A luthier (/?lu?ti?r/ LOO-ti-?r) is someone who builds or repairs string instruments generally consisting of a neck and a sound box.
Meet Perry Vasquez, the owner and creator of Perry Unga Guitars. This Salinas native has been making guitars for 16 years, originally starting in his high school wood shop class. Perry likes to start his process with the inspiration of unique, quality woods. It’s no wonder that we caught him roaming our warehouse here at Jackel Enterprises! We wanted to learn more about Perry and his Unga guitars, so I had him answers these questions so we could share his story with you.
Q: How and when did you discover Jackel Enterprises?
I found Jackel about 10 years ago. There was a hardwood specialty shop in Salinas that closed and I needed an alternative. Jackel happened to be the closest alternative and they had exactly what I wanted.
Q: What species of wood do you purchase from Jackel Enterprises for your instrument projects?
I like to use a lot of domestic woods on my guitars. My favorites are Sugar Pine and Alder for my bodies. I also like to use burled redwood on tops and backs of electric guitars. I also like how light weight redwood is. Maple is tied for first on the favorite list. Almost all of my guitars have maple on them. Maple is great to use for guitar necks because of its strength, especially, figured maple. Both woods can be very striking and look amazing naturally. I also like using woods I can get on the regular and locally. I like to be able to touch woods I am going to be using. I also love looking through wood stacks. It feels like a treasure hunt and a lot of times it is.
Q: What is your creative process when building your instruments?
My Creative Process a little different than most luthiers and builders. Most of the time, it’s a piece of wood that inspires me to turn it into something. Other time it’s an idea I’ve drawn out or an aesthetic look I want. Very rarely am I chasing a sound or tone, or even considering what the instrument will sound like in the end. For me chasing tone can take me down a rabbit hole and become very unrewarding. In my experiences working as a repair guy in different shops and dealing with many musicians and different kinds of guitar, I’ve learned a few things. When it comes to guitars hanging on a wall in a shop, I want my instrument to stand out. So, I try to build guitars that people are drawn to. When you are drawn to something then you might pick it up. I always make sure my guitars feel so good you don’t want to put them down. I’ve noticed when a guitar looks and feels amazing, what it sounds like doesn’t have much weight on the decision to buy it. When I build an instrument, I like to have fun with it and express my self artistically.
As far as the build process, I keep it simple. I use a lot of hand tools for carving and shaping. I use a few bigger machines in the beginning for big jobs (Planer, Jointer, band saw). I always start a full scale drawing and a pile of wood. I use the drawing as a roadmap to help guide me through a build. I like to mill up the body and neck parts and get them glued up first. I usually carve my neck next and then start working the body shape out. Once the body is to shape and sanded, I mount the neck. With the neck in place, I can layout and route the rest of the pockets and hardware. After a final sanding, I lay on my finish. I like to use Shellac for a clear coat. I use chalk paint for my solid colors or stains for clear colors. I also like to apply my finishes nice and thin. I like to feel the wood instead of a thick layer of paint.
Q: Where can people view your work and how can they contact you?
I am currently looking for a space for my own showroom, showcasing my guitars and other creations. I can be contacted through Facebook, Instagram, email, phone, or on my website.