How’d you get into building guitars?
I got into it trying to get a guitar that I
liked. I was searching for a tone that I just
couldn’t find by buying new guitars and
looking around at used guitars, so I just
started making my own.
Has the Telecaster always been a favorite
design of yours?
Yeah, I’ve played Teles since I was a kid,
for no other reason than that’s what was
around. [laughs] I’ve always loved that
clean Fender tone, and that’s just sort of
what I started with, and eventually I fell in
Do you have a particular model of Tele or
Esquire that you look to for inspiration?
It’s really early to late-fifties Tele-style—I’d
say up to ’ 59. And that’s the inspiration; the
one thing that I like to say is that I like to
be as inspired in the execution as Leo was
in the design. It’s probably the most basic
design in a guitar that you can have. You
can’t even break it down beyond how it has
been broken down. So that is really what I
try to stay true to: the absolute simplicity
of the design. And I sort of stay away from
anything that is either ornate or tone-suck-ing. I just keep it as plain as it can be.
That sounds like a very stripped down
When you buy something today, you sort of
look at it and you inspect it for any imperfection, and if you find any imperfection,
you sort of summarily reject it—I think that’s
generally how things are today. And that
gives people a sense of quality, perfection
in the execution. And what I try to do in the
guitars, my aesthetic goal, is to straddle the
line between manufacturing perfection and
“handmade.” So that the person can get
the sense of superior quality, but it retains
that human element.
What is your flagship model?
The model that I offer is called the 228. And
it’s, again, inspired by a fifties Telecaster.
There are variations on that that I do; I
do swamp ash, alder, and I’m working on
mahogany bodied guitars now. But it’s all
built off the 228 platform.
You fabricate most of your hardware in-
Yeah, the bridges, the saddles, all of the
knobs, the neck plate and the control plate.
Does the fact that you’re making all of
these components yourself give you a
different perspective on the building of
I don’t think so; they’re really just tools. A
friend just showed me a Glendale bridge,
and I was blown away by it, period. So I
called up Dale and I’m talking to him about
working to fabricate some stuff for me.
Because, to me, the hardware is like the
pickups—it’s a tone shaper, it allows you to
achieve something with the guitar. So I talk
to the customer, I usually ask for favorite
guitars, for favorite songs, for audio clips
to get inspiration from the customer. And
from there, we talk about it and decide
what the hardware and pickup choices are
going to be. And that’s the starting point,
but then you actually build the guitar, and
then you’ve got something, usually an X factor that you couldn’t have anticipated, and
you can even tweak it from there. So I do a
lot of my own parts, but it’s just one choice
that’s available for the customer.
Is there a go-to pickup that you use in
I’d say there are go-to manufacturers that
I’ve used, and I certainly don’t mean to say
that some are superior, but I’ve worked a lot
with Lollar, Fralin and Duncan.
What brings you back to those builders?
I like the way that Jason achieves specific
things with specific pickups. They’re very
dialed in to what it is he’s trying to achieve,
and they do it really well. I think Fralin—
they all sound amazing, but I love the flexibility, the versatility of his pickups. And I
love the balance of the Duncan pickups.
What makes your guitars unique?
When you’re dealing with small builders,
you could put all of the guitars up against
each other, and they’re all going to be radi-
cally different. I think it’s just that there are
100 decisions to be made in making any
guitar, and they all add up to more than the
parts. I’d say if there’s one thing, it depends
on the ear of the builder and the aesthetic
of the builder which flows through every
one of those 100 decisions.
Why should our readers consider buying
I think people will find it to be an extremely
musical instrument. It’s made to be
extremely dynamic and articulate, but primarily musical. The notes are articulate, but
it’s a seamless blend between strings and
as a whole. It’s as much a rhythm guitar as a