The 916: Rocking the Guitar

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While working for his cabinetmaker dad, Elk Grove resident Doug Kauer thought it would be fun to make his own guitar. When the recession hit and no one wanted cabinets, Kauer had plenty of time to make instruments. Soon, he was selling his own line of high-end, custom electric guitars. Today, he has a staff of three and sells almost 100 guitars a year at $2,500 to $7,000 a pop.

What goes into a great guitar

Making guitars is a time-consuming, multistep process involving several machines and lots of handwork. The instruments start out as large pieces of lumber; Kauer uses mostly South American mahogany. “It’s lightweight; it’s resonant,” he says. “It’s got clarity of sound that you don’t hear from other variants. You can’t build a bad-sounding guitar out of it

Not available in stores

Kauer sells his products online (kauerguitars.com) and at guitar shows, offering ready-made guitars and customizable options. A customized guitar takes three to nine months to complete.

Small-batch instruments

Kauer’s line includes The Banshee (a durable rock ’n’ roll guitar), The Daylighter (an homage to the Fender Jazzmaster but with a crisper sound) and The Starliner (Kauer’s answer to the classic Les Paul). “There’s not a lot of repeats in what we make,” says Kauer. “Fender will do a limited run of guitars—it’ll be 2,500 guitars. A limited run for us will be three.” 

Famous friends

Kauer’s customers include professional musicians Walter Becker (Steely Dan), Scott Holiday (Rival Sons), Tommy Kessler (Blondie), Dennis Casey (Flogging Molly), Andrew McKeag (The Presidents of the United States of America) and Blues Hall of Famer Matt Schofield. 

Something completely different

Next year, the company will begin selling an affordable guitar ($1,299) with fewer customizable components. You can see the new Titan guitar at Kauer Guitars’ annual open house on June 11. 9864 Dino Drive, Elk Grove; (916) 538-1425; kauerguitars.com

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