I was eagerly looking forward to the November 2012 Philly Guitar Show, to see what Larry had come up with this time. Don’t get me wrong; I do not need any more guitars! But within a minute of arriving at his booth, I spotted this Catalpa body and grabbed it. He had it out on a stand, and was definitely showing it off. I’d never seen anything like it, and he filled me in. Apparently it’s quite unusual to see one-piece bodies in this stuff (it’s prone to decay of some sort) and the trees are mainly valued for their foliage and for their seed pods, which are used to feed livestock.
The wood is pretty soft, and has a faint greenish cast. As you can see, Tru-Oil worked its by-now-familiar magic and brought a beautiful warm amber tone to the wood, as well as making the grain pop spectacularly. The pictures really can’t do it justice; turning this body under the light is a religious experience if you enjoy cool wood grain.
Because it is a little softer than, say, the swamp ash, I was anticipating a bit warmer sound from it, as well as possibly softer highs. That made it seem like a great platform for a set of Joe Barden pickups with the new Modern T bridge pickup, which has a little more midrange than the familiar Danny Gatton bridge model. Great sound, and they are dead quiet.
I also wanted to build it up with an Allparts TRO-22 neck, which has 22 tall, wide frets. The 22nd fret is on a lip at the very end of the fingerboard, and the upshot of that is that you can’t remove the pickguard with first removing the neck. Big fat PITA! Ordinarily the guard needs to come off so you can adjust the height of the neck pickup, which is screwed into the body. I like the way that sounds, and fortunately an excellent answer presented itself.
I found a modern 3-ply black Fender guard with holes at either end of the pickup cutout for mounting the pickup. My spin on it was to mount the pickup into the wood as I usually do, but use a very thin Phillips screwdriver to adjust the screws through the holes in the pick guard. Quick and easy, and you can’t really see the holes unless you are pretty close.
Other features include a beautiful Marc Rutters vintage-style bridge with compensated brass saddles. Marc machines string grooves very accurately into each saddle, and gets his compensation that way, rather than angling the saddles themselves. Old school appearance, and it plays perfectly in tune. My usual flipped plate, Electroscket jack holder, and red chicken head tone knob ware all included, as are Dunlop Straploks, Gotoh vintage-type tuners, and a bone nut.
My hunch was correct. I got another great guitar, one which has undergone no parts swapping since I put it together. I got it just right the first time.