Price paid: £ 600
Purchased from: Reloved Guitars, Devon
Features — 10
The Oakcaster was made in summer/autumn 2016 in Devon, England. It has 22 jumbo frets on a maple neck with a rosewood fretboard. The body is made from a single piece of English oak which has been sanded to an extremely smooth finish and sealed before being waxed. It's intended use is as a travel guitar so its style does not really follow the style conventions favoured by the majority of guitar manufacturers, instead opting for what I guess you could call a modified teardrop shape. It also looks a bit like an axe!
The bridge is an intonated wrap around unit in black which complements the rest of the hardware and does it’s job well.
The electrics are passive and were designed as a custom option on this guitar. It has no selector switch. Instead there are just two black metal knurled knobs, one of which controls the volume, the other controls the level of the neck or the bridge pickup that is fed to the volume. This blend control works similarly to the balance control on your stereo.
For pickups I have a Seymour Duncan Quarter Pounder in the neck and a Seymour Duncan JB in the bridge.
The machine heads are Wilkinson 19:1 ratio tuners which give excellent tuning stability and precision.
As this guitar is intended for travel I opted to have a pickup mount tuner fitted. This looks very similar to a normal humbucker mounting ring but with the addition of tuner along the top edge.
Sound — 10
Part of the allure for me of have having a custom guitar built was that I could have a direct input on the exact sound of the finished guitar. I play mostly blues, rock and a little metal, almost exclusively through Blackstar valve amps. I use the HT 1 (1 watt) amp for practice at home and a Club 40 (40 watt) for playing with a band. I mostly like to plug directly into the amp and having dialed my sound in at the amp end I like to use the volume control on the guitar to affect the output. The blend control allows for a great deal of variation in tone especially with the choice of pickups. The single coil Quarter Pounder in the neck has all of the bell-like qualities and clarity you would expect from such a pickup and being able to add a little (or a lot!) of the humbucker really lets you add meat to the sound or extra raunch if playing with a distorted sound. There is nearly all the tonal complexity available from a 4 pot laden Les Paul but with much less complexity. The guitar is virtually noiseless thanks to the excellent grounding properties of the copper that has been used to line all the guitars cavities.
Action, Fit & Finish — 10
The Reloved Guitars (the place I commissioned to build the guitar for me) ideal is that any and all guitars can be set up to play excellently and Sam who runs the business prides himself on customer satisfaction. To this extent the guitar came perfectly setup and intonated. It has exactly the action that I wanted based upon conversation and trial. Low enough to play quickly but clean and clear on every fret with no annoying buzzing. This again was part of the joy of having a guitar custom built. The communication with the craftsman is an essential part of the process. The only thing that needed modifying after the build was complete was the higher fret access which wasn’t as good as I wanted. But true to his word Sam resculpted the wood to give the desired result.
Reliability & Durability — 10
I think this guitar will withstand live playing very well it is built solidly with the added bonus of being simple to take apart to fit into an overhead luggage bag. The strap buttons are firmly affixed and the weight of the guitar hangs well despite its diminutive size. I feel like I can depend on this guitar. The solid lump of oak makes me think that if there was a need to defend myself from zombies, this would be the weapon of choice. The natural finish of this guitar means that as I age, so will it. I believe that over the coming years this machine will become, much like it’s owner, worn and scarred but still capable of functioning.
Overall Impression — 10
Overall I am incredibly pleased with how this guitar plays and looks and also importantly how it makes me feel. It has become my go-to guitar. But ultimately if I didn't feel like this after working with a luthier to put together exactly the guitar I want, then there would be something wrong with the process! For the 15 or so years that I have been playing I spent a long time not playing Electric guitar as I could never make the sound that I wanted to hear. Despite having a few ok guitars during this time there was always something missing from the sound. A few years ago I discovered valve amps and all of a sudden I was overwhelmed with delight at the tones that could be wrought from a guitar and have not looked back since. This discovery has led me on an enjoyable journey through modifying and building my own guitars and now to having a guitar built for me to specifications that it would take me far too long to learn how to do myself. If this guitar were stolen/lost I would be very angry or sad depending on which one it was! As to whether I would buy it again. Well that would be impossible as it's not from a production line but I would certainly enter into another discussion with Reloved Guitars in an endeavor to built another guitar that fulfilled my needs at that time. My favourite features of this guitar are the way it sounds and the way it feels in the hands. I've bought guitars before because they looked great. This one I bought because it feels great.