The el Goose Times
Volume 9
(June-July 2023)

with Jon Caruso

Craftsmanship is the quality that comes from individual creative expression, refined skill and a meticulous attention to detail. As technology continues to evolve and machines become more efficient with production, the importance of traditional craftsmanship - especially handcraftsmanship - has never been greater. This kind of high-quality craftsmanship is what differentiates and elevates in an increasingly crowded space, whether functional or purely aesthetic. Thinking about how this applies to music, musical instruments are functional pieces of art where craftsmanship can make a huge difference. For guitars, the materials used for the body, neck and type of electronics used, for example, can make a huge difference to how the guitar looks, feels and sounds.

Lutherie, the craft of making, repairing or restoring stringed instruments, depends on great craftsmanship, as Luthiers spend years studying wood and instrument construction to truly understand how instruments work and how they can improve upon its sound. The craft of luthiers is essentially divided into two main categories: makers of stringed instruments that are plucked or strummed, like guitars, and lutes, for example; and makers of stringed instruments that are bowed, like a cello, double bass or violin.

Guitar lutherie has evolved significantly since it began in the early 19th century, with the rise of technology and machinery, but there’s something about hand-made guitars that give them more character and personality. A machine cannot replicate what comes out of the hands of an individual, who put their heart and soul into every individual piece. These guitars are essentially functional works of art. 

The el Goose Times had the opportunity to speak with Greg DeLuis, master luthier and owner of DeLuis Guitars, about what inspired him to become a luthier, the story behind Rick’s new guitar, “The Empress” and more. 

What inspired you to become a luthier and ultimately start your own company, DeLuis Guitars?  

My love of guitars and playing guitar is of course at the center of it all. I was just a kid being influenced by my grandfather, who was handy enough to keep his instruments playing great, and it was at his workbench that I first saw lutherie tools, vacuum tubes, capacitors, etc…all pretty cool to my young self. He also gave me my first Stewmac catalog at 16. By then, I had been playing regularly in bands and bars (underage) just trying to cut my teeth and becoming more and more in love with the guitar in general.

I pursued sculpture in college and was originally headed for the fine art world. I think that also heavily influences how I approach lutherie, because I look at my guitars as pieces of functional fine art. The real moment I knew I was going to be a luthier was when I picked up the book, Steel String Guitar Construction by Irving Sloane…the section on Jimmy D’Aquisto changed my life.  

I'd love to hear more about your family life growing up, and how it influenced where you are today. Was music important in your family?   

Music was important in my family. Holiday gatherings often turned to late night jam sessions. At the center of these jam sessions were a pair of Gibson instruments from 1919 and 1929, respectively. They were the tools of the trade for my great uncle Jimmy DeLuis, who was a professional musician. They were revered objects-that was apparent to me at a young age. 

Old-school craftsmanship is a cornerstone of your business. Why was this important? 

I’m not categorically anti-tech (my fret templates are laser cut, for example), but I think a lot of processes in guitar construction that once added the artists touch (inlay, hand carving) have been automated and the instruments themselves stripped of romance. There isn’t typically a lot of transparency in lutherie - plenty of makers outsource or automate what could (and I believe should) be handcrafted, unbeknownst to the customer. The quick and easy way only benefits the maker, not the player. I strive for integrity, honesty and high-level craftsmanship in how I approach lutherie. Using old-school traditional construction methods, like hand inlay and hand carving, is how I do that. I think it matters.   

Based on your experience, how do different types of wood impact a guitar’s overall sound?

Wood is a precious resource and I feel privileged to use what is often rare and difficult to source.  The wood’s visual beauty inspires throughout the process, but what really sets the process apart from the big guitar factories is that I’m LISTENING to the wood throughout the process.  

As far as different species and their inherent qualities…I believe it’s really a weight:stiffness conundrum. But, you can count on certain tonewoods for certain resonant qualities and use that information to EQ the instrument to a certain degree…At least at a baseline.   Rick’s guitar, for example, features a highly figured, big-leaf Maple for the top and back, in addition to steam-bent Indian Rosewood sides and Mahogany linings. The neck is Honduras Mahogany with carbon fiber reinforcement and a two-way truss rod. The use of Maple for the top and back and Mahogany for the neck is carried over from Rick’s old guitar…keeping the tonal signature that the wood itself was providing in Rick’s tone. 

On the DeLuis Guitar website, it says that “all custom DeLuis Guitars start with a conversation.” How did the conversation start with Rick? Did he reach out to you?   

I had been listening/following Goose for some time. Rick is an incredible and very special player and I knew I wanted to make him something epic. Fast forward to Aug 22, 2022. My pal Sean Heydorff (aka Blues for Sallah) happened to know a few people in their management, got us into VIP at the Greek here in LA and after the show I was able to speak at length about a potential guitar design with Rick in the lounge. Then I sketched and worked on preliminary designs, we got the concept where it needed to be and “The Empress” would soon be born. The most exciting part of designing a custom instrument, to me, is realizing that when you’re working with an artisan, the sky is the limit.   

When I first spoke with Rick at the Greek (LA) we were pretty much on the same page as far as possible construction features. Rick already sounded fantastic, so the task at hand was delivering MORE of Rick’s already amazing sound. The next time he and I communicated, I sent a few mock-ups, which we stuck to very closely throughout the process. As described in the tonewood question, I chose woods that I felt would capture and enhance his sound in the best possible way. 

Once the woods were selected, then begins the hand carving process. The tops of my instruments are hand-carved with traditional violin/cello planes and cabinet scrapers. Carving and tuning the top and back as well as additional tuning of the bracing and recurve areas is where, listening to the Wood (and aether) can result in the instruments greatest potential and what sets a sensitively constructed, luthier-built instrument apart from something off an assembly line.  

Walk us through the process of crafting his guitar. What makes Rick’s guitar unique? 

The main points, as discussed with Rick in our OG conversation, were a fully hollow instrument, light and responsive which in high gain situations can be like riding a wave.  Top that off with a couple extra frets and minding comfort by designing a beautiful ergonomic package. If you really account for every design feature, every line and curve, it is a very unique guitar and a new look while keeping all of Rick’s playing needs met.  

When I’m in the early stages of guitar building for a client, everything starts with wood selection.  In this case, I chose woods already at the center of Rick’s tone and that was the tricky part. Rick always sounded great so the goal was just giving him his tone plus a little extra. 

The most significant difference to me between Ricks old guitar and “The Empress”, is that the old instrument was shaped by computer-controlled routers on an assembly line, while mine are completely handcrafted. At big factories/companies the automation is the norm. I only bring this up to illustrate what makes this instrument different from heavily CNC-assisted builds (in a big or small shop) or something off an assembly line. The top plates of his new instrument are hand carved like a violin with hand planes. The entire process I’m carving and listening to the wood and each plate’s final graduations are unique to the qualities of that particular piece of wood. 

Here’s a rundown of the specs we landed on:  

"The Empress"

A hand-carved, fully hollowbody electric guitar  


Hand-carved curly maple top and back(big leaf), Steam-bent mahogany sides with mahogany linings
with hand carved ebony tailpiece 


Honduran mahogany
Ebony fingerboard and headplate
2-way truss rod
25” scale length
12” radius
Mammoth ivory nut
Hand cut inlay 


Lollar low-wind imperial pickups 

Roughly how many guitars have you personally crafted up to this point? What are some of your favorites? 

It’s over 100 instruments at this point… the stand out guitars for me are “Liberty”, made for Austin McCutchen from Grateful Shred - which was my first project via the Grateful Guitars Foundation, as well as a design collab with my dear friend Sean Heydorff, aka Blues for Sallah. 

 The other obvious favorite would be “The Empress”, made for/with Rick. He’s a beast with that guitar. Seeing my instruments being played on stage is the greatest joy. 

What’s it like delivering a finished guitar to your clients and watching/listening to them play the piece?  

I usually overnight ship guitars, so I don’t get to see those first moments in person very often. 

That’s why with Rick it was an extra special delivery for me.  When Rick first picked up the guitar, he immediately played unplugged and was making music. We all went upstairs for sound check and Rick really started to enjoy the new space this guitar could give him, then when he said he wanted to play it that night it just solidified for me that between him and I, we nailed it, and he hasn’t put it down since. That’s the feeling I strive for every time with every guitar.

Do you have any advice for aspiring luthiers?  

In any high-level craft, I think learning the fundamentals, creating muscle memory, and just getting really skilled at your craft is a prerequisite for doing great work. You have to put in the time, there’s no shortcuts in this field if you want to put out excellent work.  

What's next for you? Do you have any other exciting projects in the works?   

John Lee Shannon of Circles Around the Sun/Grateful Shred and I have a project that’s getting started. I’m so grateful every day that I’m very busy with custom orders and each one is special and exciting in their own way. This is my dream life. 

Thank you so much for your time, it’s been a pleasure! If fans would like to learn more about luthier Greg DeLuis, visit his website - make sure to follow DeLuis Guitars on Facebook & Instagram!

All photos provided by Greg DeLuis unless otherwise noted. All rights reserved.


Note: We are not affiliated, associated with or in any way officially connected to Goose.
We just love the band and community that much.

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