Instruments & Gear: Fine Lutherie

Preston Thompson 000-14ZS Custom Cutaway

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A highly customized 000 built with ziricote back and sides.

by Teja Gerken
September 04, 2018

Luthier Preston Thompson is well-known for the high-end steel-string flattop guitars he builds with a small team in his Sisters, Oregon, workshop. Based on classic American designs, Thompson’s guitars range from exact reproductions of vintage guitars to instruments that use existing templates merely as a jumping-off point. We recently had a chance to check out a 000-14ZS Custom Cutaway that falls into the latter category.

The 000-14ZS is based on Thompson’s 000-14 model, which Thompson builds in the tradition of vintage 14-fret 000s, with an OM’s body size but a short scale and narrower neck than an OM. The base model 000-14 features traditional appointments and is built with an Adirondack spruce top and mahogany back and sides, but our demo instrument departs from this template in almost every way. For starters, the guitar is built with a Sitka spruce top and ziricote back and sides, and it has a Florentine cutaway. The guitar’s woods are nothing short of stunning. The top features tight, extremely even grain and a beautiful slightly yellow color, and the ziricote displays the landscape-like grain pattern that premium-quality examples of this wood are known for. The guitar also includes custom inlay: an abalone elephant head is inlaid on the peghead, while the fingerboard includes baobab trees inlaid using myrtle, koa, and olive wood, and a full moon inlaid in black mother of pearl.

Playing the guitar, it quickly became clear that it is not only a fine example of the eye-grabbing customizations Thompson is capable of, but it is also a musical tool with all the sonic qualities you’d wish for in a great 000. The guitar has an intimate tonal quality with great balance and warmth and a quick response. Its short scale makes it easy to play, and players with smaller hands will appreciate the relatively narrow neck, which measures 1¹¹/₁₆ inches at the nut. Whether played fingerstyle or strummed with a pick, the guitar offers great complexity and character, and it will undoubtedly excel in both solo and accompaniment roles.

Overall, the 000-14ZS Custom Cutaway delivers on all fronts. It’s a wonderful guitar with spectacular looks and great tone that combines vintage specs with contemporary designs.

SPECS: 14-fret 000 body with Florentine cutaway. Sitka spruce top with scalloped, advanced-X Adirondack bracing. Ziricote back and sides. Mahogany neck. Ebony fingerboard and bridge. 24.9-inch scale. 1¹¹/₁₆-inch nut width. 2³/₁₆-inch string spacing at the saddle. Nickel Waverly tuning machines with tortoise buttons. Made in the USA. $8,440 (ziricote 000 base price is $7,550).

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