Michael Tobias Design
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ABOUT MTD

We are Michael Tobias Design (MTD), luthiers of some of the finest handcrafted American instruments— welcome to our virtual studio! We specialize in the creation of custom basses and guitars, with a great emphasis on sound, playability, and of course, the look of each instrument. Every instrument is built-to-order, built to last, and built to meet each player’s needs— but don’t just take our word for it, visit one of our dealers and try one for yourself!

We build approximately ten instruments per month, as experienced craftsmen in the design and construction of both electric and acoustic basses and guitars. Our current team consists of Michael Tobias, Daniel Tobias (Michael’s son), and long-time friend and associate Charlie Kniceley.

Our knowledge and experience extends to consulting and development projects done for other companies, as well as our own. Such projects include the Lakland hollow body bass, the Modulus Genesis bass, a number of acoustic guitars, Alvarez (with Joe Veillette) baritone acoustic and ABG, and a project for American Showster (alongside Chris Hofschneider). 


Handmade Basses

MTD USA Basses are made to order, in Kingston New York.


Handmade Guitars

MTD USA Guitars are made to order, in Kingston New York.


Kingston Instruments

MTD Kingston Guitars and Basses are made to Michael Tobias' specifications, by carefully vetted manufacturing facilities.

MICHAEL
TOBIAS
RULES

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THE TEAM

MICHAEL TOBIAS (Founder)
I am Michael Tobias, and I have been building instruments since 1974. I started in Washington, D.C., working in The Guitar Shop and doing repairs for a time, to learn about other luthiers' instruments and construction methods. Most of my early work was on acoustic instruments. I worked on a great variety of instruments including Martin, Gibson, Fender, Kohno, Ramierez, banjos and mandolins, harp guitars, and even a few sitars.

After leaving Tobias Guitars at the end of 1992 and fulfilling my contractual obligations for consulting and non-competition with Tobias, I started building MTD instruments at the beginning of 1994. Music has evolved over the years but there are still a few basic and fundamental constants— rules that must be dealt with. The instrument must satisfy the creative and emotional needs of the owner and it must play in tune.

 

DANIEL TOBIAS (Associate)

 

CHARLIE KNICELEY (Associate)
Charlie, a Hudson Valley native (of thirty years), is a long-time friend and employee. He is a fine luthier, exceptionally talented musician, and is a cherished member of MTD. Charlie has worked with a number of top-notch artists such as Al Martino, Jerry Bale, Ron Carter, Eileen Fulton, Joe Beck, Ed Summerlin, Danny Lewis, Randy Ciarlante, Jack Dejohnette, Mike DeMicco, Warren Bernhardt, Pete Levin, Connie Francis, Danny Brubeck, Honi Coles, Billy Reed, Jimmy Eppard, Brenda Buffalino, Machan Taylor, Mimi Hines, Hal Linden, Enzio Stuarte, Lucille Ricardo, Lew Soloff, Lou Marini, Rashid Ali, and the Hudson Valley Philharmonic. After retiring from the music scene in 1995, he has returned and has re-established himself in the musical fabric of the North East.

MICHAEL
TOBIAS
DESIGN

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HISTORY

A future set in wood

Renowned for his passion, skill, and craftsmanship, MTD founder Michael Tobias began making guitars in the 1970s. Opening Tobias Guitars in April of 1977, Michael Tobias sold instruments through his first business, known as The Guitar Shop. The first Tobias Guitar (serial number 0178), followed soon after in January 1978.

Following the sale of The Guitar Shop in 1980, Michael Tobias relocated to San Francisco, where he partnered with manufacturing business, Sierra Guitars. A short-lived endeavor, Sierra Guitars produced about fifty instruments before Michael’s departure. Continuing on his creative journey, Michael Tobias relocated to Costa Mesa California, in May of 1981. 

After several months of operating a repair shop in Costa Mesa, Michael Tobias relocated the business to Hollywood California. Tobias Guitars continued the repair and construction of custom instruments, (basses and guitars) with the help of long-time friend (and MTD family member) Bob Lee and Kevin Almieda.

A year after the relocation to Hollywood (1623 Cahuenga Blvd.) Tobias Guitars was able to retire from the repair business and focus solely on the creation of custom instruments. Kevin Almieda (Music Man) left Tobias Guitars and was succeeded by the additional members Bob McDonald and Makoto Onishi.

"The business grew by leaps and bounds. In June of 1988, we had so many back orders that we could not accept any new orders until the January NAMM show in 1990.”- M.Tobias. 

Tobias Guitars continued on, riding a wave of cult-like popularity. After several attempts to acquire larger and more equiped facilities to satisfy the demand for Tobias Guitars, it was time for a change— on January 1st of 1990, Michael Tobias sold Tobias Guitars to Gibson.

The Gibson Buyout

"Gibson was instrumental in moving us to a bigger shop in Burbank and setting us up with a great spray booth and dust collection system. We finally met So Cal safety codes. Basses built during 1990-1992 era were built initially by the same crew that had helped establish Tobias Basses, as one of the most sought after basses on the planet. We added several people during 1990 and ended up with a great 10-man shop.”- M.Tobias

In early 1990, Gibson provided the resources and facilities necessary to satisfy the demand and continued production of Tobias Guitars. While the business prospered, the growing need for Tobias instruments remained a challenge. Tobias Guitars sought the help of outside Vendors, creating models such as the “Model T” and “Standard Tobias" basses. By late 1992, in the interest of the corporation, Tobias Guitars relocated to Nashville— a move that after much deliberation, the original Tobias did not follow.

Despite Gibson's ownership of Tobias Guitars, all basses created up until the last Los Angeles Tobias/ Gibson bass (serial number 2044) were hand built by the original Tobias team. While Michael Tobias left Tobias Guitars in December of 1992 and served as a consultant for Gibson during the early stages of Tobias Nashville operations, the first production of instruments from Tobias Guitars in Nashville consisted of around 60 basses that were neither numbered nor completed by any member of the Los Angeles Tobias Guitars team. 

"They had some trouble at first, but have since done a fairly good job making Tobias basses.”- M.Tobias

the new instruments

After the sale of Tobias Guitars to Gibson, Michael Tobias honored his one year non-competition agreement, ending in December of 1993. During that time, he relocated to upstate New York, designed prototype instruments, and built the custom shop from which he operates today. 

The first instruments to come from the New York shop (Eclipse) totaled fifty in number and were largely 35” scale bolt-ons with 3 neck thrus. Michael settled on the name Michael Tobias Design and the rest is history.