Trying to Make My Perfect Guitar

by | Feb 10, 2021 | Gear

My favorite guitar for over 20 years has been my Tom Anderson Classic. I got it from a friend who really should never have sold it. It’s been through a lot with me and has been tweaked and whatnot to fit whatever whims I’ve had along the way. But the essence of it, as a super well built strat that plays like a video game on “easy” mode has remained.

It’s not perfect, however. I’ve painted it a few times. Most recently metallic purple. But it doesn’t strike me as pretty. It has a really nice rosewood fretboard, but I am just not a huge fan of rosewood fretboards. They feel… off somehow. Like playing on beef jerky. I don’t hate them by any means, but I’d rather have something else. And while it’s less of a thing since I’ve abandoned my shredder aspirations, I still am frequently running into the chunky neck joint (the more modern Anderson 2 bolt neck joints are way smoother – this is old school).

I’ve tried to figure out numerous times, what would be better? For me, of course.

It would still need to be essentially a strat. I’m far too used to the body shape and the standard curvatures (tummy cut, forearm cut). It would need to keep some of my favorite things about the Anderson like the Wilkinson trem (VS100 – not a stock item on that guitar), the jumbo stainless steel frets, the compound radius and the neck that is fat enough for strumming but thin enough for noodling.

I’m not sure I found the answer, but the closest I’ve come in 20 years is this Warmoth Strat I built/assembled.

I bought a neck from them kind of without much thought. It was one of their “Showcase” necks. It just looked too amazing to pass up. Roasted flame maple with an incredibly decorative wenge fretboard. My favorite thing about that combo is I can leave it unfinished. I love the feel of a raw neck and fretboard. It also has those SS jumbo frets that feel perfect to me. I put this on a different body I had but it just wasn’t right.

So eventually I ordered a new body. I did one with a Black Limba top that looked fun/unique. Strat body. It has Warmoth’s slimmer neck joint. It’s not as nice as something from Ibanez, but better than the Anderson for reaching beyond fret 18.

I opted against an Earvanna nut, which I really like on the Anderson (as well as another guitar of mine) for reasons I’m not even sure of. But the intonation is still really good.

Here’s where I’m not sure I’m in love. The body has an HH pickup configuration. I’m really more comfortable with the standard SSS strat setup. But I wanted some variety. I opted for a set of the classic Fishman Fluence humbuckers. They have two voicings in humbucker mode and both really make me happy. The standard sound reminds me a lot of the custom ’59 pickups in my PRS that I really love. But they also have a coil tap option that really just sucks. Huge volume drop and nothing exciting. Maybe I wired something wrong? Maybe it’s just not what they’re meant for. But I just don’t know if I am totally sold on the setup.

I think ultimately I might not be sold on any humbucker based setup as my tip-top favorite guitar. But this is the closest I’ve come in a couple decades to supplanting the king. Moral of the story? If you have a guitar you love that you think could be a little better… maybe just appreciate that you love it and that’s enough.