Tomas Holgado with one of his guitars (Photos by Craig Carlson)

The body of the guitar is nicked with small dents from the embedding of nails and staples and the scrapes of soles from thousands of feet. The instrument is crafted from 100-year-old wood is from one of Atlanta’s most iconic music venues – The Masquerade – and designer Tomas Holgado swears that you still smell spilled beer and smoke ingrained from thousands of concerts held there.

To discover how Holgado obtained the timber and how the guitars sound, you need to dig into the past.

The original location of The Masquerade was in the DuPre Excelsior Mill, which was built in the 1890s on North Avenue in Old Fourth Ward. For decades, The Masquerade hosted music lovers on one of its three levels – Heaven, Hell and Purgatory. Musical luminaries like Nirvana, Coldplay and Oasis performed there before they became household names.

A luthier, musician and audio engineer, Holgado spent countless hours at The Masquerade. He attended concerts as a fan and later as an employee for a company that supplied equipment to touring bands when they performed at the venue. During this time, he forged strong relationships with the management and staff.

When the mill property was sold to a development group in 2015 and The Masquerade moved to Underground Atlanta, Holgado discovered some lumber slated for the garbage. Sensing a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, he asked the owners if he could have it and craft guitars from the wood. They said yes.

Holgado’s guitar creations.

“I was very fortunate,” he said. “I don’t think the reaction would have been the same if I wanted to make stools or benches out of it.”

Soon, the lumber was in his Decatur studio and he began to create guitars and basses from the timber.

“The wood is 100-plus-year-old heart pine,” he said. “Also, it’s been indoors in a relatively dry environment for about 100 years, which is just heavenly for woodworking. Not to mention, it spent 40 years in company of a huge list of incredible music acts, thousands of fans and all the wonderful cigarette-beer-rock n’ roll smells and such that come with it.”

The air, dust, oils and that unique atmosphere of the club have blended together to produce a unique sound Holgado calls “amazing.”

“The tone is definitely airier and more open sounding than a traditional mahogany body like a Gibson Les Paul. Being so old and having drying so long, the sustain is remarkable.”

Keeping those aforementioned scrapes and nail marks was part of the process to preserve the lineage of The Masquerade, Holgado said. And he isn’t making these guitars for display only. He wants them to be played and carry on the legacy of the club.

Thus far, he has crafted three guitars and one bass and has enough material to make four more.

Holgado doesn’t only create guitars and basses from wood at The Masquerade. An expert luthier, he has his own line, Holgado Handmade Guitars. These guitars are crafted exactly to customer specifications, take between two and three months to make and range in price from $1,500 to $2,000.

These are my pride and joy,” he said. “As part of the process, we sit down and discuss options for your instrument — body and neck shape, lumber choices, pickups and other hardware choices and finishes and wiring.”

Holgado looks at some of the wood salvaged from The Masquerade .

He also customizes existing guitars and is rolling out a new line of guitars called Holgado Hot Rods, which are bodies and necks that arrive at his shop pre-fabricated. At a lower price point — $900 to $1,200 – Holgado can mold these to fit the customer’s specifications.

And for a tune-up, set up or simple modifications, you can give him a call and set up an appointment. He said he’s happy to do in-house while you drink a beer and shoot the breeze.

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