Made in Tampa Bay: Virgil Guitars customizing music around the world

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Virgil Mandanici calls sunny Tampa, Florida home. It's also the home of Virgil Guitars: Handmade, high-end, custom guitars for customers all around the world.

Virgil lives and breathes frets, strings, and bridges. He builds guitars during the day and, during his off time, teaches the next generation of musicians to play.

A student's father was the one who recommended Virgil should make custom guitars as a full-time gig.

He had a little bit of woodworking experience, making shelves and other odd projects. The first guitar he made, he sold to the man from who he bought his first guitar. That first instrument was purchased for $17,000.

"I wasn't even planning on making a second guitar, but I got bit with what is called 'the builder's bug.' It's like, 'Wow, this is kind of cool,' and then, all-of-a-sudden, I'm thinking... 'What should I do for my second guitar?" Virgil recalled.

Now, eight years later, he makes an average of five guitars a year. Clients who commission a custom guitar from Virgil watch the process, from beginning to end, through posts on social media.

"The art form is called intarsia, and intarsia are basically just wood pieces that are glued together, but they sand them before they glue them together," Virgil explained.

The result is a 3D work of art.

His designs are intricate and include multiple materials: Mother of pearl, metal, shell, stone, and wood.

After the client gives Virgil an idea about what they want, he begins drawing and then building on a computer, the design.

"I've been an artist, a pen-and-ink artist since the 70s and I do really fine-line, intricate, radiograph stuff," Virgil explained. "Like, let's put a thousand circles into a square-inch type thing, so I'm really into the intricate stuff."

Virgil showed off a fingerboard with a nautical theme.

"There's a total of 569 pieces of shell and recon stone that were used to make this fingerboard here," Virgil said. "This is called white mother of pearl, right here. Just doing the mermaid itself, that was probably two weeks of work total. I find it really relaxing to do."

This particular guitar Virgil will sell for between $40,000 and $45,000, but his prices range from $2,500 and up.

"What I find fascinating is when someone is playing my guitars, and I don't even care what level of a guitarist they are, I just love watching people playing my guitars. It's like really cool, I made that guitar."

For more information on Virgil Guitars, visit