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June 30, 2022 4 min read
Our article offering for July features Doug Kauer, the founder of Kauer Guitars. Kauer makes beautiful boutique guitars, all custom-built in Sacramento, CA. We asked a few questions to try to understand his creative process and perspective on the guitars he builds.
How did you get started building guitars? What directed your creative impulse towards guitars specifically?
I grew up working with my dad in his wood/cabinet shop. When I was a senior in high school I hit my math limit and took Autocad instead of calculus, which seemed to be fate as Dad bought a CNC for the shop around the same time. It became my job to program it so I started making things on it. A few years into it (2005'ish) a piece of Maple came in the shop that had a lot of figure in it and I thought it might be fun to build a guitar from it. Turns out my father in law had been waiting for that synapse in my brain to connect because I mentioned it to him, and before I knew it I had pickups, bridge, tuners etc. He knew how to do fret work and the guitar specific stuff, and the wood side I learned from my Dad from all the years in the shop. That first guitar got 3/4 of the way done and then I wanted to start another one to apply the learned lessons... and another... and another, ‘till we get to today!
What’s your favorite guitar that you’ve been involved in building? What about it is special?
So my favorite model of all the things I've designed is Super Chief. It's really everything I envisioned and wanted to accomplish from a design perspective. I just love it.
For specific guitars, it's so hard to pick! The double necks were rad, the Prisma/Kauer collaborations were just my favorite. Or anytime I've got to do something odd like the Mr Sparkles guitar or the Han Solo / Boba F(r)ett.
What is the most rewarding - or just your favorite - part of designing a new guitar?
Seeing them get played and enjoyed!
What keeps you motivated to create? Do you take inspiration from anywhere in particular?
This one is difficult! I've been doing this long enough to find kind of a thing that I gravitate towards design wise, I've noticed that I'm a single cut guy at heart. That explains Starliner / Korona / Super Chief. Sometimes though, it's hard to not be in a rut design-wise, 'cause I feel like Super really is the pinnacle of what I've done. That being said, sometimes inspiration just hits!
What’s the coolest experience you’ve had while in the business of guitar building?
I think my favorite was being able to take my dad to hang out backstage with Walter Becker. He's such a diehard Steely Dan fan and just a whole bunch of random things had to align for that to happen. Walter was such a great person and always a hoot to hang out with.
What type of music do you personally gravitate towards, and how much of an impact does that have on the guitars that you make?
I tend to be a blues / jazz / classic rock guy. I think that's also fairly in line with both what we're shooting for sonically and visually.
Tell us a little about the idea and concept behind the Korona, and what the process of designing it was like.
Korona is the upscale version of our Titan KR1. Titan Guitars was our attempt at making a sub-1500 dollar American made guitar. While it eventually ran out of steam we learned a ton of lessons applied to the entire Kauer line. The KR1 was the model we designed the brand around, essentially a do-it-all chassis. When Titan died off I just loved the model too much to discontinue it, so we brought it out as a Kauer with different wood and finish combos. I just love this model, it's still the guitar I grab and play the most.
What was your inspiration for the new Electroliner guitars? Anything you want people to know about them?
Don't tell anyone but I'm actually a Strat guy at heart! I grew up playing Strats so every once in a while I get that itch to do something in that line. Electroliner might be the slowest I've ever dialed in a design, feel like I only got a chance to work on it 10 minutes a year over the last couple years. I really love this model though. It's like a Strat and a Jazzmaster got together, super comfortable and lots of sonic choices.
Is there anything about your guitars that you hope people notice when they play them?
I hope that they walk away impressed! We aim for them to play as best we can and consistently get better and better with each one.
Is there anything else about Kauer Guitars, yourself, or your perspective on the guitar industry you’d like to share?
First, we're just incredibly fortunate to have such great customers, friends and dealers. It's a pretty amazing industry, we have such a big network of friends from the biggest companies down to single builders. It's such a sharing community. Makes me proud.
I'm also very proud of all the charity fundraising we've done over the last couple years. We started during the first few months of the pandemic because we just wanted to try to help others out, especially when business really started going strong for us. To date we've raised 150k for food banks, social causes and relief efforts. Very proud of that.
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