Guitar Builder Dennis Yau
Meet the incredible talented guitar builder Dennis Yau. Dennis has been building guitars since 2003. DY Guitars (Dennis Yau) specialises in custom built S and T style guitars, all authentically aged to perfection through years of experience. All DY Guitars are built here in the UK and by Dennis himself. Visit his homepage here
Dennis Lau er en guitarbygger fra England. Han laver mange forskellige typer af guitarer. Han laver også en del guitar relic arbejde for forskellige musikere, der ønsker deres guitarer skal have et nyt og anerledes look. Dennis Lau har arbejdet med guitarbyggeriet siden 2003 og det er efterhånden blevet til en del unikke guitarer. Han bygger også kopier af kendte guitaristers guitarer. Jeg ejer allerede selv en og den er fuld på højde med en Fender guitar. Se mere om DY guitars på Facebook.
Den spæde start
Dennis startede med at bygge sin første guitar i 2003. Siden er det blevet til flere hundrede.
Interview with guitar builder Dennis Yau
HOW DID YOU FIRST BECOME INTERESTED IN GUITARS?
“I first got interested in guitars when I heard the classic rock bands like Scorpions and Wasp. They were so cool and the guitar players especially were just amazing to watch and listen to. That got me into taking up the guitar as an instrument, and from then on I knew the guitar was something that will be with me for a long time. Little did I know that aside from enjoying playing the guitar, a few years down the line I will be building them.”
WAS BUILDING GUITARS SOMETHING YOU WERE INTERESTED IN FROM THE BEGINNING? HOW DID THAT COME ABOUT?
“Building guitars came about when I started to do my own mods to my own guitars. I started scalloping the fretboard when I was totally obsessed with the playing styles of Yngwie Malmsteen and Uli Jon Roth, and upgrading the electrics and hardware. I noticed that certain things on a standard guitar just wasn’t available when you just went to a music shop. It was never something that was perfect for me in terms of neck shape and profile, fret wire, switching options, and even colour. There was never that perfect instrument that you can just pick off the shelf that was exactly the way I wanted it. That’s when I decided to start building my own guitars to my exact specifications. The rest as they say is history.”
Can you tell us more about your process? Walk me through how you cut, shape, fit, join, mold, or otherwise process materials, using hand tools, power tools, and/or machinery.
“Being totally self taught in the art of guitar building, as with most processes it’s a learning curve. You learn from your mistakes and improve on your skills as you go along. As it’s all down to manual skills some of my building approach may be unorthodox. But this is my approach which I have done for years and it’s worked for me very well. Experience is by far the most important part of the process. Being a one man show from the very beginning I learnt to do pretty much everything from scratch. When it comes to custom builds with custom shapes and contours, it all begins with a wood blank. I always like to pick a neck to go with the body blank. And that neck will be used for that particular build. The joint itself will be marked on the blank first in the appropriate position, and then routed and shaped until the heel fits perfectly in the neck joint. From then the general shape and design/layout will be marked on the blank and the guitar shape is cut out by a bandsaw, or sometimes a jigsaw. All control cavities and pickup routs are then routed out, and the rest of the contouring and final shaping is done by hand via hand tools. Next step is the preparation of the wood before it’s ready to be sealed and finished.”
What is the most challenging part of selecting materials for use based on strength, color, texture, balance, weight, size, malleability and other characteristics?
“I generally stick to using swamp ash, alder, northern ash and basswood for my builds. For the set neck builds it’s almost always mahogany. They each have their own characteristics in terms of how they will sound when built into a guitar and ofcourse depending on the finish required they each have there own characteristics in terms of aesthetics. Choosing between which material is used is solely based on what the client requires in terms of the sound they are after, and sometimes more importantly how they’d like the guitar to look. Pretty much all the transparent finished guitars I use swamp ash for that beautiful grain that will show through the finish, and the fact that the wood can be stained in various ways to accentuate the beautiful textures“.
Why do you make relic and heavy relic guitars?
“One of my first experiences in seeing a heavy relic guitar was watching an SRV show. The heavy relic look on that strat was just beautiful and ofcourse unique in it’s own way. It has so much character and just looks so cool. From then on I just wanted to build guitars with that similar vibe”.
I did notice that a lot of guitar players out there felt the same way as I did about relic guitars. Lots of people wanted to have a relic guitar but were unable to obtain that type of finish, simply because their guitars were finished in polyurethane. Hence the reason I started to build guitars with a nitrocellulose finish which can be aged naturally and gracefully in time. It was something that I could offer to fellow guitar players who shared the same desire for a heavily aged instrument, finished in a colour that they want and aged to the degree they would like their own custom guitars to be.
Let’s talk about woods for a minute. Do you have a plentiful supply of what you need?
“I have access to pretty much any type of wood there is. So what is used for a particular instrument really depends on what the client wants with regards to sound, looks, weight etc.“
Do you make more than one instrument at a time?
“Being a one man show it’s a lot more economical for me to be building more than one instrument at a time. I generally like to start 3-4 builds at a time, so by the time this particular set of instruments are ready for drying after the finish is applied, I can move onto the next set of 3-4 builds. Then by the time this set of guitars are ready to be hung up to dry I can go back to the first set and prepare for the next stage, which is the wet sanding and the relicing stage. So it’s a cycle of going back and forth between guitars at various stages in the build.“
Tell me about a recent experience you’ve had working with your hands
“By far the most challenging sort of manual work when it comes to guitar building is actually the scalloping process for scalloped neck builds. It’s a lot of filing work and even more manual sanding”.
Tell me how you organize, plan, and prioritize your work.
“I try to keep everything simple when it comes to organizing my work. All guitars builds are built on a first come first served basis, and that’s how I prioritize my projects. I always like to group certain processes together so that I can be working on a few builds at the same time”.
How often do you research craft trends, venues, and customer buying patterns in order to inspire designs and marketing strategies? Should more time be spent?
“Luckily I haven’t felt the need to change the way I approach my marketing strategy. I’ve found so far that when I have posted my guitar builds on social media that has been enough to spark interest with those who are interested in a custom built relic guitar”.
Who is your idol?
“I must admit I have so many guitar idols. But if I was to name one that influenced me the most in terms of guitar playing and the way I approach the guitar, it’ll be Yngwie Malmsteen“.
If you were to build 3 guitars for famous guitarists. Who would the 3 people be and why?
“Yngwie Malmsteen, Uli Jon Roth, Nuno Bettencourt. Because all 3 practically inspired a whole new generation of guitar players to pick up the guitar.”
What are you future plans?
“To keep on building relic guitars. As long as the demand for heavily aged instruments is out there, I’ll be more than happy to build and supply” 😉