Guitar bodies are typically made out of firm woods like mahogany, ash, maple and basswood—just to name a few—but what would happen if you tried to build one out of something softer, like agave.
Yes, the living, breathing plant that makes tequila.
That’s exactly what Fender has done in collaboration with Jose Cuervo Tradicional in the world’s first agave Stratocaster.
Designed and constructed by Fender Custom Shop Master Builder Paul Waller—alongside big wave surfer Gary Linden, who created the first 100-percent agave surfboard—this guitar presented quite the challenge for the seasoned luthier.
“I was worried about two things: structural integrity and tone,” Waller said. “The agave … it’s so soft. It’s frustrating. In my initial discussions with Gary, he’s telling me this stuff, but it doesn’t hit home until I take the sandpaper to it.”
Of course, this wasn’t Waller’s first foray into unfamiliar materials. In 2015, he teamed up with Signal Snowboards to make the first functioning Stratocaster constructed out of cardboard.
This project was yet another enticing puzzle thrown Waller's way.
“I like challenging projects, and I knew this would be a challenge when they said, ‘We’re going to make a guitar out of a plant,’” Waller said. “A lot of times, when I start something, I immediately want to be the best at it, so I dive right in. The cardboard Strat, that was tough because not only did I need to make it look legit, but also have all the components to make it work properly. This was a similar situation.”
Waller traveled to Tequila, Mexico in the Summer of 2015, meeting with Linden at Jose Cuervo’s distillery, La Rojeña. They harvested the agave stalk and sealed the guitar, and then Waller headed to the Fender Custom Shop in Corona, Calif., to get to the real work.
because the body and neck were made out of 100-percent agave, Waller had to use 10-gauge strings to keep the tension light. He also installed a hand-wound Fat ‘50s neck pickup and reverse-wound, reverse-polarity pickups in the middle and bridge positions.
An instrument that has a truly unique sound and feel for the player, perfect for celebrating the 30th anniversary of the Custom Shop and Jose Cuervo’s dedication to sustainability and innovation in different ways to use agave.
“It shows we can make guitars out of nearly anything, and they still embody the distinctive sound of a Strat or a Tele,” Waller said of the feather-light 6.5-pound guitar. “(It)has a specific sound compared to an alder and maple guitar, a unique tone that is going to start a conversation, and that’s the purpose– it’s exactly what the Fender Custom Shop has been doing for the past 30 years.”
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