fine handmade stringed instruments



When not building Basses, Mandocellos, and other instruments for Dammann Custom Instruments, I keep the shop humming along in the after hours crafting instruments under my own Varona Stringworks label.¬† Starting with a rather rough attempt at replicating a Philippine Bandurria back in 2001 using a bare minimum of tools and Cumpiano and Natelson’s tome on guitarbuilding, I later progressed to feeding my own growing case of G(uitar)A(cquisition)S(yndrome) as I branched out into classical and steel-string guitars. ¬†After heading out to Charlottesville, Virginia for a two-year stint with AmeriCorps I was lucky enough to land at the Dammann workshop in ‘07 and have been able to kickstart my hobby into a full-time occupation/obsession. I’ve since branched out into bowed-string instruments, electric guitars and basses, mandolins, resophonics, and am willing to take a shot at just about anything with strings.

On those rare evenings and weekends when I’m not making sawdust the music never stops, so to speak. With classical guitar as my first love followed by a heavy crush with acoustic fingerstyle, a few flings with rock, and a number of dates on slide, if nothing else I have a great appreciation for the unique needs and characteristics of the various styles and forms of guitar. Since landing in Charlottesville I’ve also taken to resuming violin, adding cello, viola, and the occasional double bass to the mix. When not having mental lapses when switching between clefs or whiffing fingerings going from instruments in 5ths to instruments in 4ths, I’m often daydreaming about the day I finally get around to adding a pedal steel guitar, hammered dulcimer, 8-course lute, orchestral harp, bass viola da gamba, minstrel-style banjo, and uilleann bagpipes to my arsenal. I tend to find sideman work with groups that are in continuous cycles of revamping or dissolution, but I can often be found playing in various chamber groups around town and one day intend on playing out as a solo guitarist again if I can dust off my rep and keep my nails in order.

In the rare instances when I’m not surrounded by wood or (mostly) musical notes, I can be found Photoshopping my endless pile of unprocessed shots, waiting for Georgia Tech to get QB who can pass (BSME ‘03, I miss Joe Hamilton), doing whatever I can to promote Computers4Kids‘ cause, cheering against the Redskins, making a dent in my Netflix queue, holding off on grad school, but mostly I’m just thinking about what I’ll plan on doing when I next get into the workshop. Thanks for looking at this little corner of the ‘net and I’ll be looking forward to crafting an instrument that suits your every fancy!

-Ray Varona, Luthier