Instruments & Gear: Fine Lutherie

Preston Thompson D-12EIR Custom

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

by Teja Gerken
April 06, 2018

Preston Thompson specializes in building high-end steel-string flattops, and while many of his instruments are closely based on vintage specs, he is also known for mixing and matching designs or adding features that weren’t found on older instruments. We recently had a chance to check out a Thompson D-12EIR Custom that is a perfect example of this. While fundamentally based on the classic Martin 12-fret dreadnought, the D-12EIR Custom not only features an original combination of appointments, it also has a redwood top and short scale, rather than the spruce top and long scale used on vintage 12-fret dreadnoughts.

Redwood is known for its excellent stiffness-to-weight ratio, and in recent years several luthiers have discovered that the wood can make an excellent guitar top. For the D-12EIR Custom, Thompson used a very special set known as “Tunnel 14” redwood, which comes from support beams in a set of Southern Oregon railroad tunnels built in the 1880s (three in total: Tunnels 13, 14, and 15). This wood became available in the early 2000s as the tunnels were remodeled, and a good portion of it has found its way into luthiers’ shops. The set used on the D-12EIR Custom features beautifully straight grain and even color. Thompson used a dark set of Indian rosewood for the guitar’s back and sides, and the combination of the rosewood and redwood is visually stunning, enhanced by the herringbone purfling on the top, ivoroid binding on the body and fingerboard, and abalone “mystic snowflake” position markers in the fingerboard. The guitar’s slotted peghead is home to an abalone “torch” inlay and a set of Waverly tuners.

The D-12EIR Custom was a very fun guitar to play. Playability was excellent, with the short scale and slimmer-than-vintage neck design creating a contemporary feel. Playing fingerstyle, I was greeted with an excellent response and a lot of volume potential when I dug in, and when Peghead Nation co-founder Scott Nygaard used the guitar to flatpick a fiddle tune, it displayed great balance, plenty of headroom, and a highly complex sound.

Without a doubt, Preston Thompson’s willingness to modify a classic design has paid off big time with the D-12EIR Custom, a wonderful choice for anyone looking for an instrument that is steeped in tradition but with a contemporary twist.

SPECS: 12-fret dreadnought body. Redwood top with scalloped, advanced-X Adirondack bracing. Indian rosewood back and sides. Mahogany neck. Ebony fingerboard and bridge. 24.9-inch scale. 1¾-inch nut width. 2⁵/₁₆-inch string spacing at the saddle. Nickel Waverly tuning machines with ivoroid buttons. Made in the USA. $7,985 (D-12 base price is $6,145).


Category: Instruments & Gear

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