“Did you know Renton used to work in a Guitar shop for about 3 years? Well, he did and he had some lovely colleagues working alongside him there! One of them was mostly in the back room – setting up guitars, giving them some TLC(tender loving care), sending out orders and such and was always so kind. He has since moved on to creating his OWN guitars, which I think is amazing! Especially knowing the care he put into the guitars he used to fix, I can’t wait to one day be able to try out one of his gorgeous new guitars! So it is time – for the first-ever luthier to grace our Guitarist of the Month interviews – a person who truly has a deep love for guitars! Read on further below for interesting details on what goes behind creating our favourite instruments.” – Neli
How did you first become interested in playing the guitar and how did that turn to interest in the instrument itself?
As a kid watching guitar bands like Status Quo, The Police and Queen on TV, performing inside huge stadiums. My friend around this time had a toy guitar that lit up and had buttons and even a whammy bar. I wanted one too, so I asked for it as a birthday present. To my surprise, my dad brought back a real ‘Hondo’ guitar and a ‘Gorilla’ amp, because “it was cheaper”. I was thrilled with the present.
A family friend who was a guitarist/music teacher taught me how to play ‘Wild Thing’ in an open tuning and set me up with a slide and a homemade fuzz pedal. I was instantly hooked on playing the guitar. I have a vivid memory of being drawn to the spiky-shaped guitars and vibrant coloured designs from that era. I always admired the physical beauty and coolness of the instrument, which I felt had endless possibilities.
You recently established OPT Guitars. Can you tell us more about it and how the process went?
It’s very much in its early days. I have recently reached a landmark age and felt the desire to embark on a new venture, and have decided to act on this if at all possible. There was never going to be a perfect time so that time was this year. Having spent the last 16 years in music retail I’ve seen and learned a lot about guitars! I’ve also always been good with my hands. I studied fine art painting which I continue to pursue in conjunction with my guitar-making.
I spent two months alone researching, plotting, planning and gathering necessary materials with the aim to create a high-quality instrument that was still considered relatively affordable. During this time I created a prototype model for what is now called the ‘Cyfres 1′.
What are some things that more guitarists should know about the instrument that would otherwise hinder their playing?
Ensuring that your instrument fits your body comfortably is very important, in my opinion. Small details such as selecting the right strings and picks can greatly affect your playing experience. A professional setup can help resolve any problems and allow you to focus on playing. With proper knowledge, even a basic instrument can become perfectly playable.
What are the main things a guitarist can do to keep his guitars in optimal condition?
Tuning is one of the most important factors. If the guitar isn’t in tune, it can sound terrible regardless of your skill level. Stretching your new strings rigorously is a simple trick to retain good tuning. Keeping the contact points like the nut lubricated can also help with tuning issues, and the action and intonation should be kept within tolerance for a nice feel and tuning right up the fretboard. Learning how to make small adjustments to the truss rod can improve an instrument immensely.
Something as basic as keeping the instrument clean also. Cleaning the strings after playing can prolong their life and allow the strings to ring out. Also cleaning the fretboard and frets between string swaps. It’s also important to keep the guitar in a dust-free environment to prevent the onset of issues like crackly pots and jacks. Keeping your guitar within good humidity levels to prevent any long-term issues.
Just generally knowing your instrument and keeping an eye on any sharp or loose parts before they break, get lost, or cause injury.
When choosing a guitar, what are some of the things you ignore that you’d rather replace later?
I suggest making sure you’re satisfied with the neck and body shape first and foremost. If you’re willing to spend some additional money on the instrument, then swapping out interchangeable parts like pickguards, pickups, and machine heads can happen at your discretion, without too much difficulty. These can always be upgraded later on. It’s worth noting that these upgrades are unlikely to raise the value of the guitar.
What’s the most challenging fix or customization you’ve faced?
In the early days being equipped with an unfamiliar pickup system, a £15 drill and a £15k acoustic and expected to complete the job within a strict deadline. Jobs like this can require an awful lot of concentration as one mistake can be very costly. The ethos of “measure twice and cut once” can be applied here.
What is one key difference when ordering a guitar from a luthier as opposed to one from a megastore online?
Not only can you have an instrument that could be tailor-made to your needs but just knowing the instrument has spent a significant amount of time in the builder’s hands is a huge benefit. With the expertise and attention to detail of the builder, you can be sure that everything is clinically set up with a level of pride and skill. Having many years of retail experience, most issues can occur directly out of the box, fresh and new from the factory. Some guitars bought this way may need some TLC to get up it up to a good playing standard.
What does your dream guitar look like?
Something solid and robust with a great feel, and a pickup that is complimentary to my playing.
Maybe, just maybe something that is sold by OPT Guitars!!
Read a review of Cyfres 1 HERE.