Fender used the NAMM 2017 show to announce the arrival of their new Limited Edition Exotic Woods guitars. The whole run comprises of nine guitars and there will be one model released per month. With this announcement coming just after the new CITES laws coming through on the movement of rosewood throughout the world, what does exotic actually mean nowadays?
Among the guitars ot be released this year, you can look forward to an American Professional Pine Stratocaster, Jazzmaster and a Telecaster, a Professional Mahogany Tele Deluxe with ShawBuckers and a Malaysian Blackwood Telecaster 90.
Fender is using a lot of reclaimed pine from the Buckstaff Furniture Company facility in Oshkosh, Wisconsin, and via a few other unnamed sources. Some of this pine is allegedly over 100 years old and has been used to build a number of guitars in this limited production run. The pine has been thermally treated to reduce its weight and give it similar tonal characteristics to that of a vintage guitar.
The mahogany used was ‘found in a barn’ in South Dakota where it had sat unused for more than 15 years. Originally it had been imported from Honduras by a small guitar building company and then never used. That company had bought the mahogany after Hurricane Mitch, the worst hurricane in 150 years hit Central America in 1988. It killed 9,000 people in Honduras, destroyed the country’s infrastructure and the mahogany was taken from trees killed during the storm.
Pine, of course, was used by Leo Fender on some of his earliest prototype guitars like the Esquire back in the ’50s and so it isn’t that unheard of. I’ve played a few pine guitars made by friends over the years and it is a perfectly good wood for building solid bodied guitars with.
Mahogany has been used by Fender and other companies in the past. I own a Fender Jazzmaster with a mahogany body, albeit one that is painted black so you can’t see the actual grain, but it sounds fine to me.
Now for me personally the most interesting guitar of the whole announcement and the one I think also happens to look the nicest: the Malaysian Blackwood Telecaster with P90s. I just think it looks really nice in Fender’s promo photos – and it has two P90s, making it the one I’d go for if I was in the market for one of these new guitars.
These guitars really have nothing directly to do with the CITES laws that I mentioned earlier, just that it strikes me that companies like Fender that use large amounts of timber will need to find alternatives for many commonly used species of wood over the coming years. With the new crackdown on the movement of any rosewood being used commercially kicking in this year, you can see that there is only a finite amount of ‘tone woods’ on the planet.
I cannot say whether pine will become a staple of Fender guitars in the future, but I applaud Fender for using wood that was sourced mainly in the US, especially in the case of the pine that has been already sitting around unused for so many years. When I first saw these guitars the other week, I thought they were a bit ugly and ’70s furniture like, but looking at them more closely with their imperfections, they are growing on me.
Limited Edition American Elite Mahogany Tele Thinline
This one has an Elite Suspension Bridge, ShawBucker wide range -tyle humbucker in the neck and 4th Gen Noiseless single coil in the bridge. The Thinline has 9.5” to 14” compound-radius maple fingerboard and has 22 medium jumbo frets.
Limited Edition American Professional Mahogany Tele Deluxe ShawBucker
This mahogany bodied Tele Deluxe has twin ShawBucker humbucking pickups, but this time it has 22 narrow-tall frets and a more regular 9.5” radius fingerboard.
Limited Edition American Vintage ’59 Pine Stratocaster
Leo used pine on a lot of his prototypes, so this could be fun! It’s loaded with American Vintage ’59 single-coil Strat pickups, has more traditional 21 narrow-tall frets and a 9.5”-radius maple fingerboard.
Limited Edition American Professional Pine Telecaster
This one looks sweet to my eye, that Charlie Christian neck pickup and the pine seems to suits the Tele shape. It has an American Vintage ’64 Gray-bottom singlecoil Tele pickup in the bridge position, a lovely Lollar Charlie Christian single coil pickup in the neck (I bet that sounds sweet) and has 22 narrow-tall frets on a 9.5”-radius maple fingerboard.
Limited Edition American Professional Pine Jazzmaster
The Jazzmaster looks a bit like the Elvis Costello signature – not surprising, seeing as it is bare wood! This one has Fender V-Mod single coil Jazzmaster pickups and 22 narrow-tall frets with a 9.5”-radius maple fingerboard. The tremolo has been ‘improved’ with a screw-in arm and bridge has brass Mustang saddles.
Limited Edition Malaysian Blackwood Telecaster
My favourite one visually (plus it has twin P90s!) and possibly the best looking of the bunch, in my opinion. This Tele has two JP-90 single coil pickups, while the maple neck has 22 narrow-tall frets with a 9.5”-radius fingerboard.
Limited Edition American Professional Mahogany Stratocaster
I personally find this one a bit fugly, and too PRS like for my tastes, but you may love it. It comes with the V-Mod single coil pickups in all three positions, a new treble-bleed tone circuit and the new Fender modern Deep C neck profile with narrow-tall frets.
Limited Edition Shedua Top Stratocaster
Same pickups and specifications as the American Professional Mahogany above, just not as ugly!
Limited Edition American Professional Jazz Bass
The only bass in the lineup, which is a shame (where’s the Precision?). Again, it has V-Mod pickups, just this time wound for a Jazz Bass. The neck has a slim Modern C neck profile and 20 narrow-tall frets.
More information on the Fender Exotic Woods Limited Run