Instruments & Gear: Fine Lutherie

Preston Thompson 000-12MA Cutaway Custom

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A cutaway 12-fret that combines vintage tone and contemporary playability.

by Teja Gerken
December 27, 2017
 

Luthier Preston Thompson began building guitars in the 1970s, and today, he leads a small team that crafts guitars under his name in Sisters, Oregon. Over the decades, Preston has not only continuously advanced his skills as a craftsman, he has meticulously studied vintage guitars, and accordingly most of his current models are inspired by classic American flattops. Having collaborated with players such as contemporary bluegrass flatpicker Chris Luquette (who has a Thompson signature model) and the late flatpicking great Charles Sawtelle, Thompson has developed a reputation for building exceptional dreadnoughts, but he builds most popular sizes and body styles. We recently had a chance to check out a 12-fret 000 model 000-12MA Cutaway Custom, generously provided by Schoenberg Guitars in Tiburon, California.

The 000-12MA Cutaway Custom is a variation on Thompson’s standard 12-fret 000. Patterned after a 1929 Martin 000, the guitar has standard 000 body dimensions, a long (25.4-inch) scale, and a slotted peghead. Several wood options and appointment packages are available, and as a small custom shop, Thompson is able to create custom variations. The guitar in this video is built with mahogany back and sides and an Adirondack spruce top and includes a cutaway and pyramid bridge. The guitar’s appointments include faux-tortoise-shell binding, headplate, and heel-cap; a multi-ring, black-and-white rosette; and simple ivoroid dots as position markers in the ebony fingerboard. Cross-grained ivoroid is also used for the purfling on the instrument’s top. While the guitar’s appearance is clearly inspired by vintage instruments, it’s not a direct copy, and it manages to look both original and contemporary without being overly modern. The guitar’s materials and craftsmanship were first rate. The mahogany and spruce used for the body had beautiful coloring and grain patterns, and the fit and finish was excellent throughout.

The Preston Thompson 000-12MA Cutaway Custom is a wonderful guitar, both in terms of its sound and playability. Featuring a wide 1¹³/₁₆-inch nut and generous string spacing of 2⅜ inches at the saddle, the guitar has great playability for fingerstyle, and, combined with the 12-fret neck and 000 body size, it has a feel not unlike that of a classical guitar. Some players may worry that a 12-fret guitar won’t allow enough upper-fret access, but the cutaway (which is not often found on 12-fret guitars) eliminates this concern, allowing easy access to the 15th fret and beyond.

Tonally, the guitar impresses with a quick response, a great lower-midrange complexity, and dynamics that make it fun to play with varying styles of attack. Fans of vintage tone will feel right at home, and overall, the guitar manages the tricky task of combining some of the best tonal and design elements of the past with a contemporary feel.

SPECS: 12-fret 000 body with cutaway. Solid Adirondack spruce top with forward-shifted, scalloped X-bracing. Solid mahogany back and sides. Mahogany neck. Ebony fingerboard fingerboard and bridge. 25.4-inch scale. 1¹³/₁₆-inch nut width. 2⅜-inch string spacing at the saddle. Nickel Waverly tuning machines. Made in the USA. $6,200. pktguitars.com.

 


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