48. OTB Custom Guitars Sherwood Green Strat
QUITE simply the best guitar I’ve ever played. And it’s mine.
It’s a bit of a gamble when you commission a custom guitar from scratch (not that it’s something I’d ever done before). The principle is much the same as when you put one together yourself, though. You can generally guess how a guitar will turn out, but without strings, even a finished guitar is essentially a dead thing. It’s not until you actually put strings on it and tune them, that you can ever be entirely sure how the various elements will come together. On this occasion, the gamble paid off quite handsomely.
Even allowing for the fact Owen built this for me for free (a quid pro quo, I like to think, for all the guitars and other things I’ve built for him down the years) it was still a gamble. I had to commit a sizeable chunk of cash up front for materials and parts – considerably more than I originally bargained for, too, thanks the June 2016 Brexit vote which happened in the middle of the ordering process. I reckon the consequent crash of the pound cost me an extra £200 minimum. Grrr! Thanks, Boris, Nigel et al!
I know I’m biased, but Owen builds seriously GREAT guitars! He started off making guitars for his own use, to the exact spec he needed as a session player on the Los Angeles studio scene. Word soon got out about how good they were and soon people started asking him to build the odd high-end Strat or Tele for them. He’s now put together about a dozen – including some to order for a very high-end LA guitar store. My Sherwood Green ’62 was, I think, OTBCG number 4 or 5. Usually they carry Owen’s own classy-looking OTB logo, but mine has a Fender decal on the head (my request).
For years, I’d fancied a Sherwood Green Strat. It’s a relatively rare metallic finish among all the Candy Apple Reds and Lake Placid Blues and when Owen offered to build me my ultimate Strat, there was never any doubt about what colour it would be. (Well, a Gold one might have been nice…maybe that’ll be the next one he builds for me!)
He visited us back in the UK early in 2016 and that was we when we settled on the basic spec. Lightweight alder body, roasted maple neck with a nice, thick rosewood slab board and a compound radius, medium jumbo frets, Callaham hardware (the best!) and a nice set of Klein ’62 pickups.
Klein makes Owen’s Strat pickup of choice and I can vouch for his endorsement. They sound great. The company makes an authentic replica – right down to the gauge of wire, the number of winds and the precise metallurgy of the magnets – of every year of Strat pickup made by Fender from 1954 to 1969. I’d had a great set of ’63s in my Surf Green Strat for some time and loved the sound of them. The ’62s are similar, possibly a tiny bit brighter. The other thing is that because they are authentic replicas, the middle pickup isn’t reverse-wound, as is the case with the majority of modern Strat pickup sets. You don’t get the hum-bucking effect you get on reverse-wound sets in switch positions 2 and 4, but the up-side is that the “out-of-phase” sounds are WAY stronger.
I decided I wanted the Strat to look like a guitar which had been around the block a few times (as, indeed, have I), so I sent over a set of pics of the body of my moderately worn Surf Green Strat to show the way a guitar I had personally played for 25-plus years looked. The resulting wear and tear on the thin-coat nitro finish was pretty convincing – I particularly love the crazing.
(Unfortunately, it’s rather more dinged and dented now. Confession time: The marks on the top edge are down to stupidity, rather than gig-abuse. I gig with a wireless system, with a transmitter in a pouch on the strap and a lead attached, running down to the jack socket. Lazy sod that I am, I’ve long been in the habit of stuffing whichever guitar I’m playing back into the gig bag with the strap still attached – not a problem with most, harder guitar finishes. Sadly, the soft, thin-coat nitro on my green Strat hasn’t fared well from a couple of years’ regular abrasion against the metal of the jack on the tranny lead. You live and learn. )
I simply can’t tell you how good this guitar is, though. It’s light, resonant, the neck is insanely comfortable, the trem stays in tune, and each of five pickup positions has a great and very distinct sound to it. Klein pickups are expensive – especially at current exchange rates – but they are truly fantastic ! Every single player who’s picked up this guitar has fallen in love with it – I’ve grown accustomed to having to wrest it from people who find it just as un-put-downable as I do!
I currently own four Strats. Each is precious to me guitar in its own way, but this is most definitely THE ONE!
If you want and OTB of your own, Look Owen up on Facebook, Twitter or Instragram and send him a message. He’ll be delighted to talk guitars with you!
Here’s a little clip of yours truly playing the Strat with WOLFPACK…enjoy!