Noteworthy guitars I had the chance to play pt. 3

This post is going to be a little different from the previous two. None of these guitars knocked me off my feet completely, but they were very good guitars nonetheless. What makes them noteworthy is that I found them to be peculiar for one reason or another.

Gibson ES-335 (1988). Ok, so this one isn’t really peculiar, but it did feel quite heavy for a semi-hollow guitar.  It was cherry red with a nicely worn fretboard (I really liked it when it has shallow divots), and played really well. The pickups were alright, but I don’t honestly remember exactly. It was the best guitar I played yesterday, so it makes it to the list.

Santa Cruz F model (Fingerstyle, made very early in 1994). The F model is Santa Cruz’s Grand Orchestra model, or mini Jumbo. I’m talking about a guitar that is deep like a dreadnaught, but with a narrower waist. In fact, it looks a lot like a 70s-80s Guild F30. Anyway, this guitar was a weird bird. It had a cutaway, which always bums me out, and its top was really thick. I’m talking twice the thickness of a “regular” acoustic, but I had no calipers with me to take any meaningful measurements. Then, to top that off, it didn’t have a truss rod! I’m sure the folks at SCGC had good reasons to not put a truss rod in, but it could have used a little less relief to make playing easier. The fretboard had some intricate inlays that now I regret not taking a picture of. Anyway, this guitar played well and sounded good, but it didn’t leave the same impression on me like the Pre-War OM model I’ve had the chance to play last week.

Then, by coincidence, a new F model fell in my lap. I didn’t really work on it, but just got to play it for a minute. This one sounded and played a little better, but it too had a thick top and no truss rod. This F model didn’t have a cutaway, and also, its top was made of Sitka Spruce, were the Fingerstyle F model had Cedar top.

The thick top business is very intriguing to me. These two tops are made of different woods, yet both are the same thickness. Do they just pick pieces of wood that aren’t as dense or strong? And if so, why? I might have to pick up the phone and call them to find out.

Fender Telecaster 52 Reissue (2007).  This Tele could probably go head to head with the Cherry ES-335. It played really well, felt very solid (like what I’d imagine the originals to be), and the bridge pickup was on fire. The first thing to really stick out and be news to me was the screws. They were all flat heads! And apparently, the originals also employed flat heads only. To be honest, I like it better this way. The other cool thing was the pickguard. I don’t know if it was bakelite or even cellulose, but it was much thicker than the newer guards. What I really came to appreciate though was the design – Leo Fender really nailed it with the Telecasters. These guitars were made to be easily serviceable. The best thing is that you can remove the pickguard without having to slacken the strings or carry the pickup with you. Just a few screws and it can be moved aside. Then there’s access to the truss rod nut from under the pickguard, so it’s not necessary to remove the neck from the body. Then there’s the thickness of the neck, and I don’t know if this was a fluke or by design, but the neck wasn’t twisted. I think every Strat neck I looked at had some amount of twist (and by that I mean more relief on the treble side than the bass side, the wood itself might not actually be twisted), but not the Telecasters. I think that’s because the Strat necks are usually thinner than the Telecaster’s, but maybe also because the neck is one piece of maple vs. maple with rosewood fretboard. Lastly, this guitar provided some insight as to how Fender finished their necks. I’ve been wondering for a while if they stained the necks or sprayed tinted lacquer, or a combination of both. This guitar had tinted lacquer on the sides of the frets, so now I know that at least with the reissues Fender sprayed tinted lacquer, possibly in addition to staining, but who knows.


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