The Southwest-inspired Parts-caster

After months of planning, dreaming, scheming, saving and researching, I finally have my dream guitar (scroll down for pictures). I was inspired by many other guitars, such as Guthrie Govan's guitars, the famous Fender Stratocaster, and the hot-rodded super-Strats of the 80's. I wanted the elusive dream of one guitar that can create the sounds of many traditional guitars, and this achieves that. It was assembled and set up by the golden hands luthier Tom Shepard at T Shepard's Guitars.

The body and neck were custom made by Warmoth. The body is light, roasted, chambered southern swamp ash with a flame mahogany top coated with a light nitrocellulose satin finish. The neck is roasted maple with an ebony fret-board, stainless steel frets, Arizona turquoise fret does and mother-of-pearl side dots. The flame mahogany and turquoise remind me of the colors of the deserts of the southwest that I love so much. The tuners are locking Gotoh's, and the bridge is a relatively traditional bent-steel Strat-style tremolo by Wilkinson (Gotoh). The nut is an Graphtech Earvana, which works very well. The tremolo is set up to dive-bomb as well as go up, and the nut does a great job of helping it to stay in tune during aggressive use. This makes for one very expressive guitar.

The active electronics are by EMG. The neck pickup is a 89RX, the middle is a SAVX, and the bridge pickup is an 89X. The switches and tone and volume knobs are also by EMG. The 89s are splittable, splitting to something like an EMG SA, done by pulling the first two pots. The pot closest to the strings is set up as a master volume, the next one a volume just for the neck pickup, so you can set up the guitar to have lower volume on rhythm and higher volume when you switch to lead. The 5-way Strat-like switch allows for wide variety of tones, as does the phase-inverting switch on the middle pickup and the splittable 89s. The brushed nickel knobs are also by EMG. EMGs are extremely quiet, so I get the best of both worlds: a very Strat-esque guitar that is essentially noiseless. It does bell-like chime with the best of them. When the 89s are in humbucker mode, they roar like EMG 85s. I have another guitar that has an EMG 81 in the bridge position when I want that particular tone, but, for most applications, I like an 85 in the bridge better, hence the 89s. The SAVX middle pickup truly does that vintage Strat sound. The last knob is a stock EMG active tone control, which comes in handy, as the EMGs do have a certain sparkly-high end that sometimes can use just a touch of moderation.

The combination of small magnets, active electronics, very resonant, roasted woods, a very light nitro finish, and other great components make this guitar sing. Its intonation is better than any other guitar I own. Its sustain is rivaled only by an uncannily resonant mahogany neck-through-body ESP LTD MH-417 I own, but that certainly doesn't surpass that guitar. Its pristine bell-like clarity when in Strat-esque pickup modes is uncanny. It rocks very hard in humbucker mode. I give great thanks to Tom Shepard and the people at Warmoth and EMG, who were all very helpful in bringing this guitar to life.

I expected that this guitar would pair well with a Fender Supersonic 60 head that I run through a custom 4x10" open-back cabinet with Celestial Alnico Golds, but I find that I play it much more through my Hughes and Kettner Switchblade 100 through a 2x12" closed-back, slant-back with Eminence Cannabis Rex speakers. Both custom cabinets were expertly built by Mather Cab. The Hughes and Kettner, while often thought of as a metal-head amplifier, is extremely versatile, with excellent clean sounds, good mid-gain crunch tones, and obviously the unbridled ultra-gain sounds that the amp is known for. Its active four-band tone controls have allowed me to dial in sounds that make me just want to play this guitar all day long, which is its only real downside. I also just bought a Vox AC10C1, which is a surprisingly good-sounding amp that pairs beautifully with this guitar. I actually compared it to some amazing boutique amps, such as the Carr Skylark and Sportsman, and prefer the Vox over those for this application, price aside (and the Vox is 1/5th the price of those amps). Yeah, music! So good for the heart and mind.