From the January/February 2021 issue of Acoustic Guitar | By Greg Olwell
The Masterpiece series from Preston Thompson Guitars is a chance for the shop’s artisans to channel inspiration while stretching the boundaries of their skills. The team created its first Masterpiece guitar last year, and this second instrument in the series is dedicated to the shop’s founding luthier and namesake, who had a chance to view the designs before he died in 2019.
For Masterpiece #2, the team concentrated on a harmonious concept that flows across the entire instrument, from materials to artwork. The Koi Pond guitar is a 14-fret 00 shape made with lushly quilted Western maple back and sides, an Adirondack spruce top with extreme bear-claw figure, and a 24.9-inch scale mahogany neck. The body and neck are bound with Brazilian rosewood and a thin line of brass purfling that contributes a subtle and warm glow.
Thompson inlay specialist and designer Simon Haycraft says that the spruce was chosen not just for its sound but also to enhance the guitar’s design. “The figure is almost like a breeze across the top of the water,” says Haycraft, adding, “It has that ripple to it—that movement and life, and it adds to this concept of water and movement.”
The back’s designs are stained directly into the maple, so that the artwork doesn’t impact the wood structure the way an inlay set into the body might. The result is that the stained koi fish and waterlily designs pick up the maple’s quilted figure, which helps give them a watery shimmer. Thompson’s first full-fretboard inlay design features nearly 200 individual pieces of stone, pearl, and brass that flow toward the headstock’s cherry blossom inlays. The West African ebony fingerboard is inlaid with three different shades of green reconstituted stone for a muted but varied look, with pink mussel shell employed for the lilies.
“It’s a stunning piece of art,” says Thompson luthier Joel Chadd, “but it’s absolutely meant to be played. That’s why we do this.”