Luthier out of passion
In every guitar there is a part of me
At Cyan Guitars, handcrafted means swinging the file and dealing with a wide variety of materials. I am a luthier out of passion. Metal applications, pickup frames or other extraordinary details are all made by hand and not assembled from semi-finished parts.
CNC technology is only used for fretboards, engravings and serial metal parts.
Every Cyan custom guitar contains a part of me, that I release for adoption. Passion, attention to detail and craftsmanship precision, this is what all Cyan custom instruments stand for.
The repair service for all kind of string instruments is of course also part of my work as a guitar maker and helps me to analyze mistakes or develop new ideas.
From wood hobbyist to profi
A real Hamburger introduces himself
Ahoi from the Waterkant, a town on the river Elbe, is my home. Born in 1965 and raised in Hamburg-Langenhorn, I experienced a carefree non-digital childhood, almost like in the countryside. In the idyllic Raakmoor, we digged and tinkered – from the hole to the tree cave, from the dam to the raft. If a movie were to describe my teenage years, it would be “Dorfpunks”. It was the same with us and we loved it!
Already my grandpa built everything by hand as a machine builder. From the sledge to the handcart to the ladder. My father, on the other hand, had gasoline in his blood and, in addition to his work as a car mechanic, screwed every miserable rust bucket TÜV inspection ready for his relatives and friends. I, too, started tinkering as a young child and built swords and flashbows with my grandpa at the workbench. Thus, I learned to handle the most important tools at an early age and continued our family craftmanship tradition many years later as a luthier.
I started my first attempt as a luthier at the age of 14
At the age of 14, things really started. Together with two friends from the neighborhood, I founded my first punk band, Razzia, whose name was inspired by the book “Zoo Station: The Story of Christiane F.”, which I was reading. I should be the bass player. Unfortunately, my parents did not allow me to buy a bass guitar and so I decided to build one myself.
Full of energy, I took a shelf of my father and sawed out the contour of an electric bass with a fretsaw in day-long ordeal. An adventurous project that brought respect to all my relatives. More than a bit of pling-pling didn’t come out of my first handmade instrument, but it should be enough to start the first band rehearsals in our garage.
My “semi-hollow bass” and an old tube radio made a lot of noise, but our tuning and the right timing left a lot to be desired.
Two or three weeks later, we had finally exhausted the patience of our neighbors and the fun was over for the time being.
Since I rather wanted to play guitar anyway, I left the band a few months later and our basement, which contained an old workbench and my grandpa’s tool, became my new favorite place.
The ambition had grabbed me and after a few failed attempts, I finally got a satisfactory result after the fourth shot. A replica of a Gibson SG, a model that I did not chose because of the guy in the school uniform, but because of the UK Subs guitarist Nicky Garratt, who had particularly impressed me.
Band foundation with Rod GonzáleZ
I played my first self-made guitar in various punk bands called “Frust 81”, “Massaker” or “Ramsch”.
Together with my friend Rod González, who was to become a well-known musician a few years later, I started the band “Massaker”, which even made it to the LP sampler “Waterkant Hits”. Rod first played bass and later he sat behind the drums.
With our indie band “Doric Tacet” we were represented with three songs on the Triton Sampler “After and Hours Later” – and then Rod went straight from our musty rehearsal room to the biggest stages of the world: He was invited to tour Canada as guitarist for the successful band “Rainbirds”, who had a huge hit with their song “Blueprint”.
From carpentry to self-employment
My second guitar project was a replica of a Steve Stevens guitar by Hamer. Because of this guitar I got my first official order as a luthier from my guitar teacher Otto, who asked me if I could build him such a guitar as well. At that time, I was already training as a carpenter in a window construction factory. I proudly accepted this challenge and shortened breakfast and lunch breaks at work to take advantage of the possibilities to use the belt grinders and routers.
In 1989, after completing my apprenticeship as a carpenter, 20 months of civil service and a year as journeyman at my training company, I took the step into self-employment as luthier. A workshop in the city centre was quickly found and I moved into my first domicile at Schönstraße, which was located on today’s exhibition grounds. Actually it was a basement hole, but I had never noticed that during the 13 years there. There were enough ideas, wood and machines available and the journey could begin.
In 1990 I visited the music fair in Frankfurt for the first time under the flag of Cyan Guitars. A complete success in terms of the opinions of the trade visitors. For four more years, I went to the Frankfurt Music Fair every spring, to present my new guitar models.
First acquaintance with Farin Urlaub (Die Ärzte)
The reunion of the band Die Ärzte in 1993 was also to be a milestone for me. My old friend Rod González had the honour of continuing his music career, which had started with the Rainbirds, with Bela and Farin. When Die Ärzte wanted to rehearse in Hamburg for their upcoming tour and were looking for a suitable room, I offered Rod and his new bandmates to use my rehearsal room next to the workshop. They gladly accepted my offer and so I got to know Farin Urlaub.
He liked my guitars so much that he soon had his first custom guitar built by me – the Black Hawk. Other models followed, such as the Red or White Hawk, the Two Tone or the FU studio guitar (the prototype for the later Signature Custom Guitar series). Farin Urlaub became a loyal customer, with whom I still implement every crazy idea to this day. A win-win situation for both of us. This also resulted in particularly unusual stage guitars, such as the sounding tennis racket Top Spin or the fire-spitting Sylt guitar that I made for the Die Ärzte song “Westerland”.
Creation of the FU Signature Guitar
The Black Hawk became a trademark for Farin – the sacred cow for the Die Ärzte fans. Due to the many customer requests regarding the Black Hawk, I finally asked Farin for permission to build a Farin Urlaub Signature guitar – and he gave the green light!
I developed a refined version of the first Farin Urlaub guitar, which gradually pushed the Black Hawk off the stage and – limited to 99 pieces – was available for everyone to buy.
Other custom models followed, such as the Devileye and a Devileye nylon acoustic guitar, which replaced Farin Urlaubs previous nylon live guitar, a Gibson Chet Atkins, on stage. To this day, many Cyan custom guitars can be seen on the big arena stages and for that I am eternally grateful to Mr. Urlaub.
Off to St. Pauli - Budapester Strasse
Time ran fast and after 13 years of guitar making in the beloved Schönstraße, I had to leave my first workshop, because the new exhibition grounds were to be built there. In a depraved backyard on Budapester Strasse, directly opposite the St. Pauli football stadium, I found my new home. Here the construction of the FU Signature Guitar series was realized, many guitars were repaired and of course I still produced my own music there.
When I was to develop a custom guitar suiting the band look for Kahn Morbee, singer and guitarist of the South African band The Parlotones, I discovered aluminium as a new material for unusual requests and individual designs. As a bridge of the black guitar with a red neck, I integrated a metal application in the form of the band logo (an abstract megaphone) and finished the “Parloguitar”.
The first baritone, Hellcaster, Hellboy and Zodiac guitar models
The inspiration to develop my first baritone guitar came from Billy Corgan, singer and guitarist of The Smashing Pumpkins, who had asked me “Why don’t you build a baritone guitar?”, after I presented him my guitars at one of their Hamburg shows.
He had awakened a new passion in me, and from then on, I also devoted myself to the deeper tones and created my first baritone guitar – a Raven with a 29″ scale.
For my 20th anniversary as a luthier in 2010, I developed the Hellcaster, Hellboy and Zodiac and set out again for the Frankfurt Music Fair to present my new models. Afterwards the first prototypes of the Hellcaster and Hellboy went straight on the “Crack The Sky” tour with Brent Hinds and Bill Kelliher from Mastodon and were spotted as far as Guadalajara and Mexico.
Extravagant guitars for Lord of the Lost
The baritone guitar family grew, and I met Chris Harms of the band Lord Of The Lost from Hamburg. An industrial band with extravagant stage optics, from the costumes to the instruments. The first guitar I built for him was a 29″ baritone guitar in the Hellcaster shape, the “Lordcaster”.
More eccentric custom instruments followed, also for the other band members, such as the Faust 29″ 3-string baritone guitar. A 3-string monster hybrid of bass and guitar limited to the essentials for a deep-tuned rock show.
For Gared Dirge, keyboarder of the band, Chris wanted me to build a guitar with a keyboard midi controller. Said, done! “N.O.R.A” consisted of an Akai keyboard with midi controller and a neck with 2 strings on a 29″ scale. Of course, everything in the proven industrial look.
Aluminium engravings for Wirtz
Through the Hamburg guitarist Keile, I was introduced to Daniel Wirtz, singer and guitarist of his band Wirtz, that I really liked since years. I surprised him with a special custom “Akustik Voodoo” Hellcaster, which had an engraved aluminum pickguard with the band logo and the Wirtz skull in the body.
Expansion of my new workshop in Hamburg-Altona
After another 13 years, I had to leave my workshop in Hamburg-St. Pauli and found a new location in Stresemannstrasse in Hamburg-Altona. Still in the city center, but now even heatable and with plenty of daylight. I am certain, the luthier god had his protective hand over me back then…
I carried out the expansion completely according to my ideas and created my dream workshop.
You can watch what this looks like and what hurdles I had to face in Making of Video on my YouTube channel.
When an old customer came to my new place for the first time, he said: “It looks like a wellness farm for guitars”. And that’s exactly what it is for many string instruments. When they leave my workshop, they are fresh and cheerful again.
The first Peak Detector Guitar - a world debut
In my new workshop, Chris of Lord of the Lost surprised me with another crazy idea.
This time it should be a luminous guitar that reacts to the strike of the strings. A world innovation and huge challenge that appealed to me very much.
Together with Dipl.-Ing. Thomas Fanter, I set to work and developed the Empyrean 29″ baritone guitar, the first peak detector guitar with an engraved aluminum top, whose 768 LEDs are controlled by an Arduino processor via the player’s strike. A world debut that let’s Chris shine on stage, in the truest sense of the word!!!
Jens Bogren and the creation of the Ultimate Rhythm Guitar
In 2018, Swedish metal producer Jens Bogren (Fascination Street Studios, Stockholm) invited me to visit him at his producer workshop in Berlin. Jens had heard about me through my collaboration with Mastodon and wanted to tell me about his dream of a perfect rhythm guitar. A guitar with precise sound reproduction in all tunings from E to drop C, without the tone pitch fluttering when the strings are struck harder. A problem that arises with many guitars. In addition, it should be optimally playable for every musician. We quickly agreed and, inspired by his ideas, I developed the Ultimate Rhythm Guitar. In the meantime, the Ultimate has been used on many international album productions for bands such as Amorphis, Sepultura or Kreator and is an integral part of Jens Bogren’s guitar sounds. Dutch producer Joost van den Broek also heard about the Ultimate and now uses it for many productions (e.g. Epica, Powerwolf) at his Sandlane Recording Facilities.
The Ultimate series renewed my complete range of custom guitar models with its special scale and technical details.
Versatile - the first Cyan T-style guitar
To mark my 30th anniversary as luthier, I have now developed a brand-new guitar edition based on a classic of music history. A T-style guitar in the style of the house:
The Versatile 30th Anniversary Classic Edition.
This series adheres to some of the traditional features, but with my experience of 30 years of guitar making, it is enriched and refined. As a beta tester, Jakob Schulze (Swiss + Die Andern) has already put this new guitar to the acid test and meanwhile doesn’t want to give it out of hand.
What he has to say about his Versatile “Jackpot” signature guitar, you can watch in the Video Section.
Also, in the next years I will not rest and develop new custom guitar models for you. My dream of building guitars continues, and I look forward to you all!
Stay tuned, Thomas