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Oct 30

Hardtop Strats Main

Wonderful results happen when The Music Zoo creates a customized, exclusive series of guitars. You’ll realize this when you play our brand new Hardtop Stratocasters that we designed and built with the Fender Custom Shop.

It’s called the Hardtop for a reason; each of these guitars is made rear-loaded without a pickguard, with easy access via a plate on the guitar’s back. The grain of the two-piece ash body looks fantastic under the nitrocellulose finish. And, as you’ll see, we went for a less-is-more, Hardtop Strats (5 of 11)minimalist, uncluttered aesthetic with these guitars. They’re available with one or two Bare Knuckle Mule humbucker pickups and the wiring is kept simple: just volume and tone controls on the one-pickup models and two volumes and a tone control, plus a heavy-duty three-way toggle switch. In the switch’s middle position, you can blend the output of each pickup using their independent volume controls.

Sonically, the Hardtop offers the kind of wide open tonal character that is rife with complex overtones and dynamic response. Musical information seems to pour out effortlessly and just like any guitar built using tap-tested tonewood—the kind that seems to ring like a bell before it’s even made into a guitar—the Hardtop has the kind of acoustic voice that is exceptional in every way. Strike a chord while unplugged, and you’ll feel the Hardtop shake and shimmer against your body and throughout your left Hardtop Strats (4 of 11)arm. The guitar’s body is very light—a contributing factor toward its rich tone—while the one-piece maple neck has a gentle,  rounded “V” profile that fits perfectly in your hand. A dark rosewood fretboard has a 9.5-inch radius and comes fitted with 6105 frets.

Is it a case of form following function? With regard to the one-pickup Hardtops, the answer is yes. Many guitarists love the one-pickup look and the message it seems to convey: “I just need one pickup by the bridge and a volume control to play mind-numbingly brilliant guitar,” as evidenced by the brilliance of Edward Van Halen. But there’s a function that underlies the form; using one pickup rather than two or three allows for less magnetic interference between the electronic components and less string-pull that would result from additional pickups. Which isn’t to say that the two-pickup Hardtop and the tonal versatility it offers is more or less preferable than the Hardtop Strats (1 of 1)-4one-pickup version. It’s a subjective choice for the musician that will use and enjoy this guitar. While on the topic of pickups, the Bare Knuckle Mules seem perfect for the Hardtop; they use Alnico IV magnets and other components that are identical to a vintage PAF. Response is quick in the bass and mids, while lower output offers great clarity and top-end shimmer that perfectly captures the nuances and harmonics present in the guitar’s acoustic voice.

Other details particular to the Hardtop Stratocaster include a dark-tint nitro finish on the neck, a very cool and basic Nocaster Fender headstock decal, and a custom tremolo bridge with vintage saddles. When it comes down to basics, the Hardtop Strat is the perfect combination of simplicity and complexity intertwined. It’s a Music Zoo exclusive, designed and built for players who can tell the difference between good and great…a guitar for the guitarists! These guitars are available right here on our site! Feel free to check out our entire stock of exclusive Fender Custom Shop guitars as well!

Have a look at the set of photos below showcasing two of these Fender Custom Shop beauties!

Hardtop Strats (2 of 11)

Hardtop Strats (5 of 11)

Hardtop Strats (8 of 11)

Hardtop Strats (2 of 3)

Hardtop Strats (1 of 1)

Hardtop Strats (2 of 3)

Hardtop Strats (1 of 1)-3

Hardtop Strats (4 of 11)

Hardtop Strats (3 of 11)

Hardtop Strats (11 of 11)

Hardtop Strats (1 of 11)

Oct 08

Tom Petty Kingman Main 2

The Fender Acoustic Custom Shop is very proud to introduce the limited edition Tom Petty Kingman dreadnought, beautifully crafted with the famed singer/songwriter’s personal style and specs and bearing his signature on the back of the headstock and on the soundhole label. With the Heartbreakers, the Traveling Wilburys, on his own and more, Petty has crafted hit after smartly infectious hit for five decades now, and the Tom Petty Kingman is a great-looking, rich-sounding tribute to one of rock’s most enduringly acclaimed figures. Have a look below for all of the special features as well as the full spec-list for this guitar. For info on ordering, feel free to contact our sales staff! While your here, check out our inventory of Fender Custom Shop Guitars on our site!



The Tom Petty Kingman guitar’s AA Sitka spruce top resonates delightfully

alongside warm, balanced genuine mahogany back and sides.



Petty tweaked his Fishman® VT-2 pickup/preamp system with the addition

of two top-mounted control knobs, a feature typically seen on ’60s-style acoustic guitars.



For retro-style resonance and a natural feel, the Tom Petty Kingman

comes lacquered with a thin nitrocellulose finish.



A ’62 Stratocaster headstock adorns a classic “C” shaped

neck, glossed with a “Midas gold” finish.



Petty gave his namesake instrument a true seal of approval, with a genuine

signature inside the soundbox alongside a handwritten serial number.


Body Material: Solid AA Sitka Spruce Top with Genuine Mahogany Back and Sides
Body Finish: Gloss Nitrocellulose Lacquer
Body Shape: Dreadnought
Bracing: Forward Shifted Scalloped X
Rosette: Checkerboard
Body Binding: Ivoroid
Body Back: Solid Mahogany
Body Sides: Solid Mahogany
Body Top: Solid AA Sitka Spruce
Purfling: Black/White/Black
Neck Material: 1-Piece Maple
Neck Finish: Gloss Nitrocellulose Lacquer
Neck Shape: “C” Shape
Scale Length: 25.625″ (650.8 mm)
Fingerboard: Rosewood
Fingerboard Radius: 10″ (254 mm)
Number of Frets: 20
Fret Size: Vintage-Style
String Nut: Bone
Nut Width: 1.7″ (43.2 mm)
Position Inlays: Vintage Clay Dot
Sep 30


Visit us on Thursday, October 16th at 6pm when the Fender & Gretsch Custom Shop Roadshow makes their annual New York stop at The Zoo! We’ll be showcasing a ton of rare Fender and Gretsch Custom Shop guitars for all of you to check out. You’ll also have the chance to meet Dale Wilson and Stephen Stern, two of the amazing Master Builders from the Fender Custom Shop. They will be joining us for the day to answer some of your questions as well as build a guitar right before your eyes! Last but not least… get ready for it… we’ll be giving away a Fender Custom Shop ’54 Heavy Relic Two-Tone Sunburst Strat! (retail price: $5899.99) But you must be present to enter and win, so be sure to get here for your chance to own this beautiful guitar! Don’t miss out!

Aug 22

Fender versus Shelby Main Image

We’ve always lusted after the 1966 Shelby Mustang GT350H that lives in the stable of cars just beneath the Music Zoo. It’s owned by the Zoo’s landlord, Howard Kroplick, a car collector who knows the way to our hearts via a pretty amazing collection of vintage cars. With its Wimbledon White finish and gold Le Mans stripes, Ford Mustang GT “Fastback” body style, and car-isma that nearly had us forgetting that guitars ever existed, Howard’s car and its ilk epitomized automobile greatness. It’s these cars that paved the road for those incredible Detroit muscle cars that came in the next few years, among them the Camaro, GTO, Barracuda, and AMC Javelin.

Car culture was beyond huge in the ‘60s, and the automobile mystique seemed to tie-in with everything, including guitars. It wouldn’t be long before the racing car motif found its way onto ’69 Fender Mustangs with competition “racing” stripes. Meanwhile, the off-white and gold mashup bridged the connection of cars and guitars when a very, very rare Fender Custom Shop guitar built specially for Reverend Billy Gibbons showed up at our door. We realized there was a Cars and Guitars hookup that had to happen.

We’ll start with the car since it was here first. On first glance, the casual passerby might think, “Okay, a vintage Ford Mustang with racing stripes.” Howard’s car is actually a 1966 Shelby Mustang. Certainly, the GT350 began life in a Ford factory in San Jose, California before making its way to the garage of race car legend Carroll Shelby, whose Shelby American company would modify the cars with custom Magnum 500 wheels, disc brakes, a Cobra engine (water-cooled V8 with overhead valves and 306 hp at 6000 rpms), high-performance shocks, and a torque-controlled rear axle.

Of the 2,370 GT350s acquired by Shelby, 999 were specially modified for the Hertz Sports Car Club, which invited card-carrying Hertz car rental customers the privilege of driving a Shelby modified racing car, for $17 dollars a day and 17 cents per mile. “Business travelers whoMustang Main (1 of 1) want a change in pace in motoring, sports car owners away from home, vacationers who consider driving an enjoyable holiday sport,” read Hertz’s advertisement. You can tell that its 1966, and traffic wasn’t what it is now. The GT350 earned the “H” designation for the purpose of distinguishing it as a Hertz rental car. Another tell-tale indicator of this car—and any other Mustang, new or old, is the gold racing stripes throughout. The gold stripes specifically indicate that the car is a Hertz rental, along with the standard automatic transmission. Kroplick acquired the GT350H in 2004 at an auto auction, the first car in a collection that also includes the famed 1909 Alco Racer that we profiled in the Cars and Guitars: Beauty and the Beast article that we published as a blog in July, 2014. Vroom! Let’s now turn our attention to the guitar.

Approximately three years ago, guitar journalist Tom Wheeler created a meticulous and detailed coffee table book that celebrated the Fender Custom Shop and its one-of-a kind guitars. Titled “The Dream Factory: Fender Custom Shop”, it captures some of the most fantastic, inconceivable solid-body Fender guitars ever created. Interviewed within are a cast of artisans involved in making the Custom Shop guitars such as jewelers, graffiti artists, fire breathers (just kidding!), wood carvers, pinstripers, pearl inlay artists, and a master luthier or two.

One of these master luthiers is Chris Fleming, a Music Zoo friend and Custom Shop veteran who’s built many incredible guitar imaginings for players such as Billy F. Gibbons—a guy known for his hardly unordinary guitars. In the “Dream Factory’s” introduction—written by Gibbons—he describes a visit to the Custom Shop to pick up three new instruments that he commissioned Fleming to build. Gibbons took two and left one behind with Fender Custom’s Mike Eldred, and much later the guitar made its way to The Music Zoo.

So what is it? In essence it’s a Fender Custom Shop Billy Gibbons Stratocaster. One of us—okay, this writer in fact—have called it the “Fender Custom Shop Duo-Strato-Tele” because it draws inspiration from three distinctly Fender designs: The late 1950s-era Fender Duo-Sonic (and Mustang Shoot (4 of 7)single-pickup Musicmaster), the Stratocaster, and the Telecaster. Fleming essentially took a Stratocaster’s contoured body, pickguard shape, the slanted bridge pickup, and Strat control knobs, and combined it with a Telecaster neck. The pièce de résitance, however, is the late ‘50s classic, eight-screw gold anodized pickguard which perfectly completes the look. And, all you have to do is hold this thing to realize it’s the greatest guitar of all time, or at least that moment in time; a feeling similar to watching a guitar master like Jeff Beck, when all sense of temporality is paused and for that distinct moment he’s the only guitarist that matters. And then the bubble pops.

The Gibbons Strat was built by Fleming with an ultra-lightweight ash body, perfect for Gibbons who always plays guitars as close to featherweight as possible. There’s an aged maple neck with a Tele headstock, 9.5” radius, a big soft “V” profile, and 21 big 6105 frets. The pickup is a custom-wound and noiseless stacked humbucker pickup. Electronics also feature a volume control and a Greasebucket tone control that allows Billy G. to retain top end when he lowers the guitar’s volume. Then there’s a chrome vintage-style hardtail bridge that aesthetically compliments the gold pickguard. Finally, the Sperzel non-locking tuners have pearloid knobs that subtly blend in with the entire color story. And them’s just the parts; Chris Fleming’s brilliance as a guitar builder is evident with the Gibbons Strat’s brilliant aging. He could probably be on staff at New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art doing anti-restoration or aging if he wanted. Let’s start with the body and its translucent Vintage Blonde finish, which is lacquer-checked throughout and aged such that a slightly brown-ish discoloration appears in all the right places: near screws on the side-mounted jack plate, on the tummy cut, on the body’s edges and cutaways. The very subtle dings and marks here and there have the kind of slight discoloration that would normally happen over time. Meanwhile, the neck is aged to show heavy player wear and lacquer checking, and Fleming even captured the time-honored discoloration around the frets that occurs with vintage guitars. Yep, exquisite is the word.

As we said earlier, playing the Gibbons Strat is like suspending the space-time continuum. That lightweight ash body contributes to amazing acoustic transparency and presence. And plugged in, it’s bridge-pickup Stratsville all the way—somewhat hot, but combined with the natural sustain Strat Edits (7 of 7)and acoustic properties you’ll hear amazing harmonic detail and nuances. Up the amp gain and this guitar growls and barks. Hit some nice broken chords while picking close to the bridge and it’s too beautiful for words. The sonic detail is the result of the lightweight ash, that great Strat-like custom-wound “hot” single-coil, and a whole lotta mojo and x-factor that we can’t pinpoint. Often, great guitars—and great American cars from Detroit’s golden era of high-quality, high-performance design—just have that…thing! Hats off to Ford, Carroll Shelby, Leo Fender and Chris Fleming, and Reverend Billy for helping to make American design and culture the envy of the world.

Written By Mike Bieber

Photographs By Walter Bryant

Fender Meets Mustang Sized (2 of 10)

Fender Meets Mustang Sized (1 of 10)

Fender Meets Mustang Sized (6 of 10)

Fender Meets Mustang Sized (5 of 10)

Fender Meets Mustang Sized (9 of 10)

Fender Meets Mustang Sized (8 of 10)

Fender Meets Mustang Sized (10 of 10)

Fender Meets Mustang Sized (5 of 10)

Fender Meets Mustang Sized (1 of 1)

Fender Meets Mustang Sized (3 of 10)

Apr 03

To view the gallery, click the banner above. To exit back to the post, either click the close icon in the upper right corner, or use the ESC key

Since the very beginning of time – we think it’s fair to say around the same time the solid body guitar was invented – there has always been Fender.  Fender’s reputation in the industry is so deep, so meaningful, and so steeped in history that we won’t even attempt to characterize it here.   Instead, we can show you what it’s all about by diving straight into the creative beating heart of the brand.  There’s Fender, and then there’s Fender Custom Shop.  There’s Fender Custom Shop, and then there’s Fender Masterbuilt.  This is the magical world of wood and steel where the best builders chase the dreams of the finest guitarists to produce some of the most amazing instruments the world has ever seen.  If you’ve ever had the chance to play or own a Masterbuilt guitar, you know it came from somewhere special.  Join us as we go inside, and meet the men and woman who dwell in the realm of the Masterbuilders.

Want to see some Masterbuilt masterpieces you can own right now?  Check out our selection of in-stock Fender Masterbuilt guitars here.

Feb 03


2014 marks the 60th Anniversary of one of the absolute legendary guitars of all time, the 1954 Fender Stratocaster.  It’s hard to imagine the world without the Strat; it has become so ubiquitous in our culture that it feels like it’s been around for centuries.  For this very special occasion Fender will be producing a year-long Custom Shop run of the 2014 Heavy Relic 1954 Custom Shop Stratocaster.  This guitar looks the part, like you just discovered it in the back of the world’s greatest pawn shop.  But Fender has learned a couple things in the last 60 years and it’s got a few modern touches as well, like the 9.5″ radius fretboard sporting 6105 fretwire for easy playability, and a modern 5-way switch.  This is a highly collectible anniversary guitar you can cherish and gig with at the same time.  Want to order one?  Get in touch with our sales team at sales@themusiczoo.com.

From Fender: The Fender Custom Shop celebrates the diamond jubilee of the world’s greatest electric guitar with the 60th Anniversary 1954 Heavy Relic Stratocaster guitar. This special guitar honors the Stratocaster’s very first model year and is finely crafted with a rich selection of features and appointments, in addition to a heavy relic treatment that evokes decades of use, abuse and hard-fought wear and tear.

The one-piece ash body features a battered nitrocellulose lacquer finish in the model’s original 2-Color Sunburst. The one-piece quartersawn maple neck has a comfortable 1954 “U”-shaped profile and tinted lacquer finish, and the maple fingerboard has a 9.5” radius and 21 6105 frets for smooth modern playability. Three 1954 single-coil Stratocaster pickups deliver a singing original-era voice. Other features include modern five-way pickup switching, a single-ply white pickguard, synchronized tremolo bridge with six “patent pending” saddles and serial number-stamped tremolo backplate (a special 1954 touch), vintage-style tuners and nickel- chrome hardware. The guitar comes in a tweed “center-pocket” case with Stratocaster 60th anniversary embroidery and an included 60th anniversary commemorative book.






BODY One-Piece Ash

FINISH  Relic Nitrocellulose Lacquer

BRIDGE  Synchronized Tremolo Bridge with Six “Patent Pending” Saddles

PICKUPS  1954 Single-Coil Stratocaster (Bridge, Middle and Neck)

NECK  One-Piece Quartersawn Maple

FINGERBOARD   Maple, 9.5″ (241 mm) Radius

FRETS  21, Narrow Jumbo

CONTROLS  Master Volume, Tone 1. (Neck Pickup), Tone 2.

HARDWARE  Nickel/Chrome

INCLUDED  Tweed “Center-Pocket” Case with Stratocaster 60th Anniversary Embroidery and an Included 60th Anniversary Commemorative Book 



Jan 24

namm 2014 fender

We are bummed that the perfectly timed POLAR VORTEX SNOWPOCALYPSE that nailed the east coast this week prevented us from making our usual trip out to the NAMM show this year, but Fender helped us feel better about it by putting together an amazing assortment of super cool guitars and basses that will be coming to The Music Zoo after the NAMM show.  These are on display in Anaheim right now, and all will be available for sale through the Zoo.  Thanks to Joe Reynoso for helping us with the pictures of these instruments.  Interested in one of these?  Get in touch with sales@themusiczoo.com.  First come, first served!

namm 14 fenders

DOUBLE NECK TELE® NOS ONE OFF   MASTERBUILT -­‐ JOHN CRUZ -­‐ Amber Burst-­‐ Okume Body, 4A Bastogne Walnut Top, Mahogany Neck, Dark Rosewood Fretboard, 6105 Frets, 12″ Radius, Large “C” Neck Shape, Handwound Twisted Tele Neck Pickup, Handwound Broadcaster Bridge Pickup, TV Jones Pickups on 12-­‐String


namm 14 fenders

TORTOISE COVERED TELE® NOS  MASTERBUILT -­‐ DENNIS GALUSZKA -­‐ Tortoise Shell -­‐ Entire alder body covered in 1 ply tortoise shell material, double bound in ivoroid; 1 ply ivoroid p/g; Nocaster neck p/u; Broadcaster bridge p/u; tortoise covered knobs; tortoise bobbin on bridge p/u; AAA 1 piece birdseye neck; 7.25″ radius; vintage frets; Big C shape


namm 14 fenders

BUCKEYE BURL CABRONITA® NOS   MASTERBUILT -­‐ DALE WILSON -­‐ NATURAL -­‐ Lightly flamed ash body; buckeye burl top; rear loaded electronics; TV Jones pick up; American Std hardtail bridge; 1/4 sawn AAAA flame maple neck; 9.5 radius; 21 6105 frets; abalone dot inlay; ’52 TELE neck shape


namm 14 fenders

DOUBLE BOUND SLAB BODY STRAT® NOCASTER BLONDE -­‐ Lightweight Okume Slab Body w/ Flame Top, Double Bound Body, Urethane Finish, Trans Cherry Back & Sides, Custom Deluxe Bridge, Schaller Tuners, Present Day Wiring, 5 Way Switch, Tinted AAA Flame Maple Neck, Dark Rosewood Fretboard, 6105 Frets, 9.5″ Radius, Bone Nut, 65 Strat C Neckshape, 3 Ply Parchment PG, 1969 Neck Pickup, RWRP 1969 Mid Pickup, Texas Special Bridge Pickup


namm 14 fenders

 50s TELE®LIGHT RELIC  MASTERBUILT -­‐ YURIY SHISHKOV -­‐ Dark Lake Placid Blue -­‐ Alder Body, Light Relic Lacquer Finish, 1-­‐Piece Quartersawn Maple Neck, Vintage Frets, 7.25″ Radius, Mid 60′s Oval “C” Neck Shape, ’51 Nocaster Pickups, Modern Wiring


namm 14 fenders

NOS 55 STRAT® -­‐ ONE OFF  MASTERBUILT -­‐ JOHN CRUZ -­‐ Trans Honey Burst -­‐ AA Flame Ash Body, Lacquer Finish, 1-­‐Piece AA Flame Maple Neck, 6105 Frets, 9.5″ Radius, ’55 Strat “U” Neck Shape, Handwound 50′s Strat Pickups, Blend Knob


namm 14 fenders

Aged Vintage White “L” SERIES 1964 PBASS® HEAVY RELIC-­‐ L-­‐Series Neckplate -­‐ Heavy RelicTM Lacquer Finish; Alder Body; Quartersawn Maple Neck with a P Bass “C” Back-­‐ Shape; Round-­‐Lam Rosewood Fingerboard with a 7.25″ Radius; Vintge Frets; Precision Bass Pickups; Stock Wiring; Tortoise Shell Pickguard; Vintage Hardware; Round String Tree; Brown Tolex Case

PICTURE COMING SOON  Shoreline Gold “L” SERIES 1964 STRAT® CLOSET CLASSIC -­‐ L-­‐Series Neckplate -­‐ Closet Classic Lacquer Finish; Alder Body; Maple Neck with an Early ’60s “C” Back-­‐ Shape; Round-­‐Lam Rosewood Fingerboard with a 7.25″ Radius; Vintge Frets; Hand-­‐Wound Pickups; 5 Way Switch with Stock Wiring; 3-­‐Ply Mint Green Pickguard; Vintage Hardware; Wing String Tree; Brown Tolex Case

PICTURE COMING SOON  SPRUCE STRAT®NOS  MASTERBUILT -­‐ GREG FESSLER -­‐White Blonde Burst -­‐ Spruce Body, Lacquer Finish, 5A Flame Quartersawn Maple Neck, Dark Rosewood Fretboard, 6105 Frets, 9.5″ Radius, Large “C” Neck Shape, Handwound Jaguar Pickups, Rear Loaded Electronics

PICTURE COMING SOON  Sunset Orange Trans DOUBLE BOUND SLAB BODY STRAT® -­‐ Lightweight Okume Slab Body w/ Flame Top, Double Bound Body, Urethane Finish, Trans Cherry Back & Sides, Custom Deluxe Bridge, Schaller Tuners, Present Day Wiring, 5 Way Switch, Tinted AAA Flame Maple Neck, Dark Rosewood Fretboard, 6105 Frets, 9.5″ Radius, Bone Nut, 65 Strat C Neckshape, 3 Ply Parchment PG, 1969 Neck Pickup, RWRP 1969 Mid Pickup, Texas Special Bridge Pickup

PICTURE COMING SOON  Emerald Green Trans DOUBLE BOUND SLAB BODY STRAT® -­‐ Lightweight Okume Slab Body w/ Flame Top, Double Bound Body, Urethane Finish, Trans Cherry Back & Sides, Custom Deluxe Bridge, Schaller Tuners, Present Day Wiring, 5 Way Switch, Tinted AAA Flame Maple Neck, Dark Rosewood Fretboard, 6105 Frets, 9.5″ Radius, Bone Nut, 65 Strat C Neckshape, 3 Ply Parchment PG, 1969 Neck Pickup, RWRP 1969 Mid Pickup, Texas Special Bridge Pickup

PICTURE COMING SOON  Purple Trans    DOUBLE BOUND SLAB BODY STRAT® -­‐ Lightweight Okume Slab Body w/ Flame Top, Double Bound Body, Urethane Finish, Trans Cherry Back & Sides, Custom Deluxe Bridge, Schaller Tuners, Present Day Wiring, 5 Way Switch, Tinted AAA Flame Maple Neck, Dark Rosewood Fretboard, 6105 Frets, 9.5″ Radius, Bone Nut, 65 Strat C Neckshape, 3 Ply Parchment PG, 1969 Neck Pickup, RWRP 1969 Mid Pickup, Texas Special Bridge Pickup

Dec 09

Fender Masterbuilder John Cruz is one of the titans in the guitar industry, having built everything from artist tribute replica guitars to amazing one-off NAMM show works of art. We were looking forward to sitting down with him to find out more about what he loves about guitar building, his philosophy, and of course, what he thinks about the relic trend he has helped create. We’ve been huge fans of his work and have used his expertise in our own Ultimate Relic Series of guitars. Interested in a John Cruz Fender of your own? Click here to see what we’ve got.

Dec 05

Fender ZF Series

There’s no denying the allure of the classic Fender Stratocaster and Telecaster.  They’ve got timeless design and feel as comfortable as your favorite old pair of jeans.  But sometimes, we find ourselves just wanting a bit more aggressive performance.  The Music Zoo is proud to announce our latest custom run endeavor with the Fender Custom Shop, which we are calling the ZF Series.  Why ZF?  Well, you’ll only find these at the Zoo, and each of these high performance guitars will feature a Floyd Rose tremolo for the ultimate control over vibrato and tuning.  These Teambuilt guitars will be arriving in a variety of colors and configurations, with the emphasis on hot pickups and all out performance.  We’re happy to be offering these guitars at a price point far below the typical Masterbuilt price tag, which previously would have been the only route to get a Custom Shop guitar this highly customized.

The ZF Series guitars will come loaded with our favorite features including nitro cellulose lacquer finishes, modern fingerboard radiuses, coil tapped, higher-output Seymour Duncan pickup in a variety of configurations, and of course the legendary Floyd Rose tremolo.  We have a couple of early production prototype ZF guitars in stock now, check them out here.  More ZF guitars will be hitting the website in early 2014.  Finally, custom orders will be open, so if you are dreaming of a custom neck shape, color, aging package, or pickup configuration, just let us know.  Long live the Floyd!

Oct 24

Fender Custom Shop Acoustic

Factory Tour: Part One  Part Two  Part Three

In parts one and two of our factory tour of the Fender Acoustic Custom shop in New Hartford, CT, we saw how they pick tonewoods and construct all the parts required to build the guitar.  Now it’s time to get down to business and we start with body construction.



These CNC side benders were designed and built in house.  The 2 axis design allows for the waist bender (shown) to push the shoe into the waist, while mechanical arms wraps a sealed shim on the upper and lower bouts.   The process including shutting down the heat is automated, allowing a worker to focus on other things during the process.



Here are some bent sides cooling in a rack.



Workers will use this fixture to join the two completed guitar sides by adding the head block and tail block.  The white plastic parts are clamp calls, that assist with locating the parts.



Here’s the rim assembly process after getting removed from the fixture.  The head and tail blocks are clamped onto the calls.



Here are some completely assembled rims with kerfing installed.  These bodies are an OM style with Gibson/Martin inspired wood sides stays (the brown lines inside the rim).   The sides stays add strength.  The collars used to shape these rims can be seen in the background.



Fender uses basswood kerfing in the guitars.  It’s lightweight, easy to work with, and bonds well.



Here’s an individual maple side stay getting sanded.  These have to fit between the kerf on the top and bottom of the rim.



Colin is bonding in the side stays using clamps.



This shot shows the clamps in action, and also gives us a look at the truss rod access in the neck block.



If you look closely at the near edge of the rim, there is a bit of wood that protrudes past the kerfing.  This “stand off” is lasered in when the side is cut.  In the next step, the stand off is used to locate the specific position of the assembly once it is placed inside inside the collar.



The position of the rim inside this collar is important, as you’ll see when the part gets sanded.



Fender has three of these disc sanders, they are used to sand a specific radius onto the rim’s edge.  This is what helps the top and back of the guitar have a very subtle shape.  This one has a 30 foot dish radius and is used to sand the edge for the top of the guitar.  For backs, they use one with a 16 foot radius, and there is a flat one too for guitars like carved top jazz guitars, where the top or back is naturally arched.



Remember the stand offs we saw on the rim’s edge that help locate it in the collar?  Here’s where they get sanded off, as the collar is placed on the aluminum blocks to rest at the exact right height.



Here’s the interior of the guitar during fitting, complete with the laser Fender logo.



Here’s Marty applying some glue to radiused braces for the interior of the guitar.



This white locator is used to show where to attach the braces to the top.  It has holes in it that the braces fit in precisely.  Not all the braces are bonded at once, about half of them in one pass then the other half.



This vacuum membrane bonder will lower over the braces and suck the parts down tightly together.



Not only does the membrane apply very even pressure to the braces during bonding, it helps with the time required as well.  In a conventional clamp these would need an hour of clamp time.  In the membrane the vacuum action shortens that to 15 minutes.



Here’s an Englemann spruce top, complete with bracing.  Note the tabs on the ends, these will be used for more locating and then removed.



Next, the top and back are joined.  This phenolic plate has the arch of the top carved into it, and uses vacuum pressure to hold the top in shape while the rim is joined.



Darren is showing us that suble arch to the back of this guitar body, thanks to the 30 foot radius sanding disc.  Fender makes a lot of effort to build the final shape of the guitar into every part, so there is as little stress as possible within the wood.



Here’s a nice look at a beautiful FSR built with claro walnut and a carpathian spruce top.  Very elaborate purfling and rosette.



Dave the fitter is working on the neck fit.  The tolerances are carved so tightly that he’ll end up using a clamp to drive the neck all the way home once it is in position.



Fender uses traditional hand fit dovetail joints for the neck fit.  Dave is using a unique chamfered sanding block to get the shape just right.



Now we’re in final assembly.  Here’s Andy McDonald touching up the shape of a saddle.  The saddle is what sits inside the bridge and supports the strings.



This is Mike Shear, the body department supervisor.  He’s worked with Fender/Guild for years and has done bindings on thousands of guitars.



The binding process is hard, precise work.  This is a Doyle Dykes Guild model with an intricate multi-laminate binding.



Due to the porous nature of a wood like mahogany, vinyl sealer is shot onto the neck then paste-wood filler is applied.  A builder will apply the filler by wiping it on with the grain, then wiping it off against the grain.  That way, he won’t strip out the filler he just applied.



Here’s Drew spraying color onto the walnut FSR run of guitars we’ve been seeing a lot of today.



Some of these FSRs are getting a sunburst finish, while some (like the one in the back there) are staying natural.



The sapwood part of the walnut is the lightly colored area next to the darker hardwood.  It’s bookmatched to great effect here.



After the guitars have been painted, the paint that has covered the logo, binding, and other decorative elements need to be scraped off.  It takes a lot of concentration and a steady hand to do this job, and Leon has both.



Scraping the Fender logo on this sunburst painted headstock.



This FSR has been scraped, and will now go to get clearcoat.



The painted guitars are left to cure for at least 2 weeks before they can be worked on.  Jason here has been with the group for years also and is seen here sanding the clear.  He’ll use gradually finer sandpapers to prepare the body for buffing.



This guitar is being buffed by Todd, a long-time Guild guy who has been building guitars since the Westerly era.



Lead buffer Chris is working the wheel on this headstock.



Some of these areas have been reconfigured since our visit; this area is now used for neck fitting.  As we mentioned in part one, this antique building is huge and complex and it is easy as pie to get lost.



Final setup time.  Chris Jarvis is shown here working on a Fender koa auditorium limited run.



This builder is filing the nut slots.  All the nuts used on Fender Custom Shop guitars are made of bone.



Bob is using a gauge to check the height of the string at the nut.  This action at the nut is important for the playability of the guitar.



Dialing in the action.



Here’s Phil putting a Guild archtop through its paces.  All three of the guys in here can full setup and finish any of the guitars.



We liked this neatly organized, decidedly not digital ledger book.  This book has literally every detail about every guitar built written into it, and as Darren Wallace said, it’s like “seeing your life pass before your eyes” flipping through it.  The Music Zoo has been to a lot of guitar factories and we are genuinely impressed with the craftsmanship and attention to detail that the Fender Custom Shop is putting into this current breed of acoustic instruments.  These are truly great sounding and authentically constructed guitars that we’re proud to carry at the shop.  Thank you to Darren Wallace, Tim Shaw, Ren Ferguson, Gary Waugh, Sean Morrissey and all the other good Fender folks who hosted us for the tour.  Want to see some Fender Custom Shop acoustic guitars that you could own now?  Check out our current inventory. 

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