Keystone Instruments: Japanese Artisan

By Steve Rider

Nishi Keisuke, the luthier behind Keystone Stringed instruments, doesn’t go in for lengthy bios and personal history. On the Keystone Instruments website, you can see a single picture of the creative genius focused intently on his work. While Nishi would prefer to let the stunning images of his luthier’s labors of love speak for themselves, the truth is that he is a man who spent years learning in Japan and North America. He graduated from ESP Guitar Craft Academy, where he gained a thorough education on design, finishing, electronics, maintenance and set up. But that wasn’t enough for the young man from Japan. Keisuke then attended the renown Roberto-Venn School of Luthiery in Arizona. Following his comprehensive education, Nishi Keisuke went on to work at First Act Inc. in Boston, MA. First Act has a Custom Shop in Sommerville, MA, where the Nishi made many custom electric guitars as well as did R&D work. During his time at First Act, he designed models that they still make today. Nishi met world-renowned luthier Mario Beauregard while at First Act and decided that he wanted to study with him. He sent requests to Beauregard, which were not immediately accepted, but after months of patience, he finally went to study with Beauregard in Montreal.


Following his time with Mario Beauregard, Nishi finally went out on his own, and in September of 2007, he founded Keystone Instruments.Taking a visual journey through the Keystone Instruments gallery, it becomes crystal clear that he was ready to explore his own unique narrative on guitar design. His acoustic guitars are much more than just front, back, and sides. He designs in three dimensions, adding planes and contours which are not often seen on standard models. Ogawa Inlay Craft decorates his shapely masterpieces with luxurious, spiraling mother of pearl artistry. The MC Original Shape line is described as having a rich harmonic overtone and sports a curvy hourglass shaped body with a wider bottom reminiscent of a classical parlor guitar. His MC (Cuban Mahogany) 2014 model sports a solid bear claw spruce top, solid Cuban mahogany back and sides, Madagascar rosewood fingerboard and bridge, scalloped X bracing, and a one-piece Honduran mahogany neck. There is a beautifully contoured indentation on the front side of the body next to the neck, in a contrasting wood, providing better access to the lower fretboard and enhancing the beauty of the instrument.


Keystone’s Original Shape Mod-D line is a dreadnought with a full cutout that slowly climbs away from the neck to rise to a sharp point. The Mod-D has what Nishi refers to as a 3D rosette, which has a circular groove carved in it that creates different visual experiences when viewed from different angles. Spruce tops are paired with a variety of woods for the sides and backs, such as Sacha Rosewood and African Blackwood. Again Ogawa Inlay Craftworks its magic across fretboards and bridges, backs and elbow contour cutouts. Nishi’s offerings truly combine artistry and full, sparkling tone fit for the most discerning of musicians.

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