Tao Guitars / Phaeton Prototype / Guitar For Sale
This project started out as a cure for a friend & customer who was diagnosed with a very acute form of the G.A.S (Guitar Acquisition Syndrome).
We offered to make him a unique masterpiece that would both calm his illness and at the same time bring us the opportunity to build our dream guitar with a “carte blanche”. The whole idea was to build a hollow jazz – guitar that could handle high volume feedback in a more compact rounded ergonomic body with a solid body style sustain…
ORVILLE GIBSON’S “STYLE 03” GUITAR BEING ONE OF OUR FAVE GUITAR DESIGNS
With its anthropomorphic visual and its experimental crafting method made it the most exotic vintage guitar in our eyes – some kind of mythical piece of craft, a milestone in Guitar History. This gave us the guiding conceptual direction for our “Phaeton”.
As explained by Lewis Williams in the first 1903 catalog “front and back made in swelled shape by being carved, leaving the layer grain of the wood in the same position as in its natural growth, thus insuring strength, free vibration, and unusual sympathetic resonance” or “special relatedness and agreements of parts”.
OUR OTHER MAJOR INFLUENCE BEING AUTOMOTIVE DESIGN
In all its forms, car styling aesthetics are obvious here, from the two tone color scheme to the sound – holes bearing air intake visual reference, the whole thing breathing our love for the golden years of American Car Design.
The “Phaeton” namehas always been synonymous with class and luxury in the automobile history.
The models from the 30’s & 40’s are the most striking examples with the likes of Cadillac, Chrysler, Cord, Packard…
After several brainstorming sessions, and the drawings that resulted, we could finally take to our workbenches with heart. As mentioned earlier, we decided to build the guitar as were built Orville’s style 03 : hand carved out of two solid slabs of wood, spruce for the top & mahogany for the back ( most of Orville’s were in walnut ).
Here we are embarked on a long and exciting journey,carving the top in this nutshell fashion. The shape of the top’s face that was quite a challenge, as we couldn’t easily work around it with our caliper, we decided to bring the piece to correct thickness using the spotlight technique : reducing differences in color shades by checking the top over a light source. From scraping to the final sanding, this process took us almost 200 hours to complete and a thousand more to finish the whole instrument… putting our love & passion in the slightest details, from the custom made pot buttons, the handmade ebony carbon layered tailpiece to our magnet locked lexan back plates. Every single part was either custom made or at least customized to our standards ( see specs ).
A YEAR AND A HALF LATER
We were finally able to hear the thing ! This was the most emotional moment of all ! The Phaeton’s sound was as bold as was striking its looks, leaning toward Gretsch character but with a real voice of its own, smooth sparkling highs and super tight and rich basses, the tuning – fork – bar design giving amazing sustain. Although the Phaeton comes in a hot jazz drapings, this guitar could also unleash a more rockin’ attitude when pushed, which was really pleasant to us!
One piece Spanish cedar with ebony fingerboard & headstock cap 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.
One piece Honduran mahogany back with 2 pieces alpine spruce top.
Gotoh “Stealth” tuners with matching color buttons and custom short brass bushings ; Compton solid brass compensated bridge with custom made height adjustment wheels..
Polished “vintage style” CTS pots, WCR push – push pots (client request), 3 way Switchcraft with custom made button & ring, Russian paper in oil caps, polished electro – socket output jack, custom wound Bare Knuckle Pickups featuring our trademark hand made covers.
Automotive DuPont colors (Rover, Bolero Red /sandalwood beige), clear
nitro lacquer top coat.
Custom made lexan magnet-locked back plates.
Hand-made, carbon layered ebony, high gloss lacquer finish.
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