Handmade Guitars, Designs and Collaborations
by D.R. Auten



The guitar shown on above is a Classical Guitar built by D.R. in the 1970's 

 Mahogany (back and sides), Spruce top, w/ebony fingerboard

         D.R. Auten started making a guitar in 1972. As he was head knife maker at Buck knives Inc, at that time, and used the money he made there to buy the tools he needed.  Soon after acquiring all the tools needed, he began to build his first guitar.

          "...I was one of the first guitar builders for the Taylor Guitar Company in the mid 1970's.  Not only did I work for Taylor Guitars but I also worked for Deering Banjos in the 1980’s, and then again for Taylor Guitars n the 1990’s. I got a job offer to work at the prestigious "Gibson Custom Shop" in Nashville TN, as a designer, photographer, graphic artist and demonstrator of fine guitars. That is where I met Master Luthier Bruce Kunkel. I teamed up with Bruce Kunkel and together we designed and built several instruments which are currently hanging in Gibson’s art galleries, The Smithsonian Museum of Art, and private art galleries all over the world."


This Guitar was the 2nd guitar D.R. made. It is a Steel String 
Acoustic. East Indian Rosewood (back and sides), and Sitka spruce top

    "...During this time in the early 1970's most acoustic guitars were made with  pretty thick necks. I was an electric guitar player and wanted a neck that was just as easy to play as my electric. I shaped this neck with a player in mind. I also had the action very low and used light gauge strings.  I remember showing Bob Taylor this guitar (when he was at American Dream guitar shop and before the Taylor Guitar Company).  He played it a bit and turned to me and said, "...Nice neck! "  I guess it made an impression on him because a few months later Bob called me up and said, "...would you rather make guitars then knives?  (I was currently head knife maker at Buck knives doing the daily custom knives),  I told him I would accept his offer, and two weeks later I started to make the necks for Taylor guitars.  Some of the fond memories back then is showing Bob how to make a knife.  Bob was a natural, and made his father a beautiful knife. When I worked for Taylor in the 1990's, Bob and I worked together on a project and made an impression in the Music industry by having all Major guitar manufactures agree to make guitars at 50% humidity.  When then could  leverage with the music stores to keep the guitars in the stores at 50% humidify, which lowered the damage to guitars and greatly cut down the amount of guitar repairs.


The instrument above is a Git-fiddle. D.R. carved this out of a solid chunk of Mahogany.

It is played with a bow like a violin


There were a few odd instruments D.R. built for fun. Another odd instrument that was fun to make and play is a cross between a guitar and a violin I called a “Git-fiddle.” It has a contact pickup on it and you play it with a Viola bow


     "... It has been a wonderful experience working with great luthiers, and I would recommend to anyone to visit a guitar shop near where you live and get a to the know builders in your area. I recently played a great guitar made by Kevin Ryan of Ryan guitars. It was something to marvel at. Some other fine builders are: James Goodall, Kirt Sands, Collings... and the list goes on and on. I also would like to thank Bob "MOSE" for helping me in the beginning when I first started building guitars. You can find him at: www.moseguitars.com. There are many great luthiers making wonderful instrument now days. What makes a Luthier stand out is their attention to detail, the feel of the neck, the sound, and unique characteristics that give it that signature of the builder."


The instrument shown on right is the infamous Bed Pan Guitar. 

It is made from a metal bed pan.  The volume and tone knobs are out

of ceramic toilet bolt covers. The flush handle is the pickup selector switch

 and the yellow resin on the inside of the guitar is matching the motif.

Another fun was made out of a “Relax Jones” Hospital Bed Pan. D.R. bought the metal Bed Pan at a swap meet for 50 cents. The pick up is a Gibson Les Paul hum-bucking. He played this on state using a bottle for a slide. It sounds and plays amazingly well given its origin.

"...Bruce Kunkel. He has been a good friend and inspiration in so many ways. I asked him if he would illustrate my coloring book called “GuitarToons”, and he did a great job! Bruce is an incredible craftsman, wood carver, fine art painter and Master Luthier. He has been working for the Gibson guitar company for many years and has produced many great works of art. I believe Stradivarius himself would have been fortunate to be a student of Bruce Kunkel. I mean what I say, with all my heart, and it is backed by my experience as a guitar builder and professional guitarist.”  http://drauten.com/guitartoons/gtoons.htm  This link takes you to GuitarToons information.



This guitar is a carved top/carved back electric guitar,

designed and built by D.R. Auten. It is equipped with (the first-of-its-kind)

fine tuning, locking vibrato/tremolo unit invented by D.R.

    The black guitar to the left is a carved top electric. It is equipped with first fine-tuning vibrato/Tremolo unit D.R. invented (before Floyd Rose). Also there is an adjustment that when engaged will match the tension if you change string tunings. Another capability of this unit is it has a locking mechanism that locks the vibrato arm so you can bend strings without the strings changing pitch. It also has the sustain of a stopped tailpiece.

   All the instruments shown above on this page were designed and handmade by D.R. Auten .


While at Gibson, I designed this VOLVO guitar.

This was the first guitar Bruce Kunkel and I worked on together.


Kind of a like a proud father  :)


Custom built this one for a customer while at Downey Music


This was a Carved Top and Carved Back I built and refinished in the 80's


I custom built this one for a customer while at Downey Music

I custom built this one for a customer while at Downey Music

Carved Top and Carved Back Guitar

I built the case as well. Now it looks like a coffin... :)


Custom built this one for a customer while at Downey Music


While at Gibson, I worked with Philly on this guitar. 


To many guitars to show..... more photos to come soon.



Click Here

Video Clip Of D.R. Making His First Guitar



If you would like to see some great instruments by Bruce Kunkel, check out www.kunkelguitars.com. It is with great excitement to announce that Bruce Kunkel has started his own company and is making his own handmade instruments.

Last Modified: 02-24-2003
Copyright © D.R. Auten 1994-2003 All Rights Reserved.