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For 70 years, Kiesel and Carvin Guitars have been building high-quality guitars, basses, pickups, part necks and accessories for pro and hobbyist musicians alike. And because we sell directly to the customer, with no middle man, we offer much higher value with products that would sell for 2 to 3 times more if we sold through retail stores.

Kiesel was founded in 1946 by Lowell Kiesel as the L. C. Kiesel Company in Los Angeles. Kiesel relocated briefly to his home state of Nebraska, but returned to California in 1949, and changed the name of the company to Carvin, after his two eldest sons, Carson and Gavin. The company began by making pickups and other accessories, then branched out to guitars, basses and other gear. Early Carvin instruments were made by Lowell Kiesel, and Carvin also sold rebadged guitars made by Harmony and Kay. Originally, Carvin advertised in the back of publications such as Popular Mechanics, and sent out one-sheet product information at customers' requests. In 1954, the first Carvin mail-order catalog was produced, establishing the direct-to-customer business model that is still used today. In the 1960s Carvin built most guitars from mainly Hofner components, before returning to manufacturing their own instruments in the 1970s when Mark Kiesel took over the guitar department and developed the Custom Shop.

Lowell Kiesel

Throughout the 1950s and 1960s, Carvin expanded its product lines, selling popular lap and pedal steel guitars, electric basses and guitars, mandolins and doubleneck instruments. The company relocated several times - originally moving from Baldwin Park (outside Los Angeles) to Covina, California in 1956, then to Escondido, California in 1968. 1970 was when our President Mark Kiesel was brought on to take over the Guitar Division. Mark wanted to design and build their own line guitars and basses, and began allowing customers to choose from various options, making each guitar or bass a unique, custom built instrument. The various models and options expanded throughout the 1980s, and Carvin Guitars gained exposure on MTV and other outlets by being associated with such artists as Jefferson Starship, The Bangles, Missing Persons Frank Zapa and Steve Vai.

Craig Chaquico   Craig Chaquico, ca. 1989

In 1988, Carvin guitars and basses switched from being set-neck models to (mostly) neck-through design. In 1995 the move to the current factory location in San Diego was made, this is the same year Jeff Kiesel was hired. As time has gone on and the Custom Shop has developed many new options, finishes and woods were added, as were signature instruments bearing the names of artists such as Craig Chaquico, Allan Holdsworth, Frank Gambale, Neil Zaza, Lee McKinney, Brian Bromberg, Darryl Williams and Roy Vogt.

On February 1st 2015, the name was changed back to Kiesel Guitars to honor our founder Lowell Kiesel. Today, Kiesel and Carvin Guitars operate in a modern facility in San Diego, and employs over 50 people. Mark and Jeff Kiesel run the day to day business as well as design all the models and come up some pretty amazing new features and finishes. There is a Carvin store in San Diego, where customers can choose from a wide selection of guitars & basses and other accessories. Over one million catalogs are sent out every year to customers all over the globe, as well as email newsletters and advertisements in all the major music publications. We are constantly improving the products, our Custom Shop build over 5000 custom guitars and basses each year.

Learn more about the history of Kiesel and Carvin Guitars on the Carvin Museum.

Lee McKinney
Neil Zaza
In Memory of Lowell C. Kiesel © 1996 - 2016 Kiesel Guitars | All Rights Reserved | Privacy Policy - Custom Guitars and Basses Made in the USA