We recently had a chance to chat with Thierry Raynaud, whose hobby really caught our attention. Thierry is a miniature guitar maker and someone who is really passionate about what he does. He makes some of the most beautiful and spot-on replicas of the famous guitars, and it was very interesting to hear and learn some of the details behind the process.
For more information about Thierry and his guitars, please visit his Facebook page – My Little Guitar.
What got you into guitars in general? Do you play one yourself?
Thierry: The first time I really paid attention to the guitars and basses was when I discovered the band KISS in 1980. I first heard their music, but then I got the chance to see the musicians and their instruments – the Axe bass, the Mirror Ball Iceman and all the different Ace’s Les Pauls – the light one, the smoking one and the one with 3 pickups. This is the day I fell in love with the Les Paul. I also became a huge KISS fan and started looking closely at their instruments; I was fascinated by the design, the colors…
As a kid, I made a lot of model kits; planes, cars, bikes, boats, etc. At the same time, I was a huge Star Wars addict, and my parents didn’t really want to buy me all the spaceships – so I just decided to make them out of paper on my own. Then all of my friends would come to my house with their figures – it was great! When KISS became more important in my life, I naturally wanted to make something special, and in 1984 I decided to make some of their guitars. The first ones were really ugly because I didn’t know anything about those instruments. But I tried again and again; I started buying guitars magazines at the local newspaper shop, and I later bought some really good books in English.
Thierry showing Eric Carr his miniature drum kit.
In 1988, KISS came back to France, and I was 18 and able to go in Paris to see them. I decided to make something huge – a miniature version of Eric Carr’s drum kit from the Crazy Nights tour – full of chrome and all sorts of material. It took me two months to finish the drums, and I wasn’t sure I’ll be able to meet the band, but I believed in myself – I was a fool! Luckily in Paris, some friends of mine met a rock journalist who told us the name of the hotel that the band was staying in. I managed to meet Eric the next day, and I spent one whole afternoon with him. It was huge for me, even if my English wasn’t very good at the time.
That was the beginning of everything. The guys were really nice to me, and they made me believe that everything is possible. So I continued making some miniatures and I started reading more seriously everything I could find about guitars and basses. At the same time – I started playing, but I eventually stopped. I simply realized I was more interested in learning the history behind guitars, than how to play one.
When did you build your first miniature guitar?
Thierry: The first ugly ones were made in 1983. I was 13 years old, and I decided to make the whole KISS lineup on stage. It was very different from making a regular model kit – the basic material, KISS, was enough interesting for me.
One of Thierry’s first projects was making a scale model of the whole KISS lineup.
Later in the early 90’s, when my models became better and looked closer to the original, I decided to try and meet the artists that I personally loved – some French and some American. People usually thought that my models were unusual, and some of them even though it was funny – but it all worked in my favor since it helped me get through to the artists. I met Nuno Bettencourt, Bruce Springsteen, KISS (most of the past and present members), Lenny Kravitz, Aerosmith, Texas (Scottish band), Joe Satriani, Slash, Dave Stewart (from Eurythmics), The Scorpions and some French artists.
How did they react to your guitars? Any interesting stories to share?
Thierry: All were surprised. Very surprised and very kind to me. Joe Bonamassa immediately recognized his Skinnerburst Les Paul – it was amazing! Bruce Springsteen was very blessed and gave me picks, strings, and even one of his harmonicas. KISS was also very nice to me.
Joe Bonamassa’s “Skinnerburst” Les Paul (1/4 scale model)
Even if it was way back in 1990, I still perfectly remember my meeting with Nuno Bettencourt (Extreme). I was very shy and I asked him if it was possible to see the real N4. He called everybody around to find the guitar, and it took more than 10 minutes, but in the end, he showed me the N4. Same thing with Sharleen Spiteri from Texas. She was so amazed by the details on the guitar I made, that she asked her guitar tech to bring her actual Telecaster for comparison. All the people I met were fantastic, we talked about guitars, passion, knowledge – it’s was really amazing!
Some of the artists Thierry had a chance to meet. From left: Joe Bonamassa, Joe Satriani, Klaus Meine, Gene Simmons
How long does it take on average to build a miniature guitar?
Thierry: Actually, if I already made all the different parts – around three weeks. Some of the parts need to be well dried.
What part of the process takes most of your time?
Thierry: To create all the masterpieces of the new parts, then mold and cast them. Sometimes, making new bodies requires more time – finding good pictures and accurate information about the instrument can be a very challenging task.
Do you make all the parts yourself? Even the small metal parts – like that Bigsby tremolo you put on the Les Paul 100th Anniversary, which looks pretty cool by the way!
Thierry: Except for the tiny screws I use right now – I make all the other parts.
Thank you for your kind words regarding my work, but the Bigsby tremolo isn’t metal; it’s a resin cast with a very good paint job on it that makes it look like it’s metal! But it took me a long time to analyze and figure out how to make all the tiny parts on a 1/4 scale since I don’t have an actual one at home.
Les Paul Recording model with a Bigsby tremolo
What was the hardest guitar to make?
Thierry: Paul Stanley’s Flying V which has 842 rhinestones on it (featured on the cover of this article). Also – Ally McErlaine’s Gibson ES355 – specifically the body with the sunburst finish – that was not easy at all! Now, I’m more comfortable with the sunburst top. I found the right way to make them and since then I made several sunburst Les Pauls from ’58 to ’60.
Miniature replica of Ally McErlaine’s Gibson ES355
The Les Paul’s personal guitars were also very hard to make – the Recording model and the ’58 Custom in a white finish. It took a lot of parts to put those two together – 182 and 175 to be more precise.
Which one is your favorite?
Thierry: Ouch, the next one I’ll make. I’d love to make a collection of Les Paul sunbursts, the Collector Choice series, or some other Gibsons like the ES-335, 345 and 355 models. It would be amazing to have lots of them side by side. So if some musicians or collectors end up reading this – I’m your man.
I’m a real Gibson fan and I wish to make more of them – double necks, basses, Firebirds, etc. But I also love to make some others, like some of the guitars used by Jimi Hendrix, Billy Gibbons, the Beatles. I also really love the Steve Vai’s JEM. Basicly each new request I get is a challenge.
One of Thierry’s Les Paul replicas compared to the size of the actual guitar.
SO YOU BUILD GUITARS FOR REGULAR CUSTOMERS TOO?
Thierry: Yeah, some customers are musicians and they want their own guitar built in a miniature size – just recently I made a Teaburst Les Paul for someone. Others are fans who usually want their idol’s guitar or bass – like this one request I had a while ago to make some of Gary Moore’s Les Pauls for a fan.
Of course, there are also people who want to give the guitar to someone as a present. I’ve had a request from two sons to make their father’s vintage black Stratocaster with all the scratches, and on one other occasion, few guys asked me to make a replica of their friend’s Les Paul Custom which they gave him for his 50th birthday. They later sent me a few pictures with the guy holding his actual guitar and the one I made him, and I was told he really liked it!
I can basically make any kind of a replica. All I need is some good pictures of the front, the back, and I need to know if you want any special details on the guitar. After I establish what kind of a project I’m dealing with, I can then tell you how much it’s gonna cost to make one, and if needed – you can pay me in two installments.
Do you ship internationally?
Thierry: Yes of course. Each guitar comes with a display stand, and the shipping is with tracking number.
WHAT IS THE BEST WAY FOR PEOPLE TO CONTACT YOU?
Thierry: I, unfortunately, don’t have a website yet, just my Facebook page – which I update very often. But perhaps the best way is to send me a message at [email protected]