One Long Island City-based artist is rocking out on bamboo.
Taber Licea is the man behind the unique line of Licea Guitars, which are handcrafted out of the environmentally friendly material.
Coming from a family of artists and growing up with a basement full of hand and power tools, Licea knew his way around designing and creating a unique piece.
After going through numerous guitars and not finding his perfect match, Licea decided to design his own and in 2006 made the first instrument in his own kitchen. He later moved to the 5Pointz building on Davis Street with a friend and continued his design work.
He came up with his own concepts and features that make playing the guitar easier, including a fatter neck. The heel on a Licea Guitar allows a musician’s hand to go easily all the way around to the top frets and when strapped on, the instrument remains balanced.
Initially, the design involved using mahogany wood but everything changed after a trip to a contemporary furniture show at the Jacob Javits Convention Center. There, Licea visited a company’s booth showing bamboo plywood and he knew his guitars would be transformed.
“That was it. I didn’t want to use regular wood like everyone else, it had to be something different,” he said.
The daytime photographer then looked into bamboo, which is classified as a grass, not a wood, and began creating his one-of-a-kind guitars. All Licea Guitars are made out of one piece, combining the neck and body, and every piece is made entirely out of bamboo.
Licea currently works on his guitars in a building shared with numerous other artists, as part of the nonprofit Long Island City arts group known as Local Project, located at 11-27 44th Road.
According to the artist, the material gives each instrument a resonant and strong sound and excellent stability. Each guitar features high quality parts and is handcrafted by Licea.
“I have made many things in my life, furniture, drums, speaker cabinets and so on. But making an electric guitar out of a blank sheet of bamboo is my greatest achievement,” he said. “All my guitars have sweet tone, great harmonics and character.”
Although all his guitars have the same shape, which Licea has a design patent on, customers have an option on Telecaster, Stratocaster and Jazz type guitars. In the next month or two, he plans on also creating a bass and left-handed guitar.
Licea says he also personally uses his own guitars in his heavy rock band, Mordus, in which he plays lead guitar and sings. For more information on Mordus, visit the band’s official website.
“From cutting to shaping, coloring to buffing, it tests my patience and skill every time, there’s no room for error,” he said. “To see a guitarist wail away on my guitar and look at me and say ‘wow this is awesome’ inspires me to make more and to know I have a special product.”
In the future, Licea hopes to bring his production to a factory and create a larger inventory. He is also in the process of looking for a guitar representative.
The guitars, which sell for $1,800, can be bought online and are also sold at 30th Street Guitars in Manhattan and Mouradian Guitars in Massachusetts. Anyone with questions can email Licea through his website.