Tom Bono parlayed his experience painting cars into a side-business masterfully painting guitars.
An autobody mechanic for 20 years and working for the town for 12 years, Bono is a musician at heart, who learned to play guitars later in life thanks in part to his wife's father, the late Bob Forrester.
A damaged Ibanez bass guitar that he acquired led him to buy a painting kit and restore the instrument. He'd save left-over auto body paint for his designs and go to work with a spray gun.
Several years later, using the name Custom Painted Guitars, Bono takes on commissioned jobs to custom paint guitars, which may include striping, graphics, writing, and much more on the body.
He has a passion for creating the custom paint jobs, intricate designs that he sometimes does over and over until he gets it just right, he said.
"It's more of a hobby," said Bono, who also stays busy as the Chief of the . "I like the challenge of how I can make it look."
He hasn't stopped at just guitars. He recovers amps, installs LED lights along pedal boards, and custom paints amps and pedal boards so they can match the guitars. He even made a custom tip jar out of a small bongo drum for the band Mamalee Rose.
Bono has a studio in his house in East Hampton — a room that doubles as a music room, filled with hundreds of vinyl records he collects, memorabilia, instruments and accessories. It's in the studio where he's able to get "into a zone," where he has found a creative outlet.
"I'm not much for writing down and drawing out the design," he said. His wife Allene Bono may help him decide on color schemes, he added.
Depending on the detail involved, the guitar custom paint jobs can run about $500.
In September 2011, Bono intricately painted the national symbol for autism — puzzle pieces — on a guitar for an auction at a fundraiser for Alternatives for Children, a pre-school for developmentally delayed children. Bon Jovi guitarist Bobby Bandiera, whose grandson has autism, as part of the benefit and signed the guitar, which was auctioned off for $900, Bono said.
He learned of the fundraiser as his wife's hairdresser is Bandiera's daughter, and he hopes to lend his support to more charities through his work.
To contact Custom Painted Guitars, call 324-5986.