Seventeenth century French novelist Antoine François Prevost may have said it best: “The heart of a father is the masterpiece of nature.”
It’s an adage that goes back centuries and one that gets to the essence of what luthier (guitar maker) Tomás Alfredo Delgado hopes he can share with his son, Tomás Candelario Delgado, during his lifetime. For the elder Delgado, it’s the same skills that were taught to him by his father and grandfather – how to build custom guitars and restore instruments.
Their family’s history as guitar makers spans nearly 100 years and four generations. It started with Delgado’s grandfather, Porfirio, and great-uncle, Candelario, forming a business in Juarez, Mexico, in 1928 and expanding into Tijuana. After almost 20 years, they moved to California and opened their shop, Candelas Guitars, in Los Angeles in 1947.
In 1989, Delgado’s father, also named Candelario, took over the family business. Now, Delgado manages the shop and has his son working with him as an apprentice. With the weight of a century of guitar making on their shoulders, which includes creating instruments for some of Mexico’s greatest artists like Miguel Aceves Mejia (“The God of the Ranchera”) and comedian
Mario Moreno (AKA Cantinflas), sometimes it’s a great idea to get out of the shop and breathe in some fresh air. “I recently decided that I need time to myself…getting out and having a balance in life,” Delgado said.
In the video “In Tune with Nature,” sponsored by Toyota, Delgado and his son hop into their Tundra and drive into the California forest to meet their friend and outdoor enthusiast, Zavier, and craft a one-of-a-kind guitar while being inspired by the nature that surrounds them.
While there, Zavier leads Delgado and his son down a series of trails to their destination where they begin to imagine the guitar they will make.
“You have to begin with an end in mind when you build an instrument,” Delgado said earlier in the video. “It has to be finished in your mind before you start it because if you make any mistakes along the way, then you’re just an average maker, and I don’t want to be average.”
It’s evident that the Delgados are far from average guitar makers. It starts from the way that they view nature around them and how they think about how the natural environment will give them the tools they need to create a remarkable guitar.
“When we go out and connect to nature, it just gives you a level of creativity,” the younger Delgado said. “It’s like, ‘Wow, I’m taking something that’s growing [in nature] and turning it into something that’s going to be completely repurposed. It gives you a different level of respect for the wood.”
Someday, the younger Delgado will be the one taking over the family business. He still has plenty of time before he will step in, so until then, he’s absorbing as much knowledge as he can from his father and from the natural landscape.
“We have a great setup here where we build quality instruments,” the younger Delgado said.“We’re able to provide a service and an experience for people. It’s more than I could ask for.”
His father agrees and looks forward to the day that his son will carry on the family legacy. “It’s a part of my life I never planned,” he said. “I get to watch my son work on his creative side. The biggest part is the fact that he chose to be here and wants to learn what I learned from my dad. As a luthier, you can live on forever.”