The Number One

All About My Creston Guitar!

IMG_0451My “number one” guitar was made by renaissance man Creston Lea; he makes guitars, plays in a number of bands, and has published a collection of short stories called Wild Punch (he’s a graduate of the famous Iowa Writers’ Workshop).  No two of his guitars are alike, and they’re all handmade in close consultation with their future owners.  My guitar is made of one solid piece of 150-year-old spruce salvaged from a barn in Vermont.  Check out my guitar and many others at the Creston Electric website: crestonguitars.com  (all photos courtesy Creston Lea and Jessica Anderson)

My guitar, before it became my guitar, was once part of a “rustic cabin,” as stated on the pile of lumber it was liberated from ~

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My guitar in its early stages ~

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Since I’ve had the guitar (March 2014), I’ve removed the tremolo (a highly modified Bigsby type).  Other than that, though, I haven’t changed a thing: and I’m a notorious guitar-thing-changer.

Collaborating with a custom builder is a remarkable experience that few players get.  Lea is a delight to work with: articulate, patient, but not afraid to declare a strong opinion.  His FAQ might paint him as a little more of a curmudgeon than he is in practice.   The conversation started with wood (what he had, what different varieties might sound like), then went to body shape, neck profile, and, finally, electronics.  We settled on, respectively, salvaged spruce, telecaster, almost baseball bat, and Lollar gold foils.  Lea was constantly in touch, sending photos, queries, updates, and videos.  One day I got a video from him showing him pressing the neck into the pocket and then using it to lift the entire guitar sans screws, using the friction from the tight joint alone to keep it together.

The price was reasonable: less than even the cheapest Fender Custom Shop model.  Everything is impeccable from the carving on the nut to the NOS burgundy volume and tone knobs.  There are ways in which owning this guitar violates my fickle nature; every couple of months I pull out a strat or tele and try to convince myself that THIS is the change I want.  I fall for the crystal position 2 and 4 sounds on the strat or the growl of the tele bridge pickup.  But then there’s always something not right: the nut binds, or the neck is too flat, or the crystalline sounds that sound great in the basement don’t quite cut through a band (or a cocktail crowd) at a gig.  Like all great tools, the Creston feels solid in my hands.  It never delivers less than I put into it.

Visit Creston Guitars at: crestonguitars.com