It Might Get Weird: Mandanici’s Best Friend — Virgil Dueling Dragons Guitar

For inlay work, guitar builders often use all kinds of exotic materials, including shells, hardwoods, semiprecious stones and precious metals.

When building his Dueling Dragons guitar, luthier Virgil Mandanici of Virgil Guitars in Tampa, Florida, utilized all of the above, but he also incorporated two more unusual materials: teeth from prehistoric sharks, for the dragons’ teeth and claws, and puppy teeth, for the dragons’ horns.

“Using puppy teeth was my wife Lorrie’s idea,” Mandanici says. “She saved our puppy dogs’ teeth when they fell out, which usually happens when you are playing tug of war with them using old socks. One day she found an eyetooth from one, which I thought would make a perfect horn for the dragons. It took about a week to get the other tooth. I kept offering her a pair of pliers until that tooth finally came out!”

The exquisite inlay work on the Dueling Dragons guitar is impressive, as are the premium-grade materials, which include a Gabon ebony top and Tamboti pickup rings, and the detailed craftsmanship. Some other notable features are a custom-made Schroeder stop tailpiece/bridge, PRS Dragon II humbuckers with gold-plated covers, and custom control knobs with turquoise insets.

Even more incredible is the fact that this is the very first guitar that Mandanici ever built, although his 35 years as a player gave him excellent perspective and insight. In November 2012, the Dueling Dragons guitar sold for $17,000.

Virgil Guitars recently finished its ninth guitar, and work on number 10 is beginning soon. While many of Mandanici’s guitars feature intricately detailed inlay work, he says that he has no plans to use puppy teeth again, much to the relief of his furry friends.

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It Might Get Weird: Guitar World goes inside the minds of some of the world’s most creative custom-guitar builders.

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Chris Gill

Chris is the co-author of Eruption - Conversations with Eddie Van Halen. He is a 40-year music industry veteran who started at Boardwalk Entertainment (Joan Jett, Night Ranger) and Roland US before becoming a guitar journalist in 1991. He has interviewed more than 600 artists, written more than 1,400 product reviews and contributed to Jeff Beck’s Beck 01: Hot Rods and Rock & Roll and Eric Clapton’s Six String Stories.