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Instruments currently built in Eugene, OR since 2006. Previously built in San Leandro, CA from 1985-2005. Novak has built custom guitars since 1970, in locations from New York to California.
Luthier Ralph Novak began playing guitar at age fourteen in 1965, and also began experimenting with guitar design, modifying guitars, and making (crude) custom parts. By age sixteen, Novak was repairing and customizing guitars for friends and doing some freelance repair for local music stores. Novak continued part-time repairwork through high school at Stuyvesant in New York, and through college at Brooklyn College, where he studied music. By age nineteen Novak was working with Charles LoBue at GuitarLab in Greenwich Village in New York. Later, he quit college to work full-time at GuitarLab, where he worked with some of New York City's finest guitarists and built custom guitars. In his spare time, Novak began working on innovative designs with LoBue.
Around 1975, LoBue and GuitarLab moved uptown to Alex's Music on West 48th street. Novak stayed at Alex's for about a year, and then began freelance repair work for several stores on West 48th as well as seeing private clients in his repair shop in a downtown loft.
In 1978, Novak and LoBue moved to the San Francisco Bay area, and worked together until LoBue moved back to New York City. Novak stayed in the Bay area and worked at Subway Guitars in Berkeley, later becoming a partner and helping to build it into the viable repair shop it is today. In 1985, Novak left the partnership to open his own repair shop in Oakland, where he also built several custom instruments per year. In 1989, Novak received a U.S. patent for his "Fanned Fret" system, and began working on prototype guitar and bass models and exploring the potential of the "Fanned-Fret" system. In 1992, the Novax "Fanned-Fret" concept was included in Business Week magazine's "1992 Idea Winners," and received the Industrial Design Society Award for Excellence in 1993 (the last music-related award was Ned Steinberger's headless bass in 1982).
The first official Novax guitar was completed in 1993, as the result of several years of research, development and gathering opinions and suggestions from players of all styles of music. Novak eventually obtained custom hardware for his system, and has since concentrated on building Expression series solidbodies, AX series semihollowbodies, and Serenade model acoustics, as well as mandolin models, basses, seven- and eight-string models and unique custom-ordered instruments.
The patented Novax "Fanned-Fret" concept has been licensed out to such notables as Dingwall Designer Guitars, Klein Custom Guitars, and Acacia Instruments, and in late 1995, Moses Graphite announced retrofit epoxy-graphite Novax-style necks for Precision and Jazz basses.
Due to the labor-intensive nature of the work, Novak has "retired" from the daily repair business to focus directly on meeting the demand for his custom instruments.
(biography courtesy Ralph Novak, March 18, 1996). For more information, visit Novax's website or contact them directly.

From Blue Book Publications:

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