Bespoke, Luthier Focus

Behind Bespoke: Dion Guitars

When it comes to crafting guitars with an effortless, wood-focused minimalism, they don't get much better than Dion's!

Though he builds for our shop, the Canadian luthier is no stranger to the Bespoke process, working with customers to strike a balance between his own distinct style and their tonal and aesthetic requests. Whatever the tonewood combination, his guitars are always notably responsive and full-bodied. He's not biased on his tonewoods, either, and he's contributed his eclectic experience and insight to many of our Tonewood Tour articles in the Connoisseur.

In addition to Bespoke slots for both 2023 and 2024 available, we have a No. 4 in cocobolo here in the shop, and another available via one of our Sell from Home clients. But we're excited about what's to come, too! Dion will be adding a new model, the No. 5, to his lineup that we are going to help launch, and we're hoping to get it with some very special cedar he mentioned in our Tonewood Tours.

"For my personal playing I love cedar. It has such nuance even at low volume. [But] cedar can really vary in its quality, much of it too weak to build guitars with. I have an amazing stack of western red cedar from the estate of a deceased guitar maker that I bought up about ten years ago, which is very stiff and very light, closer to Lutz spruce in its material properties, though lighter weight. It makes for a very responsive guitar with as much headroom as most spruce."

Dion, thank you for taking the time to share your thoughts with us today! So first would you define bespoke and what does it mean to you?

In the context of what I do, "bespoke" means the careful consideration of the player's needs and wants, accessing my years of experience to build the right guitar for each client.

Sweet and to the point! What does bespoke give a player, that building a spec or stock guitar doesn't?

Bespoke builds give the player a chance to be a part of the build. It's a really fun process that allows the client to get the guitar they desire and see it come together from raw wood to the finished instrument.

Bespoke incorporates aesthetic, playability/ergonomics as well as specific tonal considerations. Do you find the customers tend to focus upon a specific area within this? 

Each player comes with their own take. For some it's more about aesthetics, some more about tonal quality. Often clients want to add some sort of subtle aesthetic appointment that carries personal significance for them.

How do you interpret what a customer asks for? And how do you put all of these elements together?

The language of the guitar is not standardized and still in the early stages of developing; what a given descriptor means can be very subjective. For this reason it's important to me to talk extensively with the player to ensure we are on the same page. Pulling it all together requires careful note taking and appropriate material selection.

Absolutely—we run into that all the time with customers even in trying to help them choose between two guitars that have demos and everything! Is there one tonewood you always think customers should explore? 

I don't have a tonewood that I think all customers should explore. A great guitar can be built with a wide variety of woods. Which woods are my favourite is always changing, at the moment I'm smitten with the old growth, quarter sawn, cocobolo that I've been fortunate enough to come into.

That makes sense—your cocobolo No. 4 we have is easily one of my favorites, too! What is it about the bespoke process that takes people out of their comfort zone?

When entered into with trust in the builder the bespoke process takes people out of their comfort zone by accessing the experience of the builder and removing pre-existing notions of what makes a guitar work. Each builder has their own finely tuned method which is what makes each builder work unique.

Right. And most folks who come to you rather than another builder will already know and love your work, so hopefully that makes developing the trust a little easier. What is the scope of specific customizations and requests that you receive? 

I try to keep the customization to a tasteful minimum. I certainly take input from the client, but in the end the instrument still needs to be recognizable as a Dion.

No doubt. Your minimalism and wood-centric approach is what I know we love about your guitars, and I'm sure that appeals to many, as well. Last but not least—what do you love most about building bespoke?

I love the relationships that develop. I have many return clients and have met some really good friends through the bespoke process.

Thank you, Dion, for sharing your thoughts with us today! He has contributed his insight to many of our "Tonewood Tours" articles in the Connoisseur. You can read some of those here or by downloading the TNAG Connoisseur app.

Check out the Dion guitars we currently have in stock, as well as learn more about commissioning your own Bespoke Dion!

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