You could say Egon Rauscher discovered his love for guitars at an early age. The Swiss-born luthier built his first electric at the tender age of 11. The idea that he would one day found his own instrument company seemed to be, he says, “destiny.” Or maybe it was practicality. “I couldn’t really afford to buy guitars,” he explains, “so I started to build them myself.”
Rauscher has been hand-building those guitars for the past 20 years under the brand name Soultool. The company is based in Buttikon, Switzerland, roughly 20 miles east of Zurich. In Soultool’s earliest days, Rauscher offered just two models. “A Strat and a Tele,” he says, then laughs. “What else?” But since that time, he’s busted out of the traditional mold, as demonstrated by the guitar shown here, a creation he calls the Laguz. “I realized that I could build a valid and distinctive single-cut design where people would not just go, ‘Ufff, another Les Paul copy!’” Rauscher says. While its single-cut shape recalls the Gibson design, the Laguz is almost an art deco take on it, with a widened and rounded lower bout that gives way to an angular and futuristic-looking top half. The result is something that feels undeniably modern but still has what Rauscher refers to as “that vintage lookalike feeling.”
That nod to the past is one of the few traditional aspects of the Laguz. Otherwise, the instrument is a truly unique creation. Rauscher’s attention to detail is impressive and meticulous, beginning with his choice of tonewoods. This particular Laguz Custom has a body and neck constructed from Cedrela odorata, also known as Spanish cedar. He chose it, he says, “because we wanted to make a lightweight and airy, acoustic-sounding guitar.” He also eschewed typical woods when it came to the fretboard, bypassing ebony, maple and rosewood in favor of ovangkol, which he selected for its clear highs, as well as for the fact that “it looks really nice,” he says.
Furthermore, the fingerboard features Rauscher’s 2-Zone fretting process, whereby the first seven frets measure 1.4mm wide and the rest are 1.3mm. Fretting this way, Rauscher explains, “optimizes the action and, consequently, the handling of the instrument.” A full-access neck joint and an exceptionally deep treble-side cutaway, with the body joining the fingerboard at the 21st fret, further contribute to ease of playability. “I’m a guitar player myself, and I was always stressed out about the poor playing comfort of a single-cut after the 15th fret,” Rauscher explains. “So I tried some different designs and ended up with the one on the Laguz.”
Other features on the guitar include an ABM wraparound bridge, Gotoh 510 tuners and a GraphTech TUSQ saddle. Pickups are a pair of Häussel 1959 Custom humbuckers, which, Rauscher says, “reproduce as best as possible the oldish, sweet and clear PAF sound that we thought would match the guitar perfectly.” The fingerboard, meanwhile, is free of fretboard markers and adorned only with a mother-of-pearl Laguz logo at the 12th fret. In place of traditional inlays, the neck sports fluorescent Lumilay side dots, which, Rauscher explains, “charge by daylight and glow in the dark” in order to assist with visibility onstage.
While the Laguz Custom’s unique woods and construction details contribute to exceptional playability and tone, it’s worth noting that the guitar is also an aesthetic stunner. For starters, there’s the arresting one-piece top of exceptional curly maple, which sports an ultra-thin IntenseBlue finish that allows the deep grain of the wood to show through. The finish color also makes an appearance on a small triangular patch of the Laguz’s headstock, in effect joining the guitar’s top and bottom in visual harmony. Another smart design note is the headstock shape itself, which is cut to run perfectly in line with the bass-side upper bout of the body. It’s a subtle, almost imperceptible touch, but one that further serves to foster a sense of symmetry across the instrument.
Despite the appealing looks of the Laguz, Rauscher stresses that his design choices are ultimately made in an effort to build guitars “more for the ears and less for the eye.” But, he adds, “I don’t mean that I feel my guitars are simple. All boutique guitars are pieces of art. But in my opinion they should first be instruments to play and make music with.”
For Rauscher, that primary belief in the guitar as a conduit for creativity is baked into the very name of his company. “Instruments are tools for our passion, our soul,” he says. “It’s our Soultool.”
There’s also another reason for the name: “Egon Rauscher Guitars doesn’t really sound as cool,” he admits.
Soultool Laguz Custom $6,160 soultool.com