Building a custom guitar, part III: Quality with pride

(Brian Johnston | Posted 2011-07-25)

Building a custom guitar, part III: Quality with pride

Editor's note: This is the third of a series by Brian Johnston about having a custom guitar made. The first two articles looked at how and why Brian chose luthier Stephen Caspar to build his instrument, along with detailing how they made design s decisions, This week's installment further explores equipment selection and philosophy. Links to the first two articles appear at the bottom of this edition>

People have asked why I chose to have Stephen Caspar to design my guitar, a very personal and individualized endeavor, as opposed to other luthiers. Two things typically are considered among customers, including reputation and price.

After 25 years of building custom guitars, I could not find any negative comments on the Internet, and there was plenty of praise. Of course other luthiers have good reputations, and particularly those veterans of two or more decades crafting instruments. Just as important, however, Stephen has played guitar even longer and he know what it’s like to play a quality guitar. On that note, we also happen to have similar tastes in playing styles and guitar tones. I believe all these points when combined help make for the right relationship.

Stephen’s pricing really is an aspect that sealed the deal. This man charges only enough to cover his time and materials, not looking for added profit. Other guitar developers of this standard would charge twice as much and often more, but as Stephen views it, “why charge $4-5k for someone to put in a showcase, afraid to take it on the road, for a friend to play, or any other nervous hesitation?” He achieves far more pride to see his instruments used and producing music than to make more money and never to see or hear his axes played.

We covered a few things over the past week, one being the switching system. Based on my desires, Stephen recommended a 5-way lever switch:

1. Bridge Series Humbucker
2. Bridge Single coil tap (your choice of pole)
3. Bridge + Neck Humbucker (option of blending & coil tap via push pull pot)
4. Neck single coil tap (same – you chose pole)
5. Neck series Humbucker

Further, he can make both tone controls push pull so that I have further options; and there are some circuits that will allow that same effect by turning the pot past center. This limits the tone controls but opens up a lot of other possibilities. I’m comfortable either way, as once I get accustomed to a guitar I have no problem work with its nuances, and so I’m leaving that up to Stephen’s professionalism.

By July 10th, things were really taking shape. He received his single piece of Southern Swamp Ash and shortly after started working on the shape. He set the neck pocket angle at approximately 2-degrees and the bridge is set for a 25.5” scale with a slight recess. At the current rate of development, Stephen is looking at late August or early September for delivery.

Next week: Body & Soul

Part I

Part II

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