We here at TheToneKing.com have really enjoyed getting to know the good folks at Acacia Guitars over the past year. The five year-old company, started by brothers Scott and Greg Lienhard, is combining an Old World production philosophy with modern technology and design. Acacia Guitars recently completed a nine-part guitar build video series done in conjunction with TheToneKing.com that documents their intensive approach to building, and the result of that build – a fiery custom Hades model – dropped many jaws at Winter NAMM 2016.
“NAMM 2016 was a great show for us,” Greg Lienhard told TheToneKing.com. “We unveiled our new Atlas multi-scale bass and brought some beautiful guitars with different combos of woods and hardware. We really wanted to show what we can do.”
Seeing every step of the process that brings every Acacia guitar to life gives one an appreciation of the care and passion the Acacia Guitars team puts into each one of its instruments. But it’s also a reflection of the intimate relationship Greg and Scott’s family have had with music and craftsmanship.
Not too long ago, Kirk Hammett stepped on his own ying-yang when he suggested that he was the first musician to have a role in manufacturing gear. We all knew that wasn’t the case, but his comment did speak to a quality players value in a gear builder; that the people building their guitars, amps, and pedals understand the perspective of the player very well, if they’re not already players themselves.
“Our great-grandfather (whom we never met) was a piano tuner; that is how he supported his family through the Depression,” Greg said. “He was also an amazing musician and also wrote a song that was published. Our grandpa, Wendell, also played the clarinet. We would stay over at their house and he would be playing all night to jazz CDs and mini discs.”
“When I was about 11, I entered middle school and, for some reason, decided it was cool to play the trumpet! It turns out I was actually pretty good and excelled throughout my school days,” said Greg.
“I also picked up the guitar when I was about 13. I found an old-looking guitar case; inside was an old ’60s silver sparkle Kustom Kraft. Talk about a find! I brought it home and played it everyday. Scott ended up playing the drums and we soon pieced a band together with some friends and started jamming everyday. We won the Battle of the Bands at our high school almost every year! And Scott was only 12 years old at the time. He had to get a special pass to get out of middle school and meet us at lunch at the high school.”
“We also had a Megadeth tribute band and we would go around playing at bars around San Diego. That was definitely a fun time. We also got to open for David Ellefson!”
The above probably sounds familiar to a lot of us who may never have experienced even a semblance of the bonafide private jet and all-the-Chicken-McNuggets-you-can eat luxuries of the rock star world, but continue to work hard at our craft and enjoy the opportunity to share our musical visions. Our musical world tends to be clubs and auditoriums, rather than the Enormo-dome. Sharing this experience, the guys at Acacia are building guitars that provide every level of musician, from casual to working to pro, with everything they need to bring their tunes to life.
After high school, the brothers took their first steps towards building the next chapter of the Lienhard family musical history.
“Scott and I both enrolled in a great woodworking program and our community college. Scott went more towards the artistry part like lathe work, furniture, and design. I went more towards the business and manufacturing side getting into architectural millwork and business management. We both took some lutherie classes and Scott started making his own guitars,” Greg said.
“After a few years of working for other people and really getting nowhere, we basically decided to really push our passion for music and woodworking into a business of our own. A few years in and we can finally say that we are the right track to be a successful family business.”
“Scott designs our shapes and also does all the finish work and set-ups along with whatever else needs to be done. I have taken on the role of sales, marketing, milling all the wood, glue-ups, and most of the sanding, along with playing shop foreman.”
As we’ve seen, Acacia Guitars offers freshly refined, modern takes on classic shapes. Customers can choose from a classic single-cut silhouette (the Titan) and two signature double-cut designs (the Hades and Romulus), all designed in-house by Scott Lienhard. From there, players get a choice of pickups and elegant-yet-practical appointments like push/push pots and open-gear tuners. Bass players are also in on the fun, with the sleek Gladius model and the recently debuted Atlas multi-scale model.
“Scott, having an artistic background, is always looking for new color combos or finishes as well as cool design features like push/push pots and multi-scale designs,” Greg noted. “We also look at the play-ability and comfort-ability of the curves and lines and also at the aesthetics of the overall design.”
“Each custom guitar starts from scratch, designed to [the customer’s] specifications. Each guitar and bass is different. We start milling all the wood we will need and selecting the best tops that fit that particular build. Some quilted tops can have a certain pattern that will look better on a certain shape, so we try to think of the overall look before it’s actually done. Most builds take 8-12 weeks, but some can take longer depending on design, parts, woods, and finish time“.
Acacia Guitars offers two levels of customization. The Pro Series gets players an exceptional number of design choices at a tremendously great price. Or, you can take The Tone King Path and dive into an expanded number of options, including stunning finishes and tops. If your vision goes beyond the range of standard choices, Acacia can also help you realize that. Players can also explore more unique wood choices, thanks to the legwork Acacia Guitars has done in building the company.
“We have have made some good friends over the years and we can get some pretty cool and interesting pieces of woods that the other guys have trouble getting. We are very close to L.A and have access to one of the best suppliers of quilted maple, flame maple, buckeye burl, black limba and all kinds of great tone woods.”
As Acacia Guitars has grown, more of the family has gotten in on the act to help keep up the momentum.
“Tom [Lienhard] joined us full time this year, creating and designing our guitars into 3D models and running our new CNC machine. Jack [Lienhard] is usually the guy doing all the soldering and wiring for the electronics. We also have some great friends that help out; we can’t thank them enough!”
TheToneKing.com is fortunate to have gotten to know Acacia Guitars early on, and we’re enjoying tracking their rise in the gear industry. And from the sounds of it, Acacia has some really excellent things in the works.
“From the Winter NAMM 2016 show we picked up a few dealers and also some distributors overseas,” Greg said. “For next year’s NAMM, we plan to bring back one of original models, but with some great new features that I think people are really going to dig!”
There’s no doubt grandpa and great-grandpa are smiling down at the brothers. Greg is also quick to note that it’s not just their personal passions for the art; having a great support system is a key ingredient to bringing that passion to life.
“Throughout our years in music, we have had some great teachers and amazing support from our family. Looking back, its more about people you meet and how they influence you to do good and work hard for what you want. We always struggled in school, but for some reason music and the instruments always came natural to us.”
Video 3 from the Acacia Guitar Build Series!
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About the Author: Hello. Welcome to TheToneKing.com! My name is Louis, but in name of good fun & entertainment - I call myself The Tone King. This website was born back in 2008, to compliment the videos I started uploading to YouTube on guitar & related gear (guitar, amps, pedals, etc.). It has since grown, thanks to the thousands that tune in, making it what it is. If you subscribe to TheToneKing.com, you can expect lots of Guitar, Amp, Pedal Reviews & Shoot-Out videos. I also have monthly Live Webcasts, perform Artist Interviews, and try to get all the juicy coverage Backstage and at trade-shows like NAMM. The cherry on top is that there are no shortage of How-To Videos & TTK Killer Deal Alerts getting you the most knowledge & gear into your hands & mind! Thanks for stopping by to check out my website! Rock ON!