Tao Guitars / El Mirage / Guitar For Sale
In the 30′s & 40′s the dry lakes of « mojave » desert was the ultimate place to be if you were a speed freak, the names like Muroc, Rosamond, Harper and ‘El Mirage’ still evokes the true spirit of rodding, the birth of one of the great american car traditions. The dry lakes history was written in two important chapters, pre & post world war II. The first chapter took place at Muroc lake, the second at “El Mirage”, the name that will define the whole concept of our project…
The story begins in our hometown Brussels Belgium, where an improvised meeting took place with Mr. Elwood Francis, long time guitar tech & cool guitars seeker for Mr. Billy F. Gibbons. Several guitars were tried out & inspected by Mr. Francis, encouraging us to go on and make somethin’ special for his “boss“, in order to make a presentation later on the European tour. Back in our workshop, we went through a lot of brainstorming and drawing sessions, keeping in mind that we had not much time to build up the whole concept, we choose our “T-Bucket“ model as a start-point, set out our chambering process; Mr. Gibbons is famous for playing the lightest guitars on earth, a concept that he pushed to the limit with the help of the amazing John Bolin, his longtime guitar maker of choice.
Keeping in mind that we had not much time to build up the whole concept.
We fashioned the body in Spanish cedar wood, chosen for his mahogany likeness in tone but in a quite lighter incarnation. We sawn a slice, cut the body contour, carved the armrest & ribcage, routed the thing out from the back in what we called the “skatepark“ fashion, painted the control cavity in matt white prior the gluing of the back for later effect.
For the neck we stand with our beloved European quartersawn flame maple (yes, we painted it black but that’s the taste of luxury), Indian rosewood fingerboard, simple stuff. Mr. Gibbons is not only one of greatest, coolest guitar player around, he’s also a graphic artist, painter, cars & guitars designer (remember the famous “Cadzilla“, “hogzilla“ bikes, or the “muddywood“ guitar,…)
We fashioned the body in Spanish cedar wood. For the neck, european quartersawn flame maple (painted it black but that’s the taste of luxury), Indian rosewood fingerboard, simple stuff.That in mind, needless to say we had to push the envelope a lil’ further in order to impress the man. So we decided to build our own design “bucket“ bridge, a three brass barrels style that we’ve only had in our sketchbook, a technical plan was made, and then we crafted it into a wood model, the next step was to make the first steel prototype, which was not our usual crafting material of choice, we had to find the right man for that job. That’s where Mr Fred Bertrand of KRUGGER motorcycle drops in.
He made us the piece in stainless steel (see picture) working the old hot rodding way, with a hammer & a blowtorch, then we managed to sand & polish the thing, a process that took us a few hundred hours to bring the whole thing to his actual state of refinement, adorn by three custom made highly polished compensated brass barrels.
We decided to build our own design “bucket“ bridge, a three brass barrels style that we’ve only had in our sketchbook. We made a jewel inspired by a Cadillac fleetwood V16 roadster wheel ornament melting into an oval shape as the result of high speed, a trick we apply to all our creations, called “kinetic design” giving to still objects the dynamics of motion. This decoration was made out of actual stainless steel spoon & knife, giving it mirror polished glaze.
The back plate is our small tribute to the late “Big Daddy Roth“, bearing the visual of his famous “beatnik bandit“ & “road agent“ plexi bulb roof, which also sports our classic magnet lock system.
We’ve also custom turned pot buttons, inspired by the classic “behive“ oil filter seen on the oldschool “flathead“ rods.
Talking of the neck, the tuners were mounted with “no visible“ bushings for a real sleek looking headstock, the glossed black neck was enhanced by custom side markers inspired by some art deco gauges seen on the dashboard of a ‘37 Ford.
At last but not least, come custom made pickups, created by the absolute PAF expert Mr Dave Stephens of SD design pickups. We’ve put one of the three prototypes of his holy grail VL PAF repro, it has to be heard to be believed, the thing is alive, dripping soul out of every note played, with a harmonic contend that is pure magic, Dave just makes the Mona Lisa of the guitar pickups world
We finished the guitar gloss black and matt gold, highlighted by a white lining in a classy Cadillac fashion.
One piece european quartersawn Flame maple with selected rosewood fingerboard featuring Tao custom fretting : we start with medium jumbo to the twelfth fret, and finish with smaller ones, giving your fingers more space to play up the neck ; our single bar double action “carbon flex” truss rod ensuring neck stability and superior playing comfort. Custom paint side-marks. Body color matched headstock.
Polished “vintage style” CTS pots, custom made button & screwless control plate, N.O.S Bumblebee capacitor, polished electro-socket output jack, Stefen’s design custom vl prototype pickup featuring our trademark hand made covers.
Gotoh Vintage 510 H.A.P tuners with custom short brass bushings ; Custom handmade stainless steel “Bucket” bridge “ with brass saddles.
Chambered spanish cedar body.
Automotive DuPont colors (gold and black), clear matt for the top and glossy for the back, the sides and the neck.
Custom made plexi magnet-locked back plate.
Due to the fact that each of our guitars are “one off ” customs some elements such as pickups, colors, electronics… are left to customer’s taste.
Tao Guitars, Belgium
As we’ve always thought that the exercise of explaining our work or the philosophy behind what we’re doing could be a somewhat frustrating experience, so the sentence here is what seems to be just the right words for us.
The machine is not master & tyrant, but willing servant and helper, and the products do not take their physiognomy from mechanical technology but from the spirit of their artistic originator and from the dexterity of artistically skilled hands. It is better to work ten days on an article than producing ten articles a day, this is the ruling principal. Style as identity.
- Joseph August Lux -
All our necks are quarter-sawn cut, for the maple ones we use European maple, mostly used in violins & other quatuor instruments making. Lighter in weight, whitish in color it as some gorgeous flame appeal and deliver a more open airy sound than his north American counterpart .
They also feature our trademark asymmetrical shape (round on the bass side, a lil’ flatter on the treble side ), super rounded frets & fretboard edges for a cool » fits like a glove » feel.
We also do our custom fret job, that we start with a regular jumbo wire to the 12th fret & then going on with smaller ones toward the end of the fret board. This help push-pulls when the space between the frets are becoming to narrow.
We’ve also developed our own single bar, double action with spoke wheel truss rods which are machined by a custom race car parts workshop. We call it « the carbon flex » influenced by Steve Klein’s truss rod design, it consist of a multi layered wood/carbon heart for a larger push or pull than normal truss rods.
This prevent necks from twisting & other problems related to standard designs, it also makes the neck curb evenly through all his length, flanked with 2 carbon bars running from the 9th fret to the end of the fretboard, this helps getting rid of this fretboard end bump that gives us a hell with low action settings .
Our neck joints are tight as possible & hand adjusted.
We are doing our own little magic trick to give our bolt on necks the same sustain as their glue-on sisters, this is our trade secret & would not be explained!
Our wood choice for the bodies are :
- red alder
- spanish cedar
- lightweight swamp ash
- Honduran mahogany
- African Limba
Finishing wise we are trying to keep the layers as thin as possible to let the wood sounds and express itself to the max!
Concerning the hardware we choose :
GOTOH 510 vintage H.A.P tuners , or « Stealth » (as on our « Pheaton »)
GLENDALE « half plate » bridge with intone « cutting edge » compensated saddles
COMPTON compensated bridge ( as on our « Phaeton »)
CTS pots which are selected with the best tapper, customized for smoother action & polished for a classier appearance
Russian N.O.S capacitors
Electro socket output
We would also make custom hardware parts as our own designed « BUCKET » bridge , pot buttons, control plates or decorative jewel as on our « El Mirage ».
For our pickups we are now enjoying a collaboration with Mr Dave Stephens of SD pickups.
After nine long years of research we think he reached the peak of what could be to our ears the most touch sensitive & best sounding humbucker known to mankind.
He also make us his own incarnation of our «chicken strut» neck pickup in which he also put his little magic to bring it to a new level of sophistication.
Our custom SD pickups comes with our trademark « front grill » custom made nickel covers.
We always stay open for new project, special features, or crazy ideas in order to make creative and beautiful tone machines.
As we say « play a masterpiece, wear an attitude »
Serge & John