Bored of your average guitar or bass? Fancy having a bespoke custom guitar or bass made especially for you? If so, Douglas Mullen is the man for you. After realising, 20 years ago, that he was a dab hand at designing and building his own instruments; he decided to start up his very own business…
What gave you the idea to create these bespoke, hand-crafted guitars?
It was early in my adolescence when I began to outplay the guitar my parents had bought me. As a teenager, I would go through different phases of interests so my parents didn’t want to spend hundreds of pounds buying the best available guitar, on the off chance that I’d get bored after a few months and never touch it again. Fortunately, that wasn’t the case. Instead, I tried to upgrade my guitar by trimming the body shape and stripping the finish off, only to discover that it was made of plywood, so there was no use in continuing the upgrade.
I decided, in my spare time at school, to use the woodwork labs in an attempt to build my own. This was over 20 years ago so with no internet and very little information, I simply made guesses as to the construction. I would make a pilgrimage into town every Saturday to measure my favourite guitars – hiding out of site from the staff – and jot down various measurements. That’s how it began.
How long does it take to make one guitar and what is the process?
There are two Eve Guitar lines: the Professional, which is a bolt-on; and the Elite which is a set neck. The bolt-on takes 50-60 hours to make. The set neck takes about double that, depending on the complexity of the wood design. The process starts with a straight line and everything is measured from this. Scale, number of frets, pick-up position, nut, headstock, body join position – all of these have to be perfectly worked out as they are vital to the success of the finished guitar.
The wood is then chosen and bonded, the design is drawn onto the blanks and then I cut, carve and sand until I’m satisfied with the finish. I apply a few coats of Danish Oil until the pores are filled, then the guitar is left to dry for at least 48 hours. It’s then wet-sanded and hung to dry for another 48 hours. When it’s nearly finished, it’s rubbed down, waxed and polished before hardware installation, wiring and setup take place. I usually let new guitars settle for a week or so without tuning to full pitch so that the stresses are gradually introduced. This stabilises the neck better as it gets used to the string tension.
What makes these guitars different to your average guitar?
The main difference is the visual aesthetic and ergonomic quality that has been lost in the mass produced product available today. Since all our materials are individually selected, inspected for quality by hand, and only one person begins and finishes the instrument to completion, we can ensure 100% devotion to every single guitar. I build the kind of guitars that I would like to play and own myself – I think that’s important. If I’m not happy, how can I expect the customer to be happy?
What is your favourite feature and why?
I like the simplicity of the controls and electronics. It’s about saying ‘no’ most of the time to new features, rather than ‘yes’ to everything. It takes more control and discipline to do that. I believe that guitars should be straightforward – if you want tonal shaping, buy a good amp and some effects pedals. You can always add effects and tones, but if they’re built in and you rarely use them, it’s hard to take them out. I think if a guitar is built from the ground up, with tone in mind, good construction and great pickups; everything else falls into place naturally. I also like the oil and wax finish as it’s easy to maintain and feels wonderful under the hand.
Have you had any weird and wonderful design requests?
Usually, it’s a case of ‘copy this, copy that’. I’m really not interested in doing that. Copying another production line guitar holds no interest to me, and I’m happy to tell customers that too. If they want to advance the standard concept in an unusual way, that could interest me if I’m given enough freedom to try something new. One of the biggest things I’m asked is to put a spray finish on a custom build, which I never do. I don’t see the point of using beautiful woods and elaborate construction to be hidden by a layer of paint.
If you could design a guitar for any guitarist in the world, who would it be?
The designs for Eve Guitars come from elements I’ve gathered over the years. I have no problem with seeing a great idea and using it. A bit from here, a bit from there, and then combine them all together. That’s how things improve and develop over time. To design a new shape for arbitrary reasons because someone is famous or just wants something ‘different’ – I think misses the point. That’s not why I started building guitars. I want to improve things and keep moving forward and hopefully people agree with that philosophy.
All about Eve
Douglas Mullen operates Eve Guitars from his workshop in the East Coast of Scotland, UK, to produce guitars that have the look and quality lost in the mass produced product available today. All materials are individually selected and inspected for quality by hand, and only one person starts and finishes the instrument to completion. We have no computer controlled machines – every instrument is truly hand crafted, and is as individual as you are.
Starting 20 years ago, dissatisfied with the commercial guitars on the market, Douglas began to design and build his own instruments winning awards and critical acclaim for their individuality along the way. The name Eve reflects the originality of the bespoke designs, and the fact that two will never be alike. Ever.
All instruments are unique, with even the choice of construction or components influencing every other design decision – keeping each guitar individual and specific to your requirements.