Video: Cape Cod guitar builder hits big time
Peter Ciluzzi should want to be a guitar god, windmilling his way through rock songs at top volume and energy.
But the 33-year-old musician took a different tact when he was young, leaning more towards New Age-type instrumental music than rock and roll. Today, he writes beautiful, modern guitar solos that owe more to classical and jazz-oriented improvisation than to Led Zepplin. And he also builds beautiful, classic guitars in his studio on the third floor of Whalers Wharf on Commercial Street that sell for upwards of $5,000.
It’s sometimes been a lonely business; long days and cold nights in the small studio bent over blocks of wood, cutting, gluing and sanding them into submission, bending exotic wood into the smooth, rounded shape that will reverberate and create musical tones. Ciluzzi has had the studio for three years, but has “fooled around” with building and repairing guitars since he was 12, when he first started playing. He has taken both guitar and woodshop lessons over the years but is primarily self-taught, although his formal training includes a stint at the American School of Lutherie – lutherie refers to guitar and mandolin building – and several months spent with guitar builder extraordinaire Charles Fox.
“What makes a great guitar? Definitely the materials, the craftsmanship, how it’s built,” Ciluzzi said recently during an interview in his studio. “I’m looking for a certain tone. I tend to play lighter so I build my guitars to emphasize more subtlety in the dynamic response. It’s safe to say no factory guitar will ever compare to a fine hand built.”
Ciluzzi has created a unique shape for his guitar template, with a narrower waist than traditional guitars. He uses an assortment of hard and softer woods like mahogany, bloodwood, cedar and spruce, along with abalone inlays around the sound hole. The neck is hand-carved and when the construction is finished, the instrument is sprayed with several coats of polyurethane and buffed to a high gloss.
The sound of the guitar depends in part on the type of wood used. While the solid mahogany is used for the sides and back, softer woods like spruce, which transports a brighter tone, and cedar, with its warmer tone, are used for the top of the instrument.
But Ciluzzi gets to know each of his customers so he can customize their new guitar to their specifications. All in all, there are about 50 separate pieces of wood that make up each guitar, and with the sanding and finishing, each instrument takes about two months to complete.
“Each guitar is a composite of what I’ve loved about all the guitars I’ve ever played. There is no one thing that defines the sound of a guitar,” he said.
Ciluzzi’s love of music has translated beyond the making of a guitar to writing the lyrical compositions that he plays on his sleek instruments. He just released his first CD on CandyRat Records, a company devoted to promoting guitar soloists through the internet. The CD, plus videos of Ciluzzi playing his original music distributed through the CandyRat website, have led guitar devotees to his doorstep, creating for the first time a steady list of customer orders.
“I’ve been up on a ladder scraping paint, like everybody else,” he said, referring to many artists’ day jobs. “It’s finally working out. I’m getting commissions and making my second record. Now I can get off the ladder.”
Pru Sowers can be contacted at email@example.com