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  #1  
Old 07-01-2020, 06:19 PM
natx natx is offline
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Default Kevin Ryan Build Process

Hi there all!

I have always wanted to commission a Kevin Ryan build and now that I have the opportunity to do so, I was wondering if anything has changed since I first saw Ryan guitars back in 2008/2009 when Kevin would work directly with you on individual wood sets and selection of woods.

Wonder if any of you have commissioned Ryan guitars within the past year or two? What's the process like? Do you get to talk to Kevin directly or are things handled by his staff now?

Thanks!
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Old 07-01-2020, 06:28 PM
SuperB23 SuperB23 is offline
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I've owned about 10 Ryans over the years. You are in for a real treat!! Congrats!! I know they have some really old Bearclaw spruce that makes for a killer guitar but Its pretty hard to go wrong no matter what you choose. I love the Nightingale model the best personally.

I haven't commissioned one with them but I did buy a new one from Eddies guitars.
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Old 07-02-2020, 01:36 AM
natx natx is offline
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Thanks SuperB!

I'm pretty psyched! Wondering if I should buy one in the wild now or commission one with him and if I do so if I will get to speak to the man himself and work out the woods and combinations given that he is in high demand.
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Old 07-02-2020, 05:59 AM
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Bill Kraus Bill Kraus is offline
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I met Mr. Ryan for the first time at the Woodstock show a few years ago after hearing his name for decades, quite a thrill, and a very nice guy.
I suggest that if you are considering getting a Ryan guitar, that you give them a call to talk it over. I'm sure it's small enough of a shop that you can talk to the man himself. It may be the case that he works alone, although he may have an apprentice or a small team working with him.
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Old 07-02-2020, 06:39 AM
Racerbob Racerbob is offline
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Default Small shop

I visited them a couple years ago. At that time it was a two man operation. Very open and helpful, was given a new guitar and a quiet place to play as long as I wanted. Nice people. They do work different hours than normal due to the terrible traffic in LA. Started very early and done by mid afternoon. I'm with Bobby, the Nightingale is something special.
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Old 07-02-2020, 10:50 AM
Jeff Mc Jeff Mc is offline
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I have had 3 Ryans over the years, a MGC, the Cathedral prototype, and a Nightingale. None were custom guitars to me. I bought the first two from Kevin directly (eventually sold the Cathedral). I purchased the Nightingale from Guitar Rez, here in Austin. There are several dealers that carry his guitars these days. I think Eddie's has a pretty good inventory of them. I talked to Kevin a bunch on the phone and at Healdsburg. He is a terrific guy. I think he may have a couple of people working for him these days. If you are on Facebook, you should check out his site. Just about every day he posts pictures of guitars that will make your mouth water.
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Old 07-03-2020, 01:50 AM
natx natx is offline
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Thanks Bill, Bob and Jeff for your responses. You guys on this forum are always make conversations so inviting (=

Emailed them and the GM (Amilcar) has been answering my queries and been helpful with trying to help me get a piece. Seems like they prefer us to work with local dealers than speak to Kevin himself. Maybe the only way is through a phone call after all time difference between the states and Singapore is going to make that challenging, but I will try to drop him a line if I end up with a custom and see how that goes.

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Originally Posted by Jeff Mc View Post
I have had 3 Ryans over the years, a MGC, the Cathedral prototype, and a Nightingale. None were custom guitars to me. I bought the first two from Kevin directly (eventually sold the Cathedral). I purchased the Nightingale from Guitar Rez, here in Austin. There are several dealers that carry his guitars these days. I think Eddie's has a pretty good inventory of them. I talked to Kevin a bunch on the phone and at Healdsburg. He is a terrific guy. I think he may have a couple of people working for him these days. If you are on Facebook, you should check out his site. Just about every day he posts pictures of guitars that will make your mouth water.
Hey Jeff, why did you sell the Cathedral in the end? Curious to hear your thoughts as I was actually looking at the Cathedral more than the Nightingale as it seems to promise a fuller bass and headroom during strumming.

Was it because it was too big? Or was it a wood combination issue?
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Old 07-03-2020, 01:55 PM
Jeff Mc Jeff Mc is offline
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The size of the body was the main reason. Not sure if the dimensions have changed, but I just found it too big to be comfortable so I didn't play it all that much. It was surprisingly light for a big guitar though, probably lighter than the MGC. It was sitka and EIR.

Back then, it was just the Mission Grand Concert and then the Cathedral. I think it does have more bass than the Nightingale.

I also dealt primarily with his manager (a different person back then) for both the Mission Grand Concert and Cathedral. I think back then it was only Kevin and his wife, don't think the manager was even on site. I called his shop on a whim in late 2001 and asked if they had any spec guitars. He said that he had an almost finished MGC in Adirondack and Brazilian that was sitting under a workbench. In the final stages, they discovered a crack in the back. Asked the customer if he wanted it at a discount and he said no. The manager (forget his name) took over then and I bought it for a price that was only a little more than the cost of the Brazilian upgrade. I think Kevin added extra bracing to preclude more cracking (although it did crack again maybe 10 years ago) which may account for the weight.

A year or two later, I called back and asked the same question and the manager said that they had the Cathedral for sale.

At that time, I was totally ignorant of the letting it rest in the carton and case for 24 hours and opened them both right away in the dead of Minneapolis winters. no ill effect thankfully.
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Old 07-04-2020, 05:09 AM
natx natx is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jeff Mc View Post
The size of the body was the main reason. Not sure if the dimensions have changed, but I just found it too big to be comfortable so I didn't play it all that much. It was surprisingly light for a big guitar though, probably lighter than the MGC. It was sitka and EIR.

Back then, it was just the Mission Grand Concert and then the Cathedral. I think it does have more bass than the Nightingale.

I also dealt primarily with his manager (a different person back then) for both the Mission Grand Concert and Cathedral. I think back then it was only Kevin and his wife, don't think the manager was even on site. I called his shop on a whim in late 2001 and asked if they had any spec guitars. He said that he had an almost finished MGC in Adirondack and Brazilian that was sitting under a workbench. In the final stages, they discovered a crack in the back. Asked the customer if he wanted it at a discount and he said no. The manager (forget his name) took over then and I bought it for a price that was only a little more than the cost of the Brazilian upgrade. I think Kevin added extra bracing to preclude more cracking (although it did crack again maybe 10 years ago) which may account for the weight.

A year or two later, I called back and asked the same question and the manager said that they had the Cathedral for sale.

At that time, I was totally ignorant of the letting it rest in the carton and case for 24 hours and opened them both right away in the dead of Minneapolis winters. no ill effect thankfully.
Hi Jeff, thanks for the reply. Yup, the Cathedral looks a little big but I'm sure it sounds bassier.

Those are great stories and yes, have heard Brazilian needs extra care, just like zircote. It's wonderful that you got the piece at a discount, I'm sure its a real keeper!

So guess what, I called Kevin early this morning and it was such a joy chatting with him. We spoke at length about his process and eventually concluded that Amilcar (his current GM) is very well versed with the type of woods and their combinations, as well as what they have in stock at the moment.
Feel like I'm in great hands (=

Thanks all for the inputs guys! Looking forward to a Ryan (eventually)! (=
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Old 07-05-2020, 08:04 AM
steveh steveh is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by natx View Post
Emailed them and the GM (Amilcar) has been answering my queries and been helpful with trying to help me get a piece. Seems like they prefer us to work with local dealers than speak to Kevin himself.
I've played a few Ryans and all have been great guitars. One in particular, a BRW Nightingale signature, was truly fabulous (and eye-wateringly expensive IIRC).

I'm surprised though that interaction appears to be predominantly via "managers" and dealers. One of the great joys (and benefits in terms of the build) is the close one-to-one interaction with your luthier, so that he/she understands exactly what it is you want (which is why, presumably, you can't get it off-the-shelf). I wouldn't expect to get to chat with Bob Taylor, George Lowden or Bill Collings, because those guys are/were running big shops with multiple employees. Is that now the case with Ryan? I thought Kevin Ryan was a relatively small business or is that just not the case?

Cheers,
Steve
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Old 07-05-2020, 09:21 AM
natx natx is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by steveh View Post
I've played a few Ryans and all have been great guitars. One in particular, a BRW Nightingale signature, was truly fabulous (and eye-wateringly expensive IIRC).

I'm surprised though that interaction appears to be predominantly via "managers" and dealers. One of the great joys (and benefits in terms of the build) is the close one-to-one interaction with your luthier, so that he/she understands exactly what it is you want (which is why, presumably, you can't get it off-the-shelf). I wouldn't expect to get to chat with Bob Taylor, George Lowden or Bill Collings, because those guys are/were running big shops with multiple employees. Is that now the case with Ryan? I thought Kevin Ryan was a relatively small business or is that just not the case?

Cheers,
Steve

Hey Steve,

Iíd like to say something up front: I have not commissioned anything yet. So all my interactions up to this point has been purely enquiries without me actually placing a deposit or anything.

With that background, if you think about it, it does make sense that people like me get filtered to the manager, who has been nothing less than stellar in terms of knowledge, and extremely patient with my questions and answers readily. I have also read from an article that he is also their materials buyer so he knows the woods and their tones inside out and works very closely with Kevin.

So I would say all things considered, I have been very well taken care of without spending a dime.

I will update again if I do commission a guitar with him. May be a bit premature to say they donít work with the individuals during a commission at this point? (=

Anyone else with recent commissions feel free to chime in!
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Old 07-05-2020, 10:00 AM
TennesseeWalker TennesseeWalker is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by steveh View Post
I thought Kevin Ryan was a relatively small business or is that just not the case?
Making guitars at the Ryan shop these days is more or less a sideline compared to his extensive Ablam business which has him expanded into the shop area next to his previous shop space.

He supplies to many major manufacturers of guitars and guitar like instruments.
The number of guitars his few people are making these days is about the same but newer personnel in the AST side far out number those making guitars.

https://www.advancedshelltech.com
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Old 07-05-2020, 10:21 AM
steveh steveh is offline
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Quote:
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Wow - if he is supplying the likes of PRS, Taylor, and Lowden, then he is indeed a very, very busy guy.

Cheers,
Steve
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Old 07-05-2020, 10:45 AM
natx natx is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by TennesseeWalker View Post
Making guitars at the Ryan shop these days is more or less a sideline compared to his extensive Ablam business which has him expanded into the shop area next to his previous shop space.

He supplies to many major manufacturers of guitars and guitar like instruments.
The number of guitars his few people are making these days is about the same but newer personnel in the AST side far out number those making guitars.

https://www.advancedshelltech.com

Yeah, AST has been around since he started building guitars but boy do they have a lot of Guitar logos on their page! I donít know if guitar making is a sideline business. When I called him, he was in the main guitar shop and sounded just as passionate about his guitar making processes. He also just released the 10 stringed models about 2 years back.

I think what it is is that a few guitar shops and dealers have placed build orders with him, so his instruments are available through them. In my case, Iím half way across the world so conversations some times can be hard, thatís why it was probably more expeditious to speak to my local dealer about first order questions.
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Old 07-05-2020, 11:12 AM
Jeff Mc Jeff Mc is offline
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As I mentioned up above someplace, even 20 years ago he had a manager that was the main person that I dealt with. I think maybe Kevin's wife answered the phone and then price negotiations, etc were with the manager. I think his name was Lou? I remember when I bought the Cathedral, he said that Kevin didn't want to sell it as he had been working on that guitar for a couple of years. Lou asked him if he wanted to be a builder or a collector and he sold it. I got a nice letter from Kevin after the purchase about him being glad that it was purchased by a player rather than a collector. I still feel a little guilty about eventually selling it.

Judging by their website, it looks like you can still do a custom order directly with Kevin rather than going through a dealer.

I bought my Nightingale from Guitar Resurrection here in Austin. I don't really have any specifications that require a custom order. I had not really looked at a Ryan for a few years and I thought the pricing was pretty reasonable for someone with his level of experience and quality of his work.
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