Nicholas Lacroix started making basses because he wanted one of his own. By the time he finished making his first, his passion had shifted from the instrument to the art of creating one."
Lacroix, of Manchester, first worked with his uncle to make a “Frankenbass,” or two basses connected, 15 years ago. From that point on, wherever Lacroix went, so did his work. He constructed guitars in the kitchen of his apartment while majoring in sports management Johnson & Wales University (“My landlord loved that stuff,” he joked) and in a storage unit while working on a lobster boat in Gloucester, Mass.
“It’s a labor of love,” Lacroix said.
Lacroix opened Zoov Custom Guitars, a storefront and workshop on East Industrial Park Drive in Manchester, in March 2011 and, he said, business is finally starting to take off. It doesn’t take much heavy machinery to create his custom guitars and basses, he said. Instead, many small pieces of wood are used in the details of each one-of-a-kind creation.
“It’s a no-holds-barred type of situation,” Lacroix said. “I can do anything.”
Lacroix discusses every aspect of the desired guitar with his customers, including the type of neck and fret they wish to have, the scale length, the shape, how many strings they want and the type of wood they are looking for (purple heart, cocobolo, paduke, cherry or wenge, just to name a few). Customers can ask for their guitar to be designed to emit a certain type of sound.
“We design it from the ground up,” he said. “It’s literally a guitar-of-your-dreams type of scenario.”
While Lacroix does still strum his bass every now and then, he leaves it to his musician friends to test the finished products before they are sent out.
Lacroix will often use mahogany to create the middle part of the guitar and uses wood glue to add pieces of other woods on the wings of the instrument to give it a custom look. He uses a bandsaw to cut the pieces and uses a router to make straighter edges. Dangling from a magnetic strip on his work table are filers, scrapers and microplanes for shaping. The neck is either inlaid in the body or bolted on.
Electronic guitar components are stored on wooden shelves in his workshop. Among them are vintage custom hand-wound pickups from Henniker. Lacroix also supports local businesses by purchasing his wood from companies in Chichester and Epping.
What it really comes down to, Lacroix said, is how much the customer is looking to spend; his custom guitars can boast price tags anywhere from $2,000 to around $5,000. Lacroix spends an average of 80 hours on each but has spent as many as 300 hours on one guitar. As he opts to focus on one guitar at a time, he tells customers that it can take up to six months for them to receive their order.
Lacroix is working on orders for members of the Tan Vampires and the Brooks Young Band, both New Hampshire bands, and recently created and shipped a six-string guitar to Johnny Harter, guitarist for the up-and-coming California-based band Mureau.
“I can’t wait to go to a show and see him playing it,” Lacroix said.