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Joe Doe By Vintage Lucky Buck & Punkaster review

And now for something completely different... A graffitied punk mash-up and a thinline T-type with Tex-Mex f-holes

  • £599
Joe Doe By Vintage Lucky Buck & Punkaster
(Image: © Future / Olly Curtis)

Our Verdict

There's a little of the freak in each of these Joe Doe By Vintage but that's okay by us. The Punkaster is a mash-up with a gnarly single-coil attitude while the Lucky Buck is the sort of T-style Texas Pete would play, lightweight and on the money in terms of tone.

Pros

  • Punkaster is high-concept, high-performance.
  • The Lucky Buck is one of the coolest T-styles you'll see.
  • Original designs.
  • Great tones.
  • The Lucky Buck is lightweight.

Cons

  • Fret ends are a wee bit sharp.
  • Punkaster tuners could use some loosening.

What is it?

It is often the realm of the signature model where we get something really weird going on with electric guitar design. The Punkaster and Lucky Buck from Joe By Vintage are a case in point.

Let's look at the Lucky Buck first, and please bear in mind, this is the normal one out of the two. This is a signature model after the fact, built in honour of Leslie Coal, the 50s chart-topping country star who sang of his preference for whiskey over cornflakes. 

A thinline T-style with cacti-shaped f-holes, the Lucky Buck has a lasso-style signature inlay running the length of the fretboard, a floral tortoiseshell 'guard and Honey Burst finish. This might be the first signature guitar we've seen that looks as though it should come with its own horse. 

The Lucky Buck might be the first signature guitar we've seen that looks as though it should come with its own horse

As it is, it comes with a case, and like the Punkaster, it weighs in at a very wallet-friendly £599. As with high-end signature models, both of these electrics are produced in limited runs and come with a certificate of authenticity.

The Punkaster body is a slice-and-dice affair with a T-style bottom third and an S-style top. Weird... Wonderful.

The Punkaster body is a slice-and-dice affair with a T-style bottom third and an S-style top. Weird... Wonderful. (Image credit: Future / Olly Curtis)

The Lucky Buck's pickup choice looks inspired, with a P-90-style single-coil in the neck position and a Joe Doe T-style in the bridge. The Vintage fingerprints come by way of the Wilkinson hardware, with a Nickel Wilkinson WTB 3-saddle bridge and matching WJ55 E-Z-Lok tuners.

The Punkaster is even stranger. Do not adjust your browser. Yes, this electric, a signature model for Brandon Hicks, of New York punks FistMeetsFace, is what it looks like – a chop shop work of iconoclasm that sees the treble-side of a T-style body, control setup and all, glued to the top-end of an S-style. Why did no one think of this before?

The Punkaster is even stranger. a chop shop work of iconoclasm that sees the treble-side of a T-style body, control setup and all, glued to the upper-body of an S-style

Well, clearly it's just not the sort of thing that comes up in R&D spitballing sessions. Pickups-wise, it's a three single-coil set up, with two S-style pickups in the middle and bridge positions and a T-style single-coil at the neck.

There are controls for volume and tone, with a five-way blade selector switch for hunting down in-between tones. That recipe plus the alder body sees the Punkaster lean more S than T but still... It's the power of suggestion, just seeing that distinctive lower-horn and cutaway and aged nickel control plate.

(Image credit: Future / Olly Curtis)

The Punkaster's nickel hardware is heavily aged. It too has the EZ-Lok style tuners but they look as though they've been recovered from a shipwreck. Take a closer look at the neck; it looks as though the guitar has been left in a dive bar toilet, with marker pen bon mots all up and down the neck and on the fretboard. 

The back of the headstock even has a number for Randy Mandy... Quite what to make of this is hard to say. You wouldn't play this one in church of a Sunday, and it is certainly a world apart from the AAAAA figured-maple finery that some artists demand.

The Wilkinson WVC six-saddle vibrato is so scuzzily aged you might want to wear Marigolds when playing it. But we've played this unit before and underneath the gunk we know it to be a stable and reliable unit for some wobble.

Look at the state of those tuners... But it's all aesthetic. They're perfectly fine, if a little stiff...

Look at the state of those tuners... But it's all aesthetic. They're perfectly fine, if a little stiff... (Image credit: Future / Olly Curtis)

The Punkaster and Lucky Buck are the brainchild of Ben Court, who is a screenwriter by trade and builds guitars as a passion project. After meeting Dennis Dumm of John Hornby Skewes at the 2017 Guitar Show in London, he was commissioned for eight new, all-original designs.

Court had total freedom to design what he wanted, but there were some limits. A final edit saw a hand-drawn penis removed from the Punkaster. 

That is where we are coming from with these guitars, folks. Not your typical electrics. Not your typical signature models.

One day you are a toilet door in a low-rent bar. The next you are carved into a comfortable C profile and bolted onto an electric guitar...

One day you are a toilet door in a low-rent bar. The next you are carved into a comfortable C profile and bolted onto an electric guitar... (Image credit: Future / Olly Curtis)

Performance and verdict

The Punkaster might look homemade, a Frankenstein punk creation, but there's a sophistication to its voice when you plug it in and explore the various options offered by the three single-coils. We love that the neck single-coil is a T-style pickup. It offers a bounce and clarity that complements the growl of the bridge pickup.

Can it do punk? Naturally, and with a flick-knife treble should you need to stick the mix with the sharp end and make yourself heard. A little overdrive really brings out the devil within. But the cleans are outstanding – spanky, elastic, on-the-money when it comes to classic Strat tones.

There are some sharp edges on the frets. Nothing too alarming but worth bearing in mind. Likewise, the Punkaster's tuners were a little stiff. The Lucky Buck has the same issues with the jagged fret edges, but it's not a deal-breaker. These are both comfortable enough to play.

Also consider...

(Image credit: Fender)

Fender Deluxe Nashville Telecaster
The bridge has bags of Tele twang on clean and roars when distorted - like a mash-up of Johnny Cash and early Jimmy Page. This Tele will nail Little Wing with more bottom-end grunt than any Stratocaster.

Fender American Performer Telecaster Hum
There’s little here to disappoint thanks to some nice upgrades and a welcome price tag.

Indeed, the Lucky Buck's weight is bang-on for a thinline electric, just 6.8lb on the old scale. Tone-wise, it is a real charmer, making the most of all that air inside its lungs with a bright chime to chord work that makes it a contender for indie-rock weirdness, and a natural fit partner for DynaComp squish and a Fender amp country tones.

The stylings might be too country for many but we can imagine quite a few players enjoying the cognitive dissonance of playing, say, punk or something similarly agitated with a guitar that's got theme park Mexicana written all over it.

Something for those late-night desert jams? The Lucky Buck is a player all right. They both are. If you don't mind a little low-rent chic or yee-haw chintz, these are fun electric, rich in character, and at the price, they're offering something that – quite literally – you can't get anywhere else. 

Now that's enough to write the contact number for John Hornby & Skewes on the nearest toilet wall. For a good time, call...

MusicRadar verdict: There's a little of the freak in each of these Joe Doe By Vintage but that's okay by us. The Punkaster is a mash-up with a gnarly single-coil attitude while the Lucky Buck is the sort of T-style Texas Pete would play, lightweight and on the money in terms of tone. 

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(Image credit: Future / Olly Curtis)
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The web says

“The Punkaster and Lucky Buck are not only great guitars. Like many, we’re seeing them reinforce the game shift in the sub-£1,000 guitar market. But you need something special to stand out in this crowded market and the combination of Vintage’s affordable price point, quality manufacture and Ben Court’s clever designs should see these things fly.“
Guitarist

Hands-on demos

Guitarist

Vicelio

The Guitar Geek

Joe Doe by Vintage Punkaster

Joe Doe by Vintage Punkaster (Image credit: Future / Olly Curtis)
  • PRICE: £599 (inc case)
  • ORIGIN: Vietnam
  • TYPE: Double-cutaway solidbody electric
  • BODY: American alder
  • NECK: Maple, bolt-on
  • SCALE LENGTH: 648mm (25.5”)
  • NUT/WIDTH: GraphTech/43mm
  • FINGERBOARD: Maple, 254mm (10”) radius
  • FRETS: 22, medium
  • HARDWARE: Aged nickel Wilkinson WVC six-saddle vibrato and Wilkinson WJ55 E-Z-Lok style tuners
  • STRING SPACING, BRIDGE: 53mm
  • ELECTRICS: Joe Doe S-style single coils (bridge and middle), Joe Doe T-style single coil (neck), master volume and master tone, angled 5-way pickup selector blade switch
  • WEIGHT (kg/lb): 3.8/8.5
  • OPTIONS: None
  • RANGE OPTIONS: Salty Dog with maple fingerboard in Albatross White with sailor tattoos; Jailbird with Lignum Rosa ’board in Red; Longboard with maple ’board in Laguna Blue; Lucky Betty with maple or Lignum Rosa ’board in White and Red. All £599 with hard case
  • LEFT-HANDERS: No
  • FINISHES: Sunburst/Butterscotch – as reviewed

Joe Doe by Vintage Lucky Buck

Joe Doe by Vintage Lucky Buck (Image credit: Future / Olly Curtis)
  • PRICE: £599 (inc case)
  • ORIGIN: Vietnam
  • TYPE: Single cutaway, semi-hollow electric
  • BODY: American alder
  • NECK: Maple, bolt-on
  • SCALE LENGTH: 648mm (25.5”)
  • NUT/WIDTH: GraphTech/43mm
  • FINGERBOARD: Maple, 254mm (10”) radius
  • FRETS: 22, medium
  • HARDWARE: Nickel Wilkinson WTB 3-saddle bridge and Wilkinson WJ55 E-Z-Lok tuners
  • STRING SPACING, BRIDGE: 53mm
  • ELECTRICS: Joe Doe T-style single coil (bridge), P-90-style soapbar (neck), master volume, master tone, 3-way pickup selector blade switch
  • WEIGHT (kg/lb): 3/6.8
  • OPTIONS: Lucky Buck with Lignum Rosa fingerboard in Black at same price
  • RANGE OPTIONS: See Punkaster
  • LEFT HANDERS: No
  • FINISHES: Honeyburst (as reviewed)
  • CONTACT: John Hornby Skewes