Todd Krause had been building instruments for a long time before he officially joined Fender in 1991. But over the past year, the Fender Master Builder tackled a career first when he decided to create a crystallized guitar for the 2014 NAMM Show.
But Krause didn’t want to take the easy way out. Anybody can simply bedazzle a guitar, or a shirt, or a hat, or a purse. What Krause did was truly special.
“I think what makes this unique is that I engineered the guitar to fit the crystals,” Krause said. “I thought that could be a really cool advantage that I had over your average Joe. I changed the dimensions and cut channels into it so they’re not just glued on to the guitar – they’re inlaid. It has a distinctive feel and look.”
Krause encountered several challenges along the way.
For one, he wasn’t quite sure where to stop embedding the crystals. An abrupt end could have created a jagged line around the guitar. And questions like whether or not to add a radius or a bevel at the edge also popped into his head.
Krause ended up creating a bevel around the upper arm area to smooth it out, and a line of crystals around the top gave it the look of binding.
“It wasn’t trial and error, it was baptism by fire,” he said with a laugh. “That’s the beauty of some of these projects— that there’s a deadline and the clock is ticking. Eventually, you have to just figure out how to do something. Sometimes, it’s at that point where you’re angry but you just figure it out at the last minute. .
“The biggest advantage I had was that I got to plan the guitar from the beginning. It was engineered in a way that would accept the crystals.”
When it came to the neck – which is maple, for those keeping score – Krause was faced with another tough decision.
He considered painting it black like the rest of the guitar, but opted against it. And he also went with elegant custom pearl inlays where others might have chosen to simply use more crystals.
“I wanted it to feel comfortable and familiar,” he noted. “I could have glued some crystals on the fingerboard or used them as a side marker, and that’s all good if it’s going to sit on a shelf, but I wanted this to be playable.”
Krause had been considering how to make a guitar just like his Crystal Tele for years. But after he was unsuccessful in his attempts to make it come to fruition through an outside vendor, he took matters – literally – into his own hands.
“I’m not the first guy to put crystals on a guitar and I’m probably not going to be the last guy,” he said. “But I’m probably the first to alter the guitar with the intent of it being covered with crystals.
“Sometimes out of desperation, you get lucky. I hate to say that, but I’m really excited about how this feels and looks.”