A 10-member committee of judges at the Johns Hopkins University, awarded Paul Eliasson the 2009 Louis Sudler Prize in the Arts for his entry of his half dozen handcrafted guitars. Eliasson will graduate this spring with a degree in political science and has no plans to be a professional luthier but will head to University of Baltimore law school in the fall.
To create his trademark style, Eliasson uses rare woods that are “extremely interesting to look at but seldom used” in guitar-making, he said. He discovered that layering different types of hardwoods and then beveling the edge of the guitar’s body creates an accent with a lot of impact.
His methodology involves tracing his design from paper to plywood, then using that template to guide a scroll saw in carving the body. He estimates he puts about $500 worth of materials in each instrument.
Noting that he plays guitar but isn’t a “Peabody virtuoso,” he said that he’s not as interested in the performing arts as he is the visual arts. Yet, he loves all kinds of music – from classical to classic rock to country – and makes the sound of his guitars a priority.
He is awaiting approval of a patent on a nut, which is the ledge at the upper end of the fingerboard that the strings pass over. To be named “The Eliasson Compensated Nut,” it would allow a guitar to be tuned on a much finer scale, he explained.
“I invest a lot of myself in what I do,” he said about his art. “It has to look professional and be an original-looking and well-playing guitar. It has to be perfect.”