What makes SVL different from other handcrafted guitar makers?
Aside from my own line of handcrafted guitars, I've rebuilt, repaired, restored, setup and professionally played thousands of guitars and basses over the last 30+ years -- a great many of them electrics from the 1950s and 1960’s. Along the way I’ve played some really fine examples of vintage guitars, (there's also a lot to be learned from the not-so-fine instruments). There are common denominators in what we call "keepers" -- including instruments that have what I call "the magic."
Some of the more magical vintage electrics revealed a lot to me, for example how they were put together, wood and grain selections, finishing techniques, weight and balance, pickup compositions, setup and trem adjustments, nut treatments, and a long list of more obscure details. As a result of these experiences I've discovered many subtle luthier tricks and tweaks that result in not just better, but substantially improved tone and player comfort.
I am also a touring guitar and equipment tech, a job I have done for almost 20 years. In that time I have worked and continue to work for some of the very finest guitarists on the planet. Each one of these players strive to squeeze every ounce of tone from their guitars and along the way I have delved deep into how, what and why each of these players get the best from their rigs. This knowledge can then in turn be used to fine tune my own guitar builds so as to squeeze every ounce of tone from them.
What really is the difference in the tonal qualities of Ash or Alder?
I strive to build guitars that are both lightweight and comfortable for the gigging musician and player. Of the many vintage guitars I've owned and played the lightweight variants displayed the most unique and exceptional tonal qualities. This isn't to say I won't build a heavier guitar, but my personal preference is a medium lightweight highly resonant guitar.
The ideal body timber is cut from the section of tree that holds and stores water. The water is retained in the cells of timber and become enlarged to hold more water. Upon harvesting and curing, the water evaporates and leaves the empty enlarged reservoir cells resulting in lighter wood! Magic. Alder has less space for air than Ash. The character of the resin in this wood is lighter in weight but more dense. It's very rare to find large enough pieces of Alder to make onepiece bodies, so two-piece bodies are more common and usually a little heavier than the Ash bodies. As a reference, most guitar manufacturers now laminate 3-pieces of Alder for their bodies, whereas I will use only 2 piece and sometimes (weight permitting) single piece bodies To me the lightweight true swamp Ash has a more wide-open sound with a tight bass response, with a slight scoop in the midrange. Whereas Alder is more focused in the midrange, with a looser bass response and sweet high end.
Neck woods -- one-piece Maple or Maple with Rosewood fingerboard?
Most of the instruments I build have one-piece, quarter-sawn, flamed Maple necks of the hard rock Maple variety. I find there is so much more tonal articulation and definition with this style of Maple. This was the timber of choice on all Fenders from the classic 50’s era of 1952 to 58/59
Most musicians are aware that Rosewood fingerboards tend to have a more mellow tonal characteristic. This was the fingerboard used on Fenders from the classic ‘pre-CBS’ era of 1959 to 1965. Warm tone with maybe slightly less treble definition.
Why do SVL only use Kluson-style machine heads?
Tone and balance is most important to me. Gotoh tuners really are the “best tool” for the job. There are a number of manufacturers who make them now but Gotohs are actually a better-made tuner than the original Kluson tuners made in Chicago for so many years. I have tried many different manufacturers of machines but in my opinion Gotoh make the absolute best. And that is why I use them on my guitars. Thats not to say something better may not come along in the future, and if they do i will of course use them.
Do you offer gold hardware as an option?
Unfortunately I do not offer gold hardware as an option, for the simple reason nobody makes great quality hardware in a gold finish. I use almost exclusively Callaham hardware and i trust Bill Callaham’s judgement greatly! He doesn’t make gold hardware so I don’t use it.
What is the ordering process and how can we get the ball rolling on a build?
Once you have settled on an SVL Custom built guitar, drop me an email to firstname.lastname@example.org and we can start an email chat. I actually prefer in lots of ways to do this via email because I then have a paper trail of specifications etc. Once we settle on a spec and I have quoted a price I would then ask for a 50% deposit paid via bank transfer of possibly Paypal.