Sleek and Unique: Dean Gordon Guitars Mirus and Virtus

March 18th, 2015

This is an article from the all-new MARCH/APRIL 2015 issue of Guitar Aficionado magazine. For this story, plus features on Bob Seger, Brad Gillis of Night Ranger, the 50th anniversary of Martin’s D-35 guitar, Jon Haber, James Hetfield’s incredible Black Pearl Kustom car and more, pick up the new issue of Guitar Aficionado at our online store.

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SLEEK & UNIQUE: Dean Gordon Guitars Mirus and Virtus
By Richard Bienstock | Photos by Massimo Gammacurta

Dean Gordon first picked up a guitar in 2008, at the age of 14. Inspired by the custom Mansons he saw one of his favorite musicians, Matt Bellamy of Muse, playing, he began modifying his own instrument, a $60 Squier Strat. “I started changing the tuners, the saddles, the nut,” Gordon recalls. “Eventually, I bought some basic tools to do leveling, that kind of stuff. I was really into it.” He was so into it, in fact, that by 16 the New York City–born Gordon had landed apprenticeships with two local and renowned luthiers: Roger Sadowsky, of Sadowsky Guitars, and archtop builder Victor Baker.

Now 20, Gordon has struck out on his own with Dean Gordon Guitars, which he operates out of his garage in the Astoria section of Queens. He currently builds two models: the Mirus (a design he came up with “doodling in my sketchbook in 11th-grade English class,” he says) and the Virtus. Both combine classic construction—Gordon carves all his instruments by hand in that Astoria garage—with forward-thinking touches. To the latter point, his “trademark,” featured on both the Mirus and the Virtus, is a lower horn made of hand-shaped aircraft-grade aluminum.

“I was inspired to do something wacky,” Gordon says of the unusual appendage. “I took some elements from luthiers like [German builder] Ulrich Teuffel and a few others and collaged them into my own thing.”

In addition to offering striking aesthetic value, Gordon points out that the aluminum horn is ergonomically advantageous. “It not only reduces the weight of the guitar but I feel that it helps with the overall balance,” he says. “It also removes the barrier to access. It’s effortless to get up to those last few frets on my guitars. You’re not straining over that last little bit of wood. You don’t have to fight with the neck pocket area. You’re just there.”

Gordon likes to think of the Virtus (shown at top) as his “double-cut Strat” (a “heavy rock/metal” design, which is also available in seven- or eight-string versions) and the Mirus as his “single-cut Tele.” The iteration of the latter model shown here is Mirus #8—also known as Lights Resolve, due to it being a collaboration with musician Matthew Reich of the New York City–based alternative-rock band of the same name. Explains Gordon, “I made a deal with Matthew: I said, ‘I want to make you a guitar. You choose the way it’s gonna look, what pickups you want—everything—and I’ll let you experiment with it, play with it, record with it. I’m using this guitar as a test to see how it holds up and how it responds to different situations.”

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The Lights Resolve Mirus (above) sports several unique wood and hardware choices. The body is constructed from achihua, which, Gordon says, is a “sustainable wood that is super lightweight and has a very balanced tone. It kind of looks like Korina in its natural state.” The neck is constructed of “ultra-stable” Port Orford cedar and is topped with an Indian rosewood fingerboard. The Mirus also boasts a pair of Wolfetone Mean P-90 pickups, with “an overwound bridge and an underwound neck,” Gordon says. “So they make a nice, balanced set.”

The Virtus shown here—#7—features similarly unusual materials. Its body is constructed of a solid plank of pashaco, which, Gordon says, “is more commonly used in acoustics. It’s also very lightweight and really beautiful to look at. I knew I couldn’t cover it up, so instead I just put a poly clear coat over it.” The neck is maple with an Indian rosewood board, and pickups are two Rautia Ratbuckers. “They’re handmade in Finland, and they’re phenomenal,” Gordon says of the Ratbuckers. “Very aggressive and responsive.”

Both guitars sport Hipshot tuners and bridges. The string ferrules come from Austin-based Armadillo Machine Works. Gordon will also build custom instruments with any combination of woods, hardware, and finishes a client desires.

Owners of a Dean Gordon guitar will be in good company. The second instrument the luthier ever built, and the first he ever sold—Mirus #2—went to country superstar Keith Urban. “He came into Chelsea Guitars [in New York City, where Gordon also works as a repair tech] in 2013 to look at a Dumble amp we had in stock,” Gordon recalls. “I had the #2 there, and Keith sat for about 20 minutes playing it through the Dumble. Before he left he said, ‘I want the amp. How does it sound if I take the guitar also?’ That was when I realized I was going to take a break in my schooling and try to do this full time.”

Gordon pauses. “I’m just some knucklehead from Queens who found my niche. I may only be 20, but this is what I want to do with the rest of my life. And I know I will.”

LIST PRICE $2,500 and up
Dean Gordon Guitars

This is an article from the all-new MARCH/APRIL 2015 issue of Guitar Aficionado magazine. For this story, plus features on Bob Seger, Brad Gillis of Night Ranger, the 50th anniversary of Martin’s D-35 guitar, Jon Haber, James Hetfield’s incredible Black Pearl Kustom car and more, pick up the new issue of Guitar Aficionado at our online store.

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