Gander Gemini

It seems like ever since the solidbody electric guitar was invented, people have been bent on modifying its look. Carved tops and curvy offset cutaways turned the plain-Jane Telecaster template into the graceful beauties we know as the Les Paul and Stratocaster, but it was inevitable that some luthiers would eye those classics as mere starting points for more adventurous designs. Canadian guitar maker Ray Gander is a 6-string sculptor who makes custom instruments for those who want to wield something that walks the line between art piece and musical instrument. What your $4,900 buys you here is a very labor-intensive piece of craftsmanship, rife with swooping curves that Gander has painstakingly carved into the Gemini’s maple top and mahogany back. The mahogany neck flows into the body via a set joint that’s as sleek as a racing yacht’s hull and it’s topped with a Brazilian rosewood fretboard. The flower-bud-shaped headstock—for some reason also hewn from Brazilian rosewood—is cover
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The Gemini is assembled around a carbon-fiber beam that, according to Gander, eliminates the need for a trussrod while making the body-to-neck and neck-to-headstock areas extremely strong. Hardware details include Grover tuners, Seymour Duncan ’59 humbuckers, dual Volume and Tone controls and a 3-way selector, a Schaller roller bridge, and a Gander-made vibrato tailpiece. The latter is a flush-mount affair that yields plenty of upward bend but can only detune a minor third at best (make that a half step on the high E string) before squishing the rubber pad that limits the bar’s travel. Minor niggles include nut ends that jut out far enough to feel and fret tangs that are visible in the edges of the fretboard. The frets ends are smoothly finished, however.

The Gemini plays well thanks to its satin finished “C”-shaped neck and low action. The intonation is satisfyingly musical, and the tones though our test amps (a Cornford
Carrera and a Mesa/Boogie Express 5:25) are clear and robust with nice sustain qualities. The overall sound—warm and fairly resonant, with good sense of mass behind the notes—puts the Gemini in the familiar humbucker/ maple/mahogany camp. But the sideways/ opposing layout of the controls is decidedly odd. The knobs definitely look cool hidden in those deep carves that flank the pickups, but this configuration makes it impossible to use them normally—as in pinky volume swells—and extremely easy to change their settings inadvertently (particularly on the upper set) as you move your right arm around. No cigar for this aspect of the Gemini’s individuality.

If you’re the type of player who appreciates guitars that meld old-world craftsmanship, exotic woods, and lots of design chutzpah, the Gemini is but one example of what Ray Gander can do for you. The instruments you see at all look as suitable for art gallery display as stage use, so if you’re in the market for something unique in the 6-string realm, you need to take a look at the Gander line.

Gander Guitars, (204) 785-1521;