25. 5” scale neck
with 8. 5” radius
Seymour Duncan SSL- 1
24. 75" scale
BY ADAM PERLMUTTER
In the mid ’80s, Joe Knaggs, a guitar enthusiast and painter, started his
lutherie career in the finishing room at
Paul Reed Smith, gradually working his
way up to become Smith’s right-hand man
as director of R&D and Private Stock.
Knaggs helped PRS stake out new territory
beginning in the late ’90s by designing
such innovative models as the McCarty
Archtop and Hollowbody, as well as the
Mira and the Starla—guitars that were at
once futuristic and retro.
In 2009, Knaggs amicably went his own
way to create his own guitar company.
With former PRS associate and guitar-industry veteran Peter Wolf handling
marketing, branding, and design input,
Knaggs recently introduced a series of
boutique guitars that use classic Fender,
Gibson, and Martin designs as points of
departure. Knaggs’ instruments include
solidbody, hollowbody, flattop, and bass
guitar models. Each is available in one of
three packages—from the more spartan
Tier 3 to the opulent Tier 1. We checked
out two Knaggs models, the Chesapeake
series Electric Choptank (Tier 3) and the
Influence series Electric Kenai (Tier 2).
With its single-cutaway, contoured swamp
ash body, trio of single-coil pickups, and
25 1/2"-scale maple neck, the Choptank
clearly nods to both the Telecaster and the
Stratocaster. But it also has a glued-in neck,
an 8 1/2" fretboard radius (which is more
hospitable to bending than the 7 1/4"
radius traditionally associated with vintage Fenders), and a proprietary 6-saddle
bridge designed to more directly transfer
string vibrations to the body.
Our review Choptank guitar looked
awesome—a little like a piece of mid-century Danish Modern furniture with striking,
wavy grains. The plastic pickup covers, control knobs, and selector-switch tip were
ivory in color, which was offset nicely
by a dark brown pickguard, crafted
from tropical wenge. The reddish-brown rosewood fretboard possessed
an attractive swirling grain pattern,
and the rock maple neck had a
warm amber appearance, thanks to a
judicious use of aging toner.
It was difficult to find fault with
the craftsmanship of our Choptank. The
22 tall, thin frets were meticulously seated
Seth Lover pickups