A guitar build local to me crafts Fender-inspired gems from reclaimed wood
Cost: $1500.00 from rwmguitars.com
Overview & Final Score: 8.6
RWM Guitars has been one of my favorite small builders since I came across their Instagram profile. Not only are these phenomenal guitars made local to me, in New England, but they are often made from reclaimed local woods. Each guitar looks and feels unique, with signs of aging not corrected. That means wormholes, historical damage, and knots are not filled in, but rather glossed over. This particular double cut take on the Thinline Tele features a Pine Wood body, made from trees along the Middletown, CT reservoir and a top that comes from a 1889 Estey’s pump organ. A Maple neck holds a Rosewood fretboard along the 24.75″ scale length guitar. The Pine body is dyed with an Orange tint, to beautifully contrast the natural finish on top. Gold GFS Sperzel-style locking tuners hold the strings wonderfully in tune, with some compensation to prevent the need for string trees. The pickups are also GFS, with a Retrotron Liverpool in the neck and a Lil Puncher XL in the bridge, giving a unique HH-type configuration. A 3-way selector switch, master volume and tone, and all gold hardware wrap up this unique, stunning guitar.
I’m certainly biased because I love GFS pickups, but this guitar flat out sounds wonderful. I’m sure some would make a very valid argument that this guitar should have a higher priced pickup to justify the $1500 price tag. However, in my opinion I don’t feel this guitar’s tone is missing anything. The thinline body is very resonant, and provides a naturally warm and rich voice to each of the pickups. I’m actually shocked at how nice the clean tones are, with crystal clear note definition and a ton of that slap and sparkle that you’d expect from a Tele. The bridge pickup in particular sounded way closer to a Fender Tele than I expected from the GFS hot rail-style model. You could easily go from chick’n’pickin to Led Zeppelin with this lovely, unique take on the Telecaster.
Once some dirt was layered on I felt right at home. This guitar screamed with some Rat and Tube Screamer flavors added to the mix, and didn’t even feedback much unlike some thinlines I’ve played. I will say that a coil-split option would have been greatly appreciated on this guitar, especially to get some more atmospheric, indie-type sounds of the neck and middle positions. The sustain was pretty fun too with a big distortion pedal on top, as I really felt like this Tele could be a lead guitarists secret weapon. Overall, RWM has filled this ancient wooden guitar with a ton of fun and inspiring sounds that should feel right at home in a vintage Fender lover’s hands.
One thing that really won me over with the RWM Semi-Hollow Double Cut is how comfortable it is to play. It’s got a vintage Fender-style neck that is smooth but never sticky, and surprisingly user friendly with that shorter scale length. I’m not sure why RWM opted to go with a Gibson-like 24.75″ scale length (maybe a nod to the Coronet??) but I’m a bigger fan of it than I thought I’d be. The tuning stability has been outright impressive and these GFS Sperzel-style locking tuners are the real deal. I know they might not be as expensive as other options, but they don’t feel or look cheap to me. This is a smooth playing instrument that also feels incredibly worn in, hats off to RWM Guitars for this one. For me, this is the kind of guitar you can tune at the beginning of the week and then pick up any day to play.
Finish & Construction: 9
I’m a sucker for the whole reclaimed wood thing. The Carmine Street Guitars documentary came out right as I was getting into the guitar modding/writing/reviewing world and I ate it up. Even if there is more fiction than fact to the whole “magic tone in the wood” mantra, I’m still a big fan. To me it adds a lot of artistic and intrinsic value. Recycling old wood into something new is an idea I will always support and RWM Guitars has done it wonderfully here. The decision not to fill the worm holes or scratches from the natural wood is actually something I appreciate. You end up with a guitar that isn’t relic’d but does have some dings and marks that give it character while still preserving killer build quality. Finish work and fret work and all the important stuff is excellent, just with some history preserved in there.
I think that pricing these at $1500 is a really good sweet spot, making them far more affordable than most other custom build, boutique guitars. Truth be told, I think brand name pickups from Lollar, or Seymour Duncan would definitely get a few of the more elitist buyers in but for a regularly gigging musician like myself, I use and trust GFS stuff regularly. However, the build quality, attention to detail, and tone woods more than justify the price. Overall, I feel there is a lot of character and back story to this guitar without an exorbitant price tag. It sounds great but feels and looks even better. If you’re looking for a custom built guitar with eye catching features and reclaimed woods, RWM Guitars is worth a strong look. I would have no reservations about ordering my own dream Telecaster from them.
Good for: Blues, Classic Rock, Fans of Carmine Street Guitars/Rick Kelly, Fans of Vintage Fenders