unboxing and demo play-through. A major investment, but probably worthy it if you have the money.
Largely handcrafted, but more widely available through outlets like GuitarGuitar in the UK. This is kind of the Ibanez of Poland, and builds guitars which are very popular with heavier rock / metal players / shredders - although they are modern guitars and many coil-splittable versions for tone versatility. The most affordable of the guitars featured in this list - especially when shipping is considered too. And well worth a look-in if you want something slightly out of the ordinary.
Australian Perry Ormsby’s custom shop has become mostly famous for its ultra modern multiscale or fan-fret version guitars, particularly in 7 string variations. As always I have a preference for the 3+3 headstock and superstrat body, here in softened Ibanez RG-style.
Jose Ramos’s custom guitar shop is best known for its use of natural local woods - like Spanish Walnut. Jose does his own version of S-style, T-style, LP-style guitars, but my preference is for the more optimised and evolved Atlast C Series which gives you the best combination of qualities.
Scott Walker’s custom instruments are possibly the best detailed hand-crafted instruments you can buy - with beautiful attention to detail of every aspect. I came across them when searching for PRS-style instruments - there is an obvious synergy here, but Scott’s have more of an artisan feel to them, while PRSs are are now approaching their own particular generic ubiquity. I of course love PRS and would line up to acquire many more, but the Scott Walker Santa Cruz is one instrument that would be very high up on my wishlist.
There were several other boutique manufacturers I considered featuring, but could not find the right model or suitable photography. It’s a little disappointing how poor some of these websites are, in particular their own product photography and features write-ups. In the Guitar industry - they need but look at supreme Pedal makers Strymon to see how a website should be done. Other makers I considered included Crimson Guitars (Dorset), Eko Guitars (Italy), Flaxwood Guitars (Finland), Malinoski Guitars (Maryland), Mikael Springer (Germany), Relish Guitars (Switzerland), RJ Guitars (Philippines), Teuffel Guitars (Germany), Warrior Guitars (Georgia USA), and Zerberus Guitars (Germany). Many of those listed here on this page are exhibiting at NAMM in January 2017.