It has been a big year for the Fender Jazzmaster. The classic offset electric guitar has been reimagined for the American Acoustasonic series, creating one of the most innovative guitars we have seen in recent years.
And now Fender Master Builder Ron Thorn has taken the Acoustasonic Jazzmaster body shape and given it the mother of all hybrid builds.
Named The Trees, Thorn's custom-built Offset Acoustasonic comprises a quite spectacular bookmatched mahogany top, with Stradivarius spruce on the back and sides.
In keeping with the Stradivarius vibe, the fingerboard is jet-black ebony, with Thorn applying a series of falling leaf wooden inlays in various species “to celebrate the trees that made up this instrument.“
The finished guitar is spectacular. Thorn describes it as a career highlight, and little wonder. Every element of the guitar has its own story, with Thorn holding onto some very rare tonewoods for an opportunity like this.
Take the spruce. As Thorn explains in the video below, this is Stradivarius spruce, taken from the same parcel of trees – Il Bosco Che Suona, or “the Musical Woods“ – in the Italian Alps where Antonio Stradivari picked tonewoods for the world's finest stringed instruments.
While the area's trees have been protected for nearly a century now, a few were felled during a storm, and they did not go to waste.
“A combination of climate and altitude was partially responsible for the century-old spruce trees to become the chosen tonewood for these instruments,“ says Thorn.
The mahogany on the top was even harder to come by. It is taken from “The Tree“ – a legendary piece of Honduran mahogany. Thorn picks up the story.
“In 1965, deep in the Honduran rainforest, a group of loggers came across a massive 10-foot diameter by 100-foot tall mahogany tree,“ he says. “It was felled by axe, but landed in a ravine that proved too difficult an area to retrieve it from, so the loggers just left it and moved on.
“Fifteen years later, a sawmill owner rediscovered it, and upon closer inspection recognised its unique character and beauty. They had it cut into four sections to remove it, and once it got to the sawmill it finally revealed the most incredible figure ever found on mahogany.“
Naturally, cuts from The Tree were soon fêted in guitar-building circles. Through the 80s and 90s boutique acoustic guitar makers used some of the mahogany. If you are a luthier and of a mind to build a dreadnought acoustic from this eye-popping mahogany, Stew Mac has some unsanded exhibition grade for sale – yours for $5,999. Little wonder Thorn was so excited when Fender got a piece of the action.
“Like all Master Builders, we’ve all come across a special piece of wood or two and stashed it away in our work areas, waiting for the right opportunity to turn it into a unique guitar,“ says Thorn. “In this case it was three special pieces of wood. As soon as I heard we were about to launch a new model of the Acoustasonic – the offset shape – I immediately coupled these individual pieces of wood in my mind, and felt that the end result would be an instrument worthy of such amazing timbers.“
Which brings us nicely to the final piece of tonewood: the sinker mahogany used for the neck. This neck blank has been with Thorn for 15 years, and was taken from a waterlogged tree that lay submerged in a Belize river for 75 years before being dried and milled.
The finishing touches are applied via “a paper-thin“ lacquer with a hint of amber, just to make those natural wood details really pop. There are some lovely details, too, as on the headstock, where the Fender logo is inlayed in spruce (typically it is engraved on the American Acoustasonic models), and on the pickup cover, which uses a piece of that figured mahogany to perfectly match the top.