Hello. I'm Ryan Elewaut, owner and head luthier of Solstice Guitars. Solstice is currently a two man shop. I work with Jason Lindsey to produce a limited number of guitars per year. This allows us to focus on our quality and customers.
Solstice is growing surely and slowly, yet our schedule fills quickly each year. Wait times depend on model and current orders. We typically have guitars available here on our site, and some guitars in-process are not yet reserved.
It Started With An Obsession...
When I was young I became obsessed with the idea of building a guitar. A family friend gave me the seminal book by Willian Cumpiano, Guitarmaking Tradition & Technology. It rocked my understanding of how things are made. The concept of a person building a guitar was like a revelation to me. I used it to build my first guitar at age 16.
I remember learning about the standard tone woods and having great reverence for the materials. To this day I still find the various qualities of different wood species to be an incredible gift. Trees are absolutely integral to our very existence in so many ways. And it's pretty amazing we can make guitars with them too! We have this incredible substance due to the way this planet grows its flora and fibers.
Anyway, I digress. You probably want to know more about our guitars and how we build them. I believe in making guitars that are customized individually, based on the designs I've refined and now produce. Using strategic variation we craft guitars with subtle differences, giving substance and nuance to every instrument we make. These plans are based on decades of practice and experience, including repairs and setups on thousands of different guitars- a career dedicated to luthiery.
I have plans for a total of 9 models. We'll release one or two each year.
Thanks for checking out my guitars!
~Ryan R. Elewaut
A Short Story
I started playing acoustic guitar at age 13. Everything about the instrument was magical to me. When I was 15, a family friend loaned me a book called Guitarmaking Tradition & Technology and I was immediately obsessed with the notion.
The concept of a person building a guitar was like a revelation to me. It rocked my understanding of how things are created and built. The fact that this was possible for an individual person was astounding to me. After buying a copy of that textbook I read it through twice while highlighting and making notes.
My dad had an old ShopSmith woodworking tool buried deep in our garage. And I was overwhelmed when I learned this dream might be a real possibility. He showed me basically how the ShopSmith multi-tool worked, and I began building my first guitar at age 16. I found a natural talent for the process, along with an aptitude for woodworking and the required attention to detail.
A Long Story
Back in 1996 I was a teenager taking guitar lessons at a small acoustic shop while reading the guitar making book. I started bugging the shop owner with questions. Lots of questions.
I finished my first guitar when I was 17. It was a modern classical guitar with an Engelmann spruce top and Macassar ebony back & sides. With that guitar I earned my first apprenticeship. The guitar was impressive, especially for a kid working in his garage teaching himself. It's pretty good for anyone's first build. I still have it hanging in my office to this day. (But I'll never use Macassar again for a nylon string!)
In 1997 I began learning acoustic guitar repair and restoration work from Greg Mirken at The Shade Tree Instrument Store. He did a lot of Martin restoration and general acoustic work. While learning more about repairs I began designing my next two guitars. I was hooked.
But back then, the notion of becoming a guitar builder was barely even considered a real professional possibility. And in 1999 I moved to attend Northern Arizona University in Flagstaff.
Well, I ended up dropping out of college to build those two guitars that I had previously designed. Then I went back to finish my degrees in microbiology and music composition while working on the side as a guitar repair tech. I ended up managing the repair department at the big music store in town.
Instead of pursuing my degrees any further, I decided to start my own shop. It was called Custom Sound Instruments. I was a talented repair luthier by then and the opportunity came to open a store in downtown Flagstaff. At age 24 I didn't completely know what I was getting myself into, but I was up for the challenge. I already understood the basics of the biz. And I started reading up and studying business administration.
The next decade was a long and arduous education in accounting, marketing, and operations management. That experience served me well and I learned a lot about myself, creating multiple brands, revenue streams and business models. In those 20 years I became a top repair luthier in the region.
We closed the Custom Sound retail in late 2019 to pursue a new direction. Solstice is the culmination of my study and career.
Philosophy & Strategy
I design with an aesthetic that is both classic and original. I spend a lot of time thinking about voicing and the pairing of consonant wood components. Like most luthiers, I have an obsession with superior materials and a wood collection that keeps growing.
Throughout my career I've worked on thousands of guitars and other instruments. (Approx. 6,500 as of 2020.) My history as a repair luthier has significantly informed my approach to design and building. The way a guitar plays and feels, along with longevity and stability are all components of my target. Beauty is, to me, something understated and elegant. Tone and function are also primary aspects of the target. It is impossible to fully understand what goes into achieving these marks without working on thousands of guitars. There are a lot of good builders out there. But only the best luthiers know how to produce stunning guitars that also play perfectly, sound amazing, and pass the test of time.
With acoustic guitars, my aim is toward articulate voicing combined with power and tonal balance. I want all the woods to shape and color the overall voicing. The guitar must be resonant, lively and responsive.
For electric guitars, I like a vocalized and vintage tone with modern functionality. Yet versatility is also very important. My favorite electric voice is the neck-middle position on a strat. And a tele neck pickup can sound similar to that. But I'm more interested in your favorite voices and what you're looking for in a guitar. So let's talk!
My desire is to craft the most excellent guitars possible in the style that I build. That includes perfectly setting up and adjusting the action to make them play perfectly once in your hands. I believe there is no such thing as a perfect guitar, only a perfect musical moment. And every guitarist can experience a perfect musical moment. My goal with Solstice is to give you a deep connection to your instrument, helping you create a profound musical experience.
Every piece of wood is different, just as every player and thus every guitar. I am consumed with making sure various components are chosen together for their consonance of tone, and for their aesthetic result.
I am inspired and informed by many great builders from past and present. I have studied the works of Ervin Somogyi and use his text often as reference. My earliest inspiration comes from James Goodall and Dana Bourgeouis. All three of whom are masters of top voicing. I have also studied the works and lecture notes of John Greven and many other luthiers. I believe that a craftsman can never stop learning. And this world of modern luthiery continues to explode with new ideas and builders trying many amazing things.
We build each guitar with the final target of exquisite beauty, superior voice, perfect playing action, and superior stability. My repair career has led me to a deeply informed understanding of what makes a good guitar sound amazing and play great, along with what can make a good guitar sound bad and play horribly! I believe in offering models with specific variables to provide you with the best options for your playing style and your taste. This is what creates a perfect musical experience when you find the right Solstice, or when you have one made exactly for you.
Well, if you've made it this far with me, and if you like the style of my guitars, you will fall in love when a Solstice reaches your hands. Because a great musical experience is perhaps the only thing that can be truly perfect.