Instruments & Gear: Fine Lutherie

1986 Preston Thompson Dreadnought

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A beautiful style-42 guitar owned by the late Charles Sawtelle.

by Teja Gerken
October 22, 2018

When Preston Thompson began building guitars in the early 1980s, he already had many years of experience repairing fine vintage instruments at Nashville’s Old Time Pickin’ Parlor. But the feedback he got from players such as Peter Rowan and Charles Sawtelle, who showed him their favorite guitars and explained why they worked for them, really took his instruments to the next level. A founding member of the popular bluegrass band Hot Rize, flatpicking virtuoso Charles Sawtelle (1946–1999) allowed Preston to inspect and measure his collection of vintage Martins, which had a direct impact on the luthier’s approach to building and voicing his instruments. In 1986, Charles asked Preston to build him a style-42 dreadnought based on his 1937 Martin D-28. Built with Brazilian rosewood back and sides and a German spruce top, the guitar features typical style-42 appointments, including abalone purfling, “snowflake” position markers in the fretboard, and a “torch” inlay in the peghead. The guitar has Kluson “waffleback” tuning machines.

We recently had a chance to check out the guitar in the Peghead Nation studio, and in this video, Peghead Nation co-founder Scott Nygaard demonstrates the guitar, talks about his friendship with Charles, and uses it to play “I Am a Pilgrim” and the fiddle tune “Leather Britches.”


Category: Instruments & Gear

Preston Thompson 0000-14JMS

A 16-inch maple jumbo with a big sound.

Preston Thompson D-SMA

A powerful sounding style-18 dreadnought made with “sinker” mahogany and Adirondack spruce.

Preston Thompson D-EIA

A great style-28 dreadnought made with Indian rosewood and Adirondack spruce.

Preston Thompson Size 2 Koa Deluxe

A style-42 parlor built out of spectacular koa.

Preston Thompson D-12EIR Custom

12-fret dreadnought features a redwood top and short scale.

Preston Thompson 000-14ZS Custom Cutaway

A highly customized 000 built with ziricote back and sides.

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Sep 19, 2019
A few minutes from the roots music icon’s set at the venerable festival.

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