Luthier Focus

Luthier Focus: Gerber Guitars

In this edition of Luthier Focus, we are delving into the world of Gerber Guitars, based out in Northeast Ohio, USA. 
Ryan Gerber is one of the most sought-after luthiers on our roster, and having only been professionally building since 2012, this is a true testament to his ability. His talent continues to blow us away and it’s a delight to see his craft go from strength to strength. ​

"Lutherie is a lifetime of learning, and I am grateful to be on that journey. It is a worthy goal, a great challenge, and brings incredible fulfilment" - Ryan Gerber


It’s a common thread that an interest in lutherie grows from playing the guitar itself, which Ryan began to do at university in 1998. However, the fundamental practical and creative skills were practiced​ during childhood as his father was a motorcycle mechanic and his grandfather a woodworker, who made small furniture pieces. Free time spent in their retrospective workshops whilst helping, learning​ and honing skills at a young age began to tread Ryan’s path into lutherie.​

Following this, Ryan was unsure of a vocation or what he wanted to pursue for a career. After finishing school, he attended college and attained a degree in Business Administration. Post College he worked as a door to door salesman for a home security company, and then worked in an office designing Roof trusses as a Truss engineer. A wide array of skills shown and all perfectly reasonable jobs, but Ryan was left feeling uninspired and unfulfilled. Aware that his abilities lie in working with his hands, making things and being creative- it’s no surprise what came next.

In 2010, Ryan purchased William Cumpiano's book "Guitarmaking: tradition and technology" and as suggested bought a few hand tools and clamps and began making guitars in the basement of his mother’s home. Delighted with his​ first instrument, he continued to practice making guitars from there. The same year Ryan married his wife and together had a goal that they would both be self-employed doing something that they loved. Whilst his wife was getting into photography, Ryan had just completed his first guitar.

Having “caught the lutherie bug”, so to speak, the goal was to continue making guitars and to keep expanding this path. At this time Ryan began​ working with a cabinet worker, Marcus, who needed some extra help, but happened to also be interested in Lutherie. With a small section of the workshop and his own workbench, alongside a few cabinets of tools and wood- this​ allowed Ryan to set up for the next 3 years and complete 25 guitars.

During this time Ryan was able to connect with his first dealers and begin to exhibit at guitar shows, and it was at the Memphis guitar​ festival that the TNAG and Gerber Guitars alliance began. ​
After three years working alongside Marcus at the cabinet shop and having developed relationships with dealers, it was time to move on. In 2012 Gerber Guitars was founded and Ryan continued working solo, on custom orders​ received from TNAG and a dealer in Japan.​

We took a look back at our talking guitar episode with Ryan, to get his perspective on the next stages: ​

"I had the Woodstock Invitational Luthiers Showcase coming up a few months after I quit my job, and I had the two guitars which I made for TNAG to present at the show. Beyond that, there was no certainty. This was October of 2017.  ​
But as a result of the first few guitars that were sold through TNAG, I got a few repeat orders. The next batch of guitars which went to TNAG sold quickly, and suddenly I felt like maybe it was going to work out for​  me to be a full time guitar maker. ​

2018 was my first full year completely on my own. What can I say, it's a lot of work! It's true, that being self employed you work twice as hard for half as much. But I wouldn't have it any other way.​ I get to be at home where my shop is currently located, and be close as my two kids grow up. I get to show them what I do. They get to learn and ask questions. I get to eat lunch at home, and spend more time with my wife."


Gerber Guitars, regardless of model or materials, have a consistent tonal voice and distinctive characteristics. They are constantly responsive, powerful- yet harmonious and comfortable to play. They are voiced sensitively, achieving the perfect balance of maintaining strength whilst creating a versatile tonal and harmonic palette. ​

He believes in voicing the back in a way that contributes to the sound of the guitar. In the "active back" versus "passive back" debate, he very much falls on the "active back" side of the fence. The back is braced to add a bell like tone, creating complex overtone structure to the tonal palette. The responsive nature of his instruments is partially due to the back of the guitar being as thin as possible while remaining structurally sound. Ryan responds to each set of wood (even within the same species) individually, understanding the capabilities and nature of every single material he works with. Clearly a true master of his craft. He believes the back & sides are the start of the visual story itself. No set of wood is the same and each pattern, texture and variety of colours from the trees- inspires a unique response.

The bracing structure of the soundboard incorporates the traditional and sturdy X-braced construction, however the lower bout features a lattice brace. Ryan believes this combination creates the most powerful, satisfying and appealing sound.

Inspired by geometric patterns, nature and different textures in figured woods, as well as the work of other makers and artists, aesthetically, there is an undeniable artistic approach to Gerber's Guitars. With subtle and sophisticated lines, there is no utilitarian approach, but it’s safe to say that they are always interesting to look at, and incredibly beautiful- and appealing to both the player and collector.

​Models ​

There are currently three models available in the Gerber Guitars Range.

The RL (Ryan Lee) 15, 15+ and 16. Each of the numbers refer to the width of the lower bout.


The RL 15 is the smallest bodied instrument in the range, and is an incredibly comfortable shape. Together with a beveled armrest and a florentine cutaway, you have an extremely intimate and form-fitting guitar.  This model lends itself to being a very balanced, expressive guitar with excellent volume and dynamic range for it's size.  


  • Lower Bout:  15 1/8"
  • Upper Bout:  11 1/4"
  • Waist:  9 1/4"
  • Body length:  19 3/8"
  • Body depth at end block:  4 1/2"
  • Body depth at neck:  3 7/8"
  • Scale lengths:  25.25"
  • Nut width:  1 3/4"
  • String spacing at saddle:  2 1/4"
  • Fretwire:  Gold EVO standard
  • Tuners:  Gotoh 510 Delta series 21:1 gear ratio

RL15+ ​

The RL15+ is an evolution of the RL15 model.  It is characterized by the same shape and contours, with a slightly wider lower bout and longer body.  With the increase in the volume of the soundbox, comes a slightly lower fundamental tone, and more volume.  The basic construction, layout, bracing, etc, is otherwise identical to the RL15.  

  • Lower Bout:  15 1/2"
  • Upper Bout:  11 1/4"
  • Waist:  9 1/4"
  • Body length:  19 3/4"
  • Body depth at end block:  4 5/8"
  • Body depth at neck:  3 7/8"
  • Scale length:  25.25"
  • Nut width:  1 3/4"
  • String spacing at saddle:  2 1/4"
  • Fretwire:  Gold EVO standard
  • Tuners:  Gotoh 510 Delta series 21:1 gear ratio


The RL16 is a larger bodied guitar, created with the modern finger style player in mind.  The narrow waist keeps it comfortable to  play while sitting, and the standard wedge body makes the 16" lower bout more manageable, even for smaller individuals.  

  • Nut Width: 43mm
  • Lower Bout:  16"
  • Upper Bout:  11 1/2"
  • Waist:  9 1/4"
  • Body length:  20"
  • Body depth at end block:  4 3/4"
  • Body depth at neck:  3 7/8"
  • Scale length:  25.5
  • Nut width:  1 3/4"
  • String spacing at saddle:  2 1/4"
  • Fretwire:  Gold EVO standard
  • Tuners:  Gotoh 510 Delta series 21:1 gear ratio

To find out more about Gerber Guitars please email us here or call us on +44 (0) 207 835 5597.

Have a lovely weekend,



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