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Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Calaveras Rust Swamp Ash,... (Review)

Reviewed By: Jac Harrison
Purchased from: Manufacturer
Street Price: $2,220 USD with case + shipping 

Calaveras Fretworks Custom Guitar is a manufacturer of handcrafted, American made, custom, boutique electric guitars by master luthier Butch Iafelice, in Upper Bucks County, PA. 

This Calaveras rust swamp ash model has a one piece swamp ash body that flows into a medium “C” profile quarter sawn korina bolt-on neck that is dressed in a 22 fret, 12" radius cocobolo fingerboard featuring pearl dot inlays topped with a Tusq nut.

Shaller: M6-mini tuners, 3D6 bridge, (2) dome knobs, strap locks.

Zexcoil Throaty Bucker (N) Juicy Bucker (B), 3-way toggle, (2) 500K pots, (1) vol (1) tone and a 1/4" jack.


Amp used: 
Laney L50T 1x12

Selector position 1: Just Neck
A bright but warm mix of a vintage single coil and PAF, almost p-90ish sounding without the hum and a fatter bottom end. 

Selector position 2: Neck and Bridge
An even balance between the neck and bridge, a very usable classic rock tone. 

Selector position 3:  Just Bridge
A modern sounding PAF with a slight boost in the highs -- a rock lead sound with excellent individual note clarity.

Action, Fit & Finish:
The finish is a beautiful hand-rubbed translucent rust nitro over a natural wood grain. The action was low without any fret buzz and the intonation was dead on. 

Reliability & Durability:
The guitar seems to be well made. It is solid through and through. There was no hum or crackles from the electronics and all knobs and hardware were installed snug and proper. 

I have played a few different Calaveras Guitars and have wanted to do a full review for some time now, but I have only had the chance to play the ones that I have at guitar shows and couldn't really hear what I needed to, to properly do a full review. When I saw that Butch (master luthier at Calaveras Guitars) had a booth setup at the Alstar Music Empire grand opening this passed weekend in Flemington NJ, I knew that I would have the chance to play all of his guitars without the "sound police" coming by the booth killing-the-moment. As a Tele body style player his guitars excite me -- I mean who wouldn't like to add a double cutaway Tele to their collection.

There are many guys putting out your "standard" copies and recently I have seen some bastardized mixes of what the luthiers (I use that term loosely) refereed to as a "Gibson/Fender" -- that is NOT what this guitar is at all. To get my attention in the boutique market you need to do something different and take a risk. By slapping a set of single coils in a LP or finagling some buckers into a Strat just doesn't cut it, but by offer a guitarist a quality playable instrument that is different from what other luthiers are offering... now that makes me happy. That is the impression I got from Calaveras Guitars, that Butch is a luthier that took a risk making guitars that are a unique blend of American ingenuity and creativity and not a mash up of a Gibson and Fender. With that said, this guitar does have that basic Tele shape that you either love or hate, just with some unique upgrades and body modifications. Fender has offered a thinline double cutaway Tele as the TC-9, so you could go out and get a guitar that kind-of-looks like this one (not really), but you would be paying way to much for an inferior product. Before I get ahead of myself .... to the review.

This guitar was a dream to play -- everything about her screamed American rock and blues. Just strumming her acoustically I could hear and feel her body reverberation and sustain. (She was whispering to me in her sexy voice saying "take me home and diddle my strings"). Once I plugged her in I didn't want to stop playing. I was able to dial in many different tones with her Zexcoil pickups, form rock to blues and everything in between. Her neck was comfortable and I was able to reach all 22 frets with ease. The only way to properly explain this guitar is what I call "new vintage". Now that does not mean that she plays like a 1960 Fender, but this guitar falls into a category that I believe will be the new vintage standard in 30 years form now. This is an excellent example of a modern guitar made from a mixture of traditional and non-traditional parts that was put together by a man using witchcraft (better known as math), giving the guitarist (that's you) an experience you will remember while delivering a quality instrument that you can play and love for years. 

So to sum it up -- yea I like this guitar. She was like the woman that is classy in public, but an animal in the bedroom.  

What I would change:
If Butch was making me one, I would ask him to add a second volume pot with a treble bleed circuit on each -- but that is just my preference and this guitar is 100% the way she is.

My advice: 
If you are a Tele body style player and have always wanted that something different to add to your collection without going too far away from that body style -- play a Calaveras Fretworks Custom Guitar.

Buy the guitar in this review at Allstar Music Empire in Flemington NJ -HERE-

Calaveras Fretworks Custom Guitars
(610) 982-9622

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Posted 10/2013
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