Mike Lipe Master Builder, Mentor and Friend

Everyone has those people in their lives whose influence has forever changed their destiny.

The first time this happened to me was in December of 1983.On a cold blistery winter day in Pittsburgh Pennsylvania I first saw a young Edward Van Halen clad in shredded jeans and a tiger striped sport coat playing guitar in the video for the song “Jump”.  It was at that point that I declared Eddie Van Halen the coolest guy alive. This event would lead me to pick up a guitar and would eventually lead to a lifelong love and obsession with the electric guitar.

The second time this would happen to me was the summer of 1997.

 In 1990 I had moved from my small Pittsburgh coal mining town to Hollywood California to follow my dreams of playing music and “making it big”. I enrolled in the Musicians Institute to study Professional Guitar and was living my dream studying guitar by day and living the Hollywood lifestyle at night.  I gave myself a 5 year plan to make it in the music business. Five years had come and gone and I started to realize that the rock star life was probably not to be for me. So I did what every musician dreads. I cut my hair and I got a real job. It was shortly after that that I got to meet the great Mike Lipe.

 I got a job driving a route truck and it was on that route that I drove past and industrial warehouse that was stocked to the hilt with guitar necks and bodies.  That warehouse was the original location of Wilkins Guitar Finishes. Pat Wilkins is one of the premier guitar finishers in the industry. He does contract work for the Artist Series of ESP, Yamaha and Ibanez guitars as well as several of the custom builders in California. I stopped in that day to admire Pat’s work and got to meet him. He is a great guy and a true professional. Pat was doing the finish work on the Yamaha Pacifica Series of Guitars and Mike Lipe was contracted by Yamaha to do the final assembly work on the Pacifica guitars before sending them back to Yamaha. I got to meet Mike and immediately began to admire him and his work.

My friendship with Mike began when I started taking my guitars to his house to get them setup. One of the nice benefits of having a real job was that I actually had money so I could actually buy guitars. I went through a phase where I bought some fantastic guitars at pawn shops for dirt cheap prices. Some needed minor work and some needed more intensive work so I took them to Mike to get fixed.

One day I brought him an ESP M1 Horizon Custom that I bought for a mere $400 that needed to be re-fretted.  I asked him how much and told him I would pay him double if he let me watch.  He agreed but only if I didn’t touch anything or ask any questions.

 I agreed of course but before the first lesson was over he was showing me exactly what he was doing and why he did things the way he did. He let me ask every question I could think of and he showed me what pitfalls to avoid in removing frets and the proper way to seat and glue new frets. He could tell I was hooked and like a true master teaching a student he took me under his wing and answered all of my questions. At the end of that first session he gave me an old set of Channelock fret nippers  as a gift that are today one of my most prized possessions.

For the next several years I visited Mike as often as I could. He taught me the fundamental physics of guitar construction and we talked about the positive and negative design elements of both classic and modern guitar designs.   Mike has been a true mentor and friend and I can say without any hesitation that there would be no Pasquale Custom Guitars if it were not for his friendship.

Now you may ask yourself “Why is any of this important?”

If that’s the case then you truly have no idea who Mike Lipe is so please let me elaborate.

Mike Lipe is a Master Builder and a true genius in the craft of guitar making. He learned the art of woodworking and instrument making from an old violin maker in the mid- seventies when he worked in a small music shop.

In the early eighties he went to work for guitar manufacturer Mighty Mite and eventually opened his own shop and became L.A.’s Original Guitar Doctor.

 This store was bought out by Hoshino USA in 1989 which was better known as The Ibanez US Custom Shop. Mike’s main focus was the development of their Artist Series Guitars. Mike worked intimately with Paul Gilbert, Joe Satriani and Steve Vai on their Ibanez Signature Series guitars. In his time there, he made every one of Joe Satriani’s guitars, cutting every neck by hand. He also made all of Paul Gilberts guitars for the Mr. Big albums and handmade the Steve Vai  Anniversary Jem.

In 1997 Ibanez closed down the US Custom Shop.  Mike did contract work for Yamaha and a few other companies until 2000 when he launched his own signature series of LIPE Guitars.

 Today he has reached the level of Master-Luthier and his guitars are highly sought all over the world.  He is a true genius that understands every element of guitar construction and design as well as variances in playing styles and player preferences.

 For more information check out www.lipeguitars.com. …Tell him I sent you.

I am grateful to have him in my life as a friend and mentor and I build every one of my guitars as if it were going to be inspected by him. His guitars are perfect and his standards are high. These are the standards of excellence that I strive to bring into every guitar that I make. 

Contact Pasquale USA Custom

Phone: 312-912-7533

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