Hands-on review: Eric Joseph Maple on Maple Custom Guitar
(John Gorbe | Posted 2011-06-20)
Although his is not exactly a household name, Eric Joseph has over 40 years experience as an artist, designer and teacher. Heís been involved in numerous art shows and is a lifelong guitarist. Heís a custom guitar builder from Hebron, Maine, with a unique vision and elegant taste in design. This review will give you a small sample of this manís artistry and handmade work that Maine has known to love.
The guitar Eric Joseph sent me for review was a custom maple-on-maple design. The guitar features a highly figured book matched maple body (front and back), super highly figured birds eye maple top plate, hand-carved African anegre neck mated to a rosewood fingerboard, bone nut, Fender Telecaster single coil pickups, 3-way pickup selector, 1 volume, 1 tone, Fender classic bridge, 6 inline Fender tuning machines, chrome hardware, Hot Rod double-action trussrod, abalone logo and side dot inlays, penetrating polyurethane and carnauba wax finish, and the guitar is 25.5Ē scale.
One of the first things I notice on a guitar is how well I can slide around the fingerboard without my thumb sticking to the neck. Itís obvious that this is also something that Eric thinks about as well because the neck isnít smothered with paint and lacquer therefore, thereís no hesitation at all sliding to different positions on the fingerboard...huge plus!
The electronics are straight up Telecaster style so I had no problems manipulating 1 volume and 1 tone control. I like riding the volume when Iím performing to clean up my tone or introduce some ďdirtĒ into my sound and the location of the volume knob made it very easy to reach down and turn it. The chrome knobs are knurled for traction so this is great for executing volume swells on the fly! I had no problems with riding the volume on a recent gig. I also liked where the 3-way selector was located. Again, in ďTeleĒ fashion it was right where I needed it and selecting pickups worked like a charm.
When I first gazed at this instrument on Ericís website it looked slightly top heavy due to the size of the headstock. Normally I donít have a problem with this issue while standing due to the wide straps I use but I didnít know how balanced it would be while sitting. My concerns were set to rest after placing the guitar on my leg -- the guitar sat comfortably without moving. I was glad the guitar was as balanced as it was because the headstock looks great on this model.
The only issue I have with this guitar isnít a real issue at all but more of an option Iíd like to have if I were to purchase this model - locking tuning machines. The guitar came with standard Fender tuners and this is fine if you string your guitar properly to prevent slippage around the post. Iíve been spoiled with locking varieties in recent years and need them on all my electric guitars as I think they provide quick string changes and better tuning stability (even if itís just in my mind). They can also look very classy with an open back design such as those offered by Hipshot products. Eric CAN install locking tuners on any guitar, though, so this is GREAT to know.
On a recent gig I used this alongside another guitar and was concerned that the setting of my rig would favor my usual guitar (2 humbucker style) and not this one. Again, I was surprised that I didnít have to touch my settings much other than a little mid and bass boost - very quickly I could dial in a sound that worked very well. The guitar cut through the mix of the band nicely, too. I liked the fact that I could select the middle position activating the neck and bridge pickup and get a little louder output for boosting the guitar above the band. This was great not only for the obvious solo but also for songs that demanded fingerstyle technique.
While playing the guitar I couldnít help compare it to a í72 Fender Thinline. Drawing this comparison was inevitable in terms of function and sound. The guitar had a nice singing quality in the neck position with enough warmth for blues either clean or overdriven. Both pickups provided more of a mid boost with a nice nasal sound for funk, while the bridge pickup had a total tele ďtwangĒ that was perfect for country styles. There was a slight hum on both pickups during the gig, however when I was testing it at home there was no more hum than usual from single coils. This led me to believe there was probably a grounding problem at the venue that I didnít detect with my humbucker guitar. Iíve had this exact situation happen to me with an American made Fender Stratocaster as well, so this is of no fault of the instrument but I felt I should note it.
This guitaris a real looker and is indicative of the craftsmanship and long hours put into the instrument. The body is smooth and very attractive visually especially the birds eye top plate that encompasses the pickups and bridge. The texture of the two maple varieties compliment each other well.
The frets were seated well in the fingerboard and were dressed nicely. I appreciated the fact that Eric left the fingerboard clean without dot markers; this makes for a classy looking fingerboard in my opinion.
The neck pocket looks like it could have been a little tighter, however I had no problems with it shifting or major tuning problems. If I were getting the instrument custom made I would like to have the heel a little more contoured for higher fret access but it was completely functional.
The electronics were clean and worked smoothly. I didnít have any strange quirks, volume drops or noise problems that raised red flags with this tester. I felt comfortable playing this on a gig and even used it for an instructional DVD.
The Bottom Line
If you want an American made custom hand crafted guitar at a production price you should look at what Eric Joseph has to offer. He builds many styles of electric guitars and will work closely with a buyer for a one-of-a-kind work of art. His customer support is excellent and will answer emails the same day.
This Maple on Maple design retails for $1,095 U.S. at the time of this review.
Visit www.ericjosephelectricguitars.com for Ericís full product line and to learn more about this unique luthier from Maine.