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About Pin-Up Custom Guitars

Ever played a vintage guitar that was so alive, so resonant, so easy to play that it practically played itself? Why aren’t the new ones like that? Why aren’t anybody’s ‘antiqued’ recreations like that? When you experience a beautifully worn in guitar that is masterfully made and then tempered with countless years of playing, you understand why those old ones are so sought after. Some of those guitars are so alive that every little nuance and overtone is amplified. One of the reasons for this is often because the pickups are amplifying both the magnetic properties of the string and the acoustic properties of the wood. In other words, a lot of the magic old guitars are borderline microphonic. But that quality alone doesn’t cut it either, you must have premium parts and top-quality craftsmanship. Can’t afford a vintage one? My guitars have that same feel, look, quality, and resonance.

As vintage guitar prices continue to skyrocket, average players can no longer afford a fine vintage instrument, and have sought an alternative to shelling out the big bucks for an original. The early solid-body electric guitars from the golden era are in short supply and this has forced a sad situation where the best guitars are in the hands of collectors instead of the hands of the players. Sadly, most ‘vintage recreations’ fall miserably short of the mark, looking the part, but lacking the quality, and not really capturing the organic feel and legendary tone. Most don’t even use a bone nut or hand wound pickups!

After years of research and hands-on examination of some of the world’s most sought after vintage guitars, I feel that I have assembled an understanding of why the early examples sound and feel so much better than the new ones. I have examined and personally disassembled hundreds of vintage guitars one screw at a time to understand what is going on to make them sound so resonant and alive. Beginning in 2004, I played hundreds of gigs, literally thousands of hours on stage with a prototype that I tinkered with until all of the right components fell into place. In 2006, I started to replicate the guitars I had become so obsessed with. I feel that I have truly succeeded in replicating the magic!

My discoveries from studying these instruments are now being utilized to create a guitar with accurate ‘vintage’ look, feel, and tone- without breaking the bank! I start with the wood, and the right wood makes a huge difference. I use USA made swamp ash bodies that do not exceed 4lbs 4oz. The necks are top quality too, hand shaped maple, with all of the careful contours of the early guitars. I make a bone nut for each guitar entirely by hand. I hand wind my own pickups using ‘vintage correct’ USA made wire, flatwork, and magnets.  Finally, I carefully distress all of the components of the guitar to match a lovingly played vintage instrument, and I christen each one with a name and adorn it with a real vintage ‘pin-up girl’ waterslide decal.

I’ve made changes to the original designs along the way, too.  I would even say I’ve improved on the early designs.  The early wiring design for the 50’s Telecasters®* was really somewhat undesirable, in my opinion. There was no way to get both pickups on at the same time, and the rhythm position on the switch was just pure mud. In 1967, Fender®* revamped the wiring, making the neck position brighter, and that is the wiring most players are accustomed to today. With my guitars, I have gone a step further- brightening up the neck pickup by using custom magnets and an unplated nickel silver pickup cover that allows more high frequencies to pass through. The guitar can then be wired any number of ways with a 3, 4, or even a 5 way switch to get all the tones that you could ever possibly need out of a two pickup guitar.

My guitars are very lightweight and resonant. The T-style guitars especially border on being microphonic. These guitars will not work with a high-gain heavy distortion pedal or amp! They will squeal like a microphone being pointed right at a speaker. But so will the best vintage Telecasters®*. These guitars will, however, easily handle tube overdrive without feedback, and will sustain beautifully because of the resonance and liveliness. When you knock with your fist on the body of one of my T-style guitars, a loud audible knock will come out of the amp! Just like an old one! The pickup assembly is not only amplifying the magnetic properties of the strings, but also the acoustic properties of the guitar itself! New recreations of these guitars are usually completely devoid of that magic resonance, but not mine!

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