Washington Giorgio Castaldi is a patient craftsman as he works alone in his small garage workshop. With care and precision, he shapes exotic woods into the style and form of classical and flamenco guitars.
It can take up to three months of work for him to reach the point where he’s satisfied with the tones and beauty of each guitar.
He listens to his favorite classical and flamenco musicians – often the Gipsy Kings and Armik – as he works.
But in this space, as he perfects each guitar, it doesn’t feel like work.
“Building guitars is my passion,” said Castaldi, owner of The Spanish Guitar Shop. As he works on each guitar, he said, “I’m in another world. It makes me feel great. I’m doing something that will last.”
Castaldi’s guitar shop is based in his home, in Lutz.
But he travels, too, to Orlando and Miami, where some of his clients live.
When not making his own guitars, he mends and repairs vintage, classical and flamenco guitars.
He is a longtime member of the Guild of American Luthiers, a nonprofit educational organization devoted to the art and craft of building, repairing and restoring stringed instruments.
If they’re stringed — ukuleles, mandolins, even electric guitars – Castaldi can repair them.
Landing in his current profession, at his Lutz location, came after Castaldi literally traveled the world.
Deep family roots in Italy
Castaldi’s family traces its roots in Italy through seven generations.
His American-style first name comes from his father, Edison Washington Castaldi.
He grew up in Uruguay, where his parents established the family after World War II. Members of his family are now scattered — living in Uruguay, Argentina and Spain.
His love for Spanish and Latin music emanates from his heritage.
“I listen every day,” he said. And, as he works, he listens to music.
First came his love for classical and flamenco music. Then, over the years, he developed his craft as a luthier.
He is a world traveler — sailing aboard cruise ships for 28 years as an engineer, most frequently based out of Miami.
He met his wife, Jackie, while she was a passenger on one of those cruises.
Initially, carpentry was a hobby — allowing him to make useful items when he was off duty.
He started with simple furniture pieces – chairs, tables and benches.
His skills evolved over time — into making and repairing intricate guitars, as well as other stringed instruments.
The family moved to Tampa in 2008.
When Castaldi retired, they settled in Lutz. His wife works in Tampa for Homeland Security.
No longer sailing the seas, Castaldi invests his time nurturing his relatively new business venture.
One of his first efforts in guitar repair was on his son’s electric guitar. He made his first flamenco guitar in 2010.
As a teenager in Uruguay, Castaldi played in a band with friends. A career in musical performance wasn’t in his future, but music and guitars remained a constant pleasure in his life.
He describes his musical talent with humility: “I play enough to make (guitars),” Castaldi said.
One of his prized possessions is a 1945 Jose Ramirez II guitar.
The Ramirez family is world-renowned through four generations of making Spanish classical and flamenco guitars, dating from the late 1880s.
A shelf in Castaldi’s den is lined with books about guitars and about wood, and he refers to them, in the midst of projects.
The materials have titles including, “Understanding Wood,” “Identifying Wood,” and two volumes of “The Big Red Book of America Luthieres.”
The Big Red books contain articles gleaned from the American Luthier magazine.
Castaldi is self-taught, learning through experience and by pursuing information to satisfy his curiosity.
His knowledge of wood and its effect on sound tone is vast.
For instance, he said, dark wood keeps the resonance in the tone; light woods produce brighter and crisper tones.
He’s looking forward to the next luthier convention in Washington State, which is planned for Summer 2023.
It had been set for 2022, but was rescheduled due to COVID-19.
One of the joys of being a luthier is meeting people who share his passion for classical guitars.
Talking about guitars can provoke special memories, Castaldi said.
Recently, for instance, he had a conversation with a caller about a Juan Orosco guitar.
Castaldi’s first guitar, when he was 16, was an Orosco.
The caller’s question, the luthier said, “took me back to my teen years.”
By Kathy Steele
Published January 05, 2022