When he was a student at Oswego High School, Nate DeMont loved to build things.
DeMont was a student in the school’s storied woodshop program when he built his first guitar. His teacher was not amused.
“I built my first guitar there, although the teacher did not really like that much,” he said. “He was more into furniture.”
DeMont graduated from OHS in 2002, and in 2014, after years working out of his condo and a small storefront in Yorkville, DeMont moved his own guitar manufacturing company, DeMont Guitars, into a workshop and store space in Oswego’s Stonehill Industrial Park.
DeMont said that after high school, he worked in a variety of jobs working with his hands: commercial maintenance, construction, locksmithing. But he always loved building guitars.
“They weren’t careers, but I liked building stuff,” he said. “I was doing guitars as a hobby, and it just turned into a full-time job. Now it’s like two full-time jobs.”
DeMont also plays guitar, although he acknowledges that he’s “better at building stuff than playing.” His guitar teacher, Dan Becker of Oswego, has now become a customer and occasionally works at DeMont’s shop, repairing guitars and doing other work, DeMont said.
DeMont plays guitar with friends in a band called Hudson Crossing. He said the band doesn’t play shows very often, but does get together regularly to practice. The shows have slowed down, especially after the birth of DeMont’s daughter in May.
DeMont Guitars sells “budget” guitars, such as its $750 Goldfinch line, and custom jobs that take sometimes more than a year to build.
That Goldfinch line was featured over the winter in Guitar Player magazine, as the publication featured holiday budget buys under $800, and was displayed alongside major brands like Fender, Gretsch, Epiphone, Yamaha and Paul Reed Smith.
The Guitar Player feature resulted in a massive demand for such a small company: 30 orders of Goldfinch guitars, all made by hand.
“We’re so backordered on the guitars we’re making now that we don’t have a finished one in stock,” DeMont said. “Even my personal one I lent to the Giving Tree Band to take on tour so I don’t even have my own. They’re all in pieces because we’re behind on making them.”
DeMont’s guitars also have some cachet in Japan. DeMont has been a collector of Guyatone guitars for years; Guyatone was the first brand of electric guitar to be manufactured in Japan. DeMont licenses Guyatone guitars and sells them, and sells DeMont guitars in Japan.
Japanese musical artists, such as the boy band ABC-Z, show off DeMont/Guyatone guitars in ads in Japanese newspapers.
Toshi Torii, an engineer from Japan, works with Guyatone and DeMont guitars in research and development and runs Japan DeMont.
“The Japanese are crazy about American stuff,” DeMont said. “We want to market more American-made stuff. We take that Japanese brand and make it here and market it over there and over here.”
DeMont said Japanese guitar consumers are “still into like the ‘80s hard rock guitars, so it’s a little different market.”
Taking a look inside the DeMont guitar workshop is like taking a step back in time. Chunks and logs of maple, walnut and other wood are stacked alongside various tools, and a handful of workers craft individual instruments. DeMont said they try to do as much in-house as they can, instead of outsourcing.
“We’re trying to do more and more, so now we’re even cutting down trees with our own chainsaws and milling them in back [of the shop] with machines,” he said. “So we’ve been getting new machines in and doing more and more. Having control over actual trees has been really nice. We have a little kiln where we dry them.”
DeMont points proudly at his favorite tool in the shop: a Moak wood planer dating back to 1915. He said that at one time it was used for building ships.
“I just love to watch it run,” he said.
DeMont said the company is trying to get faster at making the guitars, while retaining the high quality that has made the guitars so sought after, a delicate balance.
As he looks around his store area, DeMont said he could get a storefront out on Route 34 or in a higher visibility area, but he said his products aren’t necessarily for window shoppers. They are for the customer who knows what they want.
“I want people to like it when they walk in, but at the same time, we’re not Walmart or Guitar Center,” he said. “We have a handful of customers a day, but those customers are coming for something. They leave having spent some money; it’s not a walk-through place.”
Those who want more information on DeMont Guitars can visit the company’s website at demontguitars.com or visit the DeMont Guitars Facebook page.