D'Angelcio Style A?
by Otto D'Ambrosio on April 21st, 2013
This D'Angelcio's needs work, the neck was badly twisted and warped. Let's get to it.
One of the best uses of a tourniquet (in lieu of bleeding to death) This procedure flexes the neck backwards, it's really important in this neck repair because on earlier D'Angelcio's there is no truss rod, and over 80 years this guitar developed a sever bowed neck, with the fingerboard removed I was able to pull the neck back and re-glue the board and eliminate the bow.
D'Angelcio Stlye A Headstock.
All clamped up and, ready for fretwork. The original D'Angelcio fret slots are cut very wide so I will have to use wide tang wire and glue all of them in with Epoxy to prevent the frets from moving. Note to the next repair person, PLEASE USE HEAT TO REMOVE FRETS!
fingerboard is off of this D'Angelcio
D'Angelcio All clamped up
by Otto D'Ambrosio on March 09th, 2013
The Guitar Man Q&A with Matt Otto D’Ambrosio, an artisanal guitar maker with his own shop in Providence, RI written by Laura Entis
When did you first get interested in making guitars? I was 13 and wanted to play music. I got three friends together, we formed a band, and I made my own guitar for the band.
How did you make it? There was a book - Make Your Own Electric Guitar. I got it for Christmas from my eldest brother. It was black and purple, in the shape of an upside down Z. I named the guitar vomit; I sprayed green over the purple, and the green spread out into little droplets. It was horrendous looking.
What was your band’s name? Really? Okay. TSD. The Sexual Dysfunctions. We were 13, and we were into music like Suicidal tendencies, DK’s and Minor threat—annoyingly loud, painful-sounding stuff. But our big break came when our high school agreed to use us as a sound check for one spot in the high-school play. We really thought we’d made it for a moment.
Your first job was as a runner at the Mandolin Brothers, a famous guitar shop in Staten Island. Tell me about your time there. It was the heyday of the market. You basically got to meet celebrity musicians, celebrity builders, every day. George Harrison was in there for a whole day buying ukuleles.
Did you start to building guitars there? No. I asked manager if I could work in the repairs department. He told me that he couldn’t hire anyone without any experience. So I found this guy in Brooklyn, Carl Thompson, who made instruments, and he taught me the ropes. He made these old electric guitars that required a lot of work. He was a great teacher.
On your website, you recount the time you received a piece of wood for Christmas. You were eight. For most kids, I imagine, this would be a pretty disappointing gift. What was your reaction? I was pretty psyched, because it came with a knife. Knives in general for boys in my family were always very cool. I guess my dad instilled this woodsman-ship in us, even though we’re all city boys. The other important thing about our family: four boys.
Oh wow. We really beat the shit out of each other.
Where do you fall in line? I’m a middle child.
So you got beat up, and did some beating up yourself. Exactly. The youngest brother, he received the full force of it.
Giving an 8-year-old a knife is pretty unusual. Do you think your dad was worried you’d hurt yourself? Not really. I think the first week I cut myself pretty bad. We always had knives. Before we had carving knives, we had kitchen knives.
You must have cut yourself a lot growing up. Yeah, definitely. When I was three, I hurt myself really bad with a hammer. I was pretending to be miner, banging on a rock...the hammer only had one claw on it, the other one must have broken off, and I managed to slip the claw of the hammer into my eye. I got 17 stitches. Amazing doctor, though, and now I have almost perfect vision out of that eye. It’s crazy.
With all these tools around, I’m assuming your dad was pretty handy. My father would make something for the sole purpose of having it be a tool. Like a boat. He would make a boat and it would be the ugliest thing in the world, but it floated. And he took the satisfaction out of making things work.
What did he do for a living? Both my parents were New York City school teachers. My parents were kind of hippies. For my dad, I think making things he could use in life was more of an end-of-the-day release.
What do your brothers do? Do they carve? Not at all. Carl, the oldest, works in aerospace. He makes rocket ships and fighter jets. Brett, the second oldest, is in San Francisco working as a software engineer. He runs companies’ internet...actually, I have no idea what he does. He’s doing crazy stuff online. And then there’s me, sitting in my wood shop making sawdust. The youngest works for Brett in San Francisco.
When you were a kid, you found a photo album of your great grandfather’s ivory carvings -- did your attraction and skill for carving wood suddenly make sense? My great grandfather was the one who exposed me to making art, to making something that wasn’t just utilitarian.
My mother was a war child, she came to the states in 1952 when she was a teenager, from Germany. Her grandfather was a sculptor that worked mainly out of Dresden. A lot of my great grandfather’s carvings were destroyed or stolen by the Nazis. We still have some of them, but we also have these books, documenting his entire life’s work. He carved for the Pope, for the Vatican. He was a true master.
When did you discover these albums? I was maybe 11 or 12. There was definitely a time when I would stay up all night looking at these books. That’s when I started sculpting.
You’ve since moved to Providence and opened up your own shop. How long does the process of making a guitar take? Twelve months is the usual turn around time. The first 6 months goes into the design. That’s the social part of it. It’s really my responsibility as the builder to go over every aspect of this with the person getting the guitar, if that’s something they enjoy doing. The next 2 months are for selecting materials, the next few months after that are about carving all the particular pieces, and then there are a couple months where the finished pieces go through a drying process, so they’ll fit together properly If the pieces haven’t been properly seasoned or they’re not glued together well, they’ll just fall apart. Really, it takes about 200 hours of work spread over the course of a year.
What woods do you generally work with? For jazz archtop guitars, maple, spruce and ebony. For flat-tops, rosewood, mahogany, redwood and cedar are all great. For the decorative aspects of the guitar, I use topical woods, like claro walnut—a highly dense, darker wood that gives the instrument some flash, some bling.
What’s your process like? Do you work on multiple guitars at once? I will do two or three or four at a time. But it gets hard after that. There is too much juggling, too many colors and fields and tones. Jumping between instruments is not really healthy for them.
How much does one of your guitars cost? Around $15,000 for a guitar. They start at $10,000.
Do you have a favorite guitar? You have to detach yourself from individual instruments because you put all this time and emotion getting it to be this perfect thing. To start the next one, you almost have to forget about the last one.
That must be hard. It’s difficult. But when I finish a guitar, it’s a really nice personal celebration. I open a bottle of wine, I invite a few friends over, I play it for a couple hours, and I take all the satisfaction from the project.
Have you ever had a dissatisfied customer? They won’t say they are disappointed, but the way they show it is that they won’t play the guitar. And that hurts my feelings.
Are your customers professionals? The majority of them are not professionals. They are very serious enthusiasts, but they are usually connected to the spiritual side of the instrument, to the time and emotion put into the instrument.
What do you do outside of work? Outside of work...I live with Darlene, my significant other, and we have two lovely children, six and eight. So after work, it’s homework time and sometimes, we’ll all build stuff.
Have you given either of them knives? I haven’t yet. My son is more into cars and keys.
So no knives for Christmas? Not from me. But my dad has given them a whole bunch of stuff. I need to supervise that.
by Otto D'Ambrosio on February 17th, 2013
There is no doubt, that this man was the biggest influence in my artistic path. Otto Ernst Richter, my Great Grandfather. Dresden, Germany 1863-1953 His works can be found in private collections in Russia, Europe, German Museums and the Vatican. The Museums his work is currently on display: Art Museum of Dresden (Kunstgewerb Museum) and the German Ivory Museum at Erbach/Odenwald. He also displayed at the Chicago World Fair around the 1930's. He filled orders from private, well endowed individuals, and to the Popes representatives. Of course much of his work was destroyed in the war but, We do have some records of his life's contribution to the Art's and I always enjoy talking about him. Thank You Otto, for giving me the path to patience and skill.
This is one of my families personal favorites.
NAMM and the ER-4
by Otto D'Ambrosio on January 25th, 2013
Introducing the New Eastman/D'Ambrosio ER-4 16 inch electric/Acoustic.
This new guitar was unveiled today at the winter NAMM show in Anaheim CA. and appeared in American Songwriter magazine. American Songwriter mag
New Collaboration between Eastman Strings and Otto ER-4
by Otto D'Ambrosio on January 24th, 2013
The current March issue of Acoustic guitar features my new flattop model the Valencia.
Check out the link to read the story. Acoustic Guitar custom bilders story
Valencia's offset rosette