I recently decided to start making my own custom guitar. The timing of this idea could not have been better as I had a chance to talk with luthier and founder of Santa Cruz Guitars, Richard Hoover. He was very interesting to talk with and shared his thoughts on a number of topics surrounding the business of boutique steel-string guitar making and and nearly 4 decades doing what he loves.
Richard’s interest in guitar making didn’t start with the intent of starting a business, but rather a desire to craft the best guitars possible, using the finest materials and techniques. Santa Cruz Guitars was born in 1976, a boutique steel string maker built upon the principals and ethics of lutherie traditions. When he started out, Richard realized that if he tried to completely figure out how to build a guitar on his own it would take far to long. So he turned to the lutherie tradition of the violin and mandolin. He traveled and learned hand-on working with experienced luthiers.
“There was no internet, so the information we have available today and the ease of access we take for granted … it simply didn’t exist.” He’s never heard guitar music that he didn’t like. His musical interest ranges from singer/songwriters, to classical, to country, to rock. These days, Richard spends about 70% of his time promoting SCGC, 10% sourcing materials, and 20% in the shop.
A Strong Start
Early on, flatpicking guitarist Tony Rice introduced him to the bluegrass crowd. Richard ran and ad in a bluegrass magazine, it was a picture of their F Model guitar and the address for SCGC. Eric Clapton saw the ad and wrote a letter asking for a guitar. How about that for bang for your buck on advertising?
What Richard Always Wanted to Be
“A cowboy.” I’m a big fan of Don Edwards so when I noticed that he was on the SCGC Players Page, I mentioned that to Richard and he said that he always wanted to be a cowboy. To him, Don Edwards reflects that childhood dream.
About Using Sustainable-Yield Materials
SCGC is clearly dedicated to building the best guitars with best materials and processes, but Richard also believes in sourcing tone woods in a responsible and sustainable manner through strong supplier relationships. “By using reclaimed wood, we get all the tonal benefits of old, aged wood, while being part of the solution instead of part of the deforestation problem.
A project in the works that’s dear to Richard heart is working with a Dr. of Acoustic Physics to scientifically quantify what makes the guitar sound good.
Richard’s Advice on Building Your Own Guitar
“Take advantage of the successes and mistakes others have made. The information is at most everyone’s fingertips online, so use it. Build confidence through practice.”
It was a pleasure to talk with Richard and I highly recommend that you check out Santa Cruz Guitars, and plan on attending the next lutherie workshop that he puts on.
Learn more about Santa Cruz Guitars, visit