Instruments & Gear: Fine Lutherie

Preston Thompson 0000-SBA

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A custom guitar built with “shipwreck” Brazilian rosewood.

by Teja Gerken
October 21, 2019

Preston Thompson Guitars specializes in fresh approaches to vintage-style instruments, using, for example, wood combinations and appointments not found on vintage instruments, or mixing and matching features in unusual ways. We recently had a chance to check out a Thompson 0000, a great example of how the Sisters, Oregon–based shop combines superb materials with a high level of creativity. 

Measuring 16 inches across the lower bout, Thompson’s 0000 is similar in size to the popular “small jumbo” format, but with an outline that is more like that of an enlarged 000, inviting a comparison to Martin’s M size. Like most guitars with this body style, the Thompson 0000-SBA has a 14-fret neck, but with a slotted peghead, an unusual choice for this kind of instrument. 

The 0000-SBA has an Adirondack spruce top and Brazilian rosewood back and sides, and, while any Brazilian rosewood is noteworthy on a contemporary guitar, the wood used on this instrument, which Thompson calls “shipwreck,” is not only of amazing quality, it has an intriguing story. Cut in 1936, the wood was shipped from Brazil to Denmark, where it was to be used in the furniture trade. However, the ship sank off the Spanish coast, where the logs rested until they were salvaged in 2005. Thompson acquired a small portion of this wood, and until the supply runs out, it is available as an option for custom guitars. Needless to say, with its even grain and rich color, the wood is spectacular, and, of course, it’s not like the wood used on Golden Era instruments, it is the same wood that would have been used! Thompson continues the ship theme with an inlay of a three-masted tall ship in the 12th-fret area of the fingerboard and three masts on the heel cap. Other than these splurges, the guitar’s appointments have a vintage aesthetic, including a sunburst finish, herringbone purfling, three-ring abalone rosette, and cream-colored back strip. 

Soundwise, the guitar has the general character of a good 0000: it’s reminiscent of an OM, but with a little more of everything, offering a powerful, vintage Martin–like sound when played fingerstyle, and with excellent balance when played with a pick. Regardless of how it is played, the guitar’s round, warm trebles and overall tonal complexity make it a joy to listen to. 

With its combination of fabulous materials, individual design touches, and solid performance, this 0000-SBA is a wonderful testament to the creative work being done at the Thompson shop. 

SPECS: 0000 body. Adirondack spruce top with scalloped, advanced-X Adirondack bracing. “Shipwreck” Brazilian rosewood back and sides. Mahogany neck with slotted peghead. Ebony fingerboard and bridge. 25.4-inch scale. 1¾-inch nut width. 2⁵/₁₆-inch string spacing at the saddle. Nickel Waverly tuning machines. Made in the USA. $15,624 ($13,100 base price).


Category: Instruments & Gear

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