About Us

Doner Designs - Warming Hearts with Cool Guitars
  Also see the "In the News" tab which contains a local newspaper article that summarizes our early history.

We build guitars to raise funds for some of our favorite charities, but Doner Designs is not entirely an altruistic pursuit - we have a lot of fun with it and it's a good father/son activity.  We hope that the guitars add to the attraction of the events where they are featured and that they will help build awareness for the causes long after the auctions are over.

In 2008 my son Richard purchased his first electric guitar.  A week later we returned to Guitar Center to buy an electric bass for me.  Soon thereafter we started tinkering with upgrades of hardware and electronics.  Jamming and guitar building have been great father-son activities for us ever since. 


Past experience with building electronic equipment, boats and RC models made it relatively easy to learn about working on guitars.  Dozens of sources on the internet helped fill the holes in our knowledge base.  By the fall of 2012, when Doner Designs was founded, we had built or significantly modified more than a half dozen guitars and had made significant styling modifications to a handful others.  Richard is now in college studying electrical engineering, so we will likely continue to develop more innovative electronic setups in the guitars.  We're currently working on a Time Machine Bass but haven't yet been visited by our future selves.


During 2012, as we considered the idea of building for charity auctions, our thoughts quickly turned to a family we have been close to for many years and who lost their daughter Jenna to cancer in 2011.  The first two Doner Designs guitars were dedicated to her.  A metallic blue leopard themed guitar was built with and for Jenna’s family, in her memory, using her favorite colors. and themes  The experience of building the guitar with Jenna’s family also served as a pilot for potentially offering guitar building workshops in the future (potentially as part of wish fulfillment for the Make-A-Wish Foundation at some point).


The first military themed guitar was built in memory and honor of Jenna’s brave fight against her illness.  The fighter theme was important during her final days when friends and family visited and sent pictures of themselves in camo attire symbolizing their support of her battle.  The Air Force themed bass guitar was donated to the Chicago area Make-A-Wish Foundation for auction at their annual Wish Ball black-tie fundraiser in May of 2013.  Make-a-Wish had previously granted Jenna’s wish to swim with dolphins in Florida while she was undergoing treatment for her disease.


Our military style guitars have proven to be a good fit with organizations who support kids fighting serious illness.  The Army Guitar was donated to the Chicago area Cystic Fibrosis Foundation for auction at their Chefs Gala black-tie event in February of 2013.   We feel a connection to the CF Foundation because of another family friend who has a child currently battling CF.  Most recently our Navy aircraft carrier themed guitar was donated to the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation (JDRF).

As noted on other pages of this website, it was a thrill and honor for us to have Captain James Lovell (Commander of Apollo 8 & 13 and retired Navy Captain ) enhance the value of our NASA and Navy theme guitars by signing them.  As we have become better known we have been overwhelmed by the positive feedback, support, discounts and donations from guitar parts makers, retailers, friends and strangers alike.


We build guitars for enjoyment, but also with the hope that we can bring joy to others while helping to raising funds for great causes.  Jenna’s memory is a part of the motive to help others.  Another part comes from our Faith, which is an important part of our lives, though you won’t hear us talk about that much unless asked.  

Apart from our charity works, we continue to build guitars for testing ideas and for personal use (see Prototypes page).  From time to time we sell from our personal collections, but don't do any build to order work.  Maybe some day, but for now we are limiting ourselves to charity and hobby building.  A few of our past prototypes have been purchased by pros, some of which are featured on the artist page of this website.

This builder profile on Nordstrand Pickups' website also does a nice job of explaining who we are and what we do.


Thank you for your interest in Doner Designs!


Steve and Richard Doner

Steve & Richard Doner with NASA Guitar at Sweetwater Sound Following Photo Session

Playing Together at our Church in 2016

Richard Doner, Danny Richards, Dave Richards and Steve Doner with the Jenna Guitar 

Pictured below are Steve and Richard with the first two "Fight Back" guitars and the prototypes before them

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