The Dream Factory: An Inside Look at the Fender Custom Shop

October 19th, 2017

Cuervo X Fender Agave Stratocaster

“When someone said, ‘We’re gonna make a guitar out of a plant,’ I knew that this would be a challenge,” says Master Builder Paul Waller about his Cuervo X Fender Agave Stratocaster. True to its name, the guitar, which Waller designed and constructed in partnership with Jose Cuervo, has had every traditional wood element replaced with the soft plant-based material. In addition to the two-piece pure agave body, neck and fingerboard, the Cuervo Agave Stratocaster features chrome Fender hardware, a custom-engraved neck plate with Jose Cuervo inscription and hand-wound Fat ’50s neck, RWRP middle and bridge pickups. The result, true to the legacy of the Custom Shop, is a remarkable—and, at just 6.5 pounds, excessively light—one-of-a-kind instrument.

Front Row Legend Esquire

The body of Master Builder Yuriy Shishkov’s Front Row Legend Esquire is crafted from 100-year-old Alaskan yellow cedar reclaimed from the original bench boards (ca. 1919) at the famed Hollywood Bowl outdoor amphitheater in Southern California. Features include a Sixties-style “Oval C”-shaped quartersawn maple neck, original-spec Broadcaster bridge pickup and oxidized brass hardware. Each Front Row Legend also sports a different original “seat number” on the top of the body, and an ultra-thin satin finish preserves the look of the wood—cracks, bolt holes and scratches included—in its original condition. “It doesn’t happen every day that you get your hands on a material that not only has historical value as a place, but also historical value as a place of music,” Shishkov says.

“Ha Penny Bridge” Master Built Guitars

Opened in 1816, the Ha’penny Bridge is perhaps the most famous pedestrian bridge in Dublin—among the many Irishmen who have crossed it (the toll was initially a single ha’penny, or half penny) are a young U2, who were photographed there in the very early Eighties, and Thin Lizzy singer Phil Lynott, who filmed a video on the bridge a few years later. When the Ha’penny Bridge was refurbished in 2001, its timbers were replaced with a steel deck. Master Builder John Cruz subsequently employed some of that replaced wood in the creation of these tribute guitars. In addition to the beautifully weathered bodies, the pair of instruments—the Irish Roots Tele Relic and Irish Roots Strat Relic—each boast a ha’penny (dating from 1915–1917 to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the bridge in 2016) inlaid into the guitar’s top.


Studioliner Masterpiece 

Yuriy Shishkov’s striking Studioliner uses the Kodak Bantam Special Art Deco photo camera as its inspiration. “The camera was ahead of its time in complexity and features,” he says. “It was considered a masterpiece.” The Studioliner guitar is similarly a masterpiece, its art-deco design studded with an eye-popping 1,000 diamonds that outline the body contours and then travel up the neck. Silver work and red guilloché enamel inlays round out the guitar, which also features custom hardware and electronics. The Studioliner, which Shishkov describes as a “functional art piece,” is valued at $450,000 and sold with a Kodak Bantam Special Art Deco from 1936. “When I saw the camera, I had the idea that it would be really cool to make it a set,” he says.

Pages: 1 2 3

  • John G Mitchell