the Story of Sergei de Jonge


Sergei was 16 years old when he first started playing on his brothers classical guitar. The first song he learned to play was “The House of the Rising Sun”. His brother was taking guitar lessons from mr Eli Kassner and eight months after Sergei started playing he took lessons with mr Kassner as well. Because Sergei had been playing on his own mr Kassner told him to unlearn everything he had done because it wasn’t any good. 


His teacher, mr Kassner, played a guitar built by Edgar Monch from Germany and Sergei said it was the best and most beautiful guitar he had ever heard and seen. A few days later he saw some Monch guitars in a music store in Toronto and when he saw the price tag he almost fell over backwards. He was never going to be able to afford such an expensive guitar and so he had the idea of building on himself. 


A year later Mr kassner showed him another guitar by a young builder from Toronto, Jean Larrivée and Sergei thought it was every bit as good as the Mönch guitar. The notion that such a young man could build such a great guitar made his idea of building his own guitar even more realistic. So he asked Jean if he could work for him and he replied “Yes, why don’t you come around on Tuesday”. 


So on Monday he told school goodbye and went to Jean Larrivées workshop on Tuesday. At first all he was allowed to do was work on parts; glueing necks, make rosette mosaics and round the binding edges. 


Jean started out as a car mechanic and had been working at Edgar Mönch’s and a year before he quit and started building guitars for himself in his workshop in the cellar of a small house in the city. At that time Jean build classical guitars exclusively and Jean and Sergei sometimes visited Edgar to use his drill press for headstocks and bridges. Sergei found it very interesting to meet Edgar Mönch.


Edgar Nagler, who owned a guitar shop, asked them if they could built steel string guitars and he showed them some guitars. Jean went to work and built a Baby dreadnought. He used Classical bracing because it would sound better than x-bracing, so the first guitar was fan-braced and didn’t sound to good… But not just that! The neck pulled like craze because Jean had glued the fingerboard to the neck before he realized he didn’t install a truss rod… So what did they do? The took the longest drill bit and Jean drilled a hole under the fingerboard from the dovetail to the nut and Sergei had to check the angle of the drill, haha...


The next steel string went a little better. They used the X-bracing and installed a martin truss rod. At a certain point they were making about 8 guitars a month. In June of that year Sergei took a couple of months off to earn some money working a summer job. When he returned in September Jean had moved to a larger workshop in Toronto that was almost ready and had hired some people including Jim Hale for lacquering who had also done the finishing at Mossmann guitars. 



Sergei was allowed to build his own guitars in the evening ( that is what I am going to do; work for Sergei during the day and build my own guitars in the evening). When Sergei started his first guitar it took him six hours to bend the sides, which he did using a hot pipe. He had to figure out everything by himself because Jean usually wasn’t around in the evening, which is why Sergei made so many mistakes. The hardest part was the dovetail for which he did ask Jean to help, but he built the rest of the guitar by himself. When it was finally finished Sergei was surprised that he had built such a good guitar. 


In 1971 Sergei left Jean once more to make some money and the following year he went to Collingwood to work with Patt Lister. They didn’t get much work done but Patt had a lot of interesting ideas on guitar construction. At some point Sergei returned to Jean and set up his own shop in 1972 where he built guitars in the Larrivée style. He had that shop until 1978 when he moved to Holland and wasn’t sure if he ever would build guitars again. His first daughter, Joshia, was born there. A year after they had moved to Holland the family moved back to Canada where he started building again in another workshop. When he unexpectedly lost his workshop in 1986 he worked as a carpenter on film sets. In 1992 he set up another workshop in the house where he lived in Toronto where his first to children built their first guitars. In 1993 , after the sixth child was born the family moved again and after 18 months Sergei set up another workshop and in 1995 Sergei started giving courses in guitar making and his been building guitars ever since. HIs children have been involved with the workshop since then and together they have built about 150 guitars when they are not in school or travelling. Sergei loves the fact that they share his passion and together they try to make the guitars better and better...


look at his own website for the full story. If you are interested!