Arulnathan Dominic Xavier makes guitars. Working with wood runs in his family, and he grew up seeing his brother making an acoustic guitar; it was never completed, but that was enough to draw him to the art. An aspiring musician turned luthier, he crafts ‘dream guitars’, instruments in keeping with his customer’s desires.

Dedicated to his son, Arul, who passed away at the age of 17, his shop Arul Guitars was set up in 2005. “My son was also interested in guitars, and it was something we did together, so I quit my job in the Ministry of Rural Development in 2004 and set up this shop,” says the craftsman.

Perfectionist

A perfectionist who hates to see even a small glue mark inside a guitar, Arul, as he is known among friends, says guitar making is not just about carving wood and sticking it together.

“It is a process that demands accuracy, willingness and concentration. There are tiny details involved in the making, which, if not done perfectly, might spoil the entire look and feel of the guitar.” He brings out the rosette he is making for one of his guitars — it took thousands of coloured sticks carefully fixed together to create a beautiful design.

Training and travel

One of the first guitars he made was a classical guitar in 2000. While he was working in the Ministry, he also travelled to Felton in California, where he trained for two years with accomplished guitar maker Kenny Hill. “Making guitars was my hobby since childhood, and I never left it. During my job also I used to make guitars.”

He begins by choosing the right type of wood, which is followed by a number of processes including carving the different parts and giving the guitar curved shape using the ‘Go-Bar Death’, one of the tools that he makes. He invents tools to make work easier, such as one to which a shaving razor is attached, and one that he uses to level the wood.

This month, he has been conducting a workshop to teach the art to four musicians, who are now making their first guitars. “The experience is great, and for the first time we are learning how much detailing is involved in the process. We understand the value of guitars and the hard work behind making it,” says Keith Roderigues, one of the participants.

Arul only makes custom guitars and one guitar he takes pride in is the combination percussive guitar — the face has a Turkish drum and a tabla, while on the other side is a classical guitar. This instrument has 54 strings altogether. “It took me a year to build it and it was a big challenge. I also like the harp guitar I made,” he says.

Arul imports many of his materials from the U.S. “I try to give nothing less than the best,” he says. Visit www.arulguitars.com.

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