Cult Shop: guitars so good, Mark Knopfler wrote a song about them

to purchase one. John Monteleone's instruments have a three-year waiting list.

Cult Shop: guitars so good, Mark Knopfler wrote a song about them

John Monteleone, guitar maker, says that he knew he wanted to be a one-man shop. "It was boring for me to have to make the same instrument repeatedly."

This conviction has served Monteleone well. Today, at 75, Monteleone is highly regarded for his mandolins and acoustic guitars. His guitars were handcrafted in his Islip workshop.

Mark Knopfler

His guitar, "Isabella", was so loved that he wrote a song dedicated to Monteleone. Knopfler recently admitted in a documentary that he didn't feel worthy of the instrument. Each piece commands

Up to $85,000

The waiting list for this is approximately three years.

A guitar in progress

To bring out the resonance of tonewood, you can shave a piece. LINK

Monteleone was just a teenager when he bought his first guitar. He says, "I had a burning desire for understanding how these instruments function." He now travels around the globe in search for exotic woods that may produce different tones or resonances. He says, "I love the search." The wood is often sourced from Adirondack spruces (loud, well-rounded, and clear), while in the US it comes from maples (a bright, clean tone) and Adirondack spruces. In Europe, it comes from the Italian Alps. He uses Macassar Ebony from South-east Asia for decorative flourishes. The binding is what joins the guitar's top and sides. It's made of Hawaiian koa from Hawaii or Tasmanian tiger myrtle.

Monteleone at work LINK

The 2008 'Teardrop Guitar'

The Four Seasons' 'Spring' guitar

He shaves each piece by hand in the workshop to bring out its resonance and then judges how they will interact. 'The


The job of a teacher is to get to know the material and tell it what it can do. Each one of them is challenging me to reveal its voice. He says that his pieces are well-known for their smooth and even tonal balance. It sounds more piano-like, I think.

Ready to join the top and bottom of a guitar

The workshop of Monteleone's Chisels LINK

While Monteleone now has a variety of standard models that take between three and four months to complete; he is still most excited about the challenges that challenge his imagination. 'The

Four Seasons Guitars

He says that they were a personal project. I began to see a quartet guitars as voices. "Well, what about the seasons?" I thought. I thought, "Well, how about the seasons?"" And the 'train guitars featured finishes – tuning keys, bridge – and paintwork inspired from historic locomotives such as the Santa Fe Super Chief or the New Jersey Blue Comet.


Although the waiting list can be long, guitars made to customer specifications are worth it. Monteleone says, "I start with a list." What is the instrument supposed to do? What will you be playing? What is your style? Also, I ask you what you don’t want. It's often easier to pinpoint the issue.

Monteleone might seem to have earned the right not to work, but he is just as determined as ever. Continue reading.


John Monteleone: The Chisels Are Calling

Is available on Apple TV