Specs and some philosophy:
Bodies – Geronimo and GTO come standard in alder. MG is ash. All bodies are 2 piece center seam. Why? While every piece of wood is different, I want to maintain as consistent of a sonic result as possible from guitar to guitar. Some text book folks will tell you that the object of an electric guitar’s body is to not resonate. Acoustics, yes, the soundboard is the amplifier. But some argue that since the neck drives the string energy and the pickups send that signal to the amp, any resonance from the body dissipates string energy and the sound suffers. Okay, I get it on paper. But the reality I’ve found in my 20 plus years of building is the resonating of the body is where the magic is. Which frequencies are dampened and which ring out plus all the wonderful overtones that add spark to this or that guitar is what turns us on and that is inherent in which wood you choose and how the body is constructed. Okay, so why 2 piece centerseam? I want the wood to resonate. A center seam allows for the bridge to drive both sides equally. Any additional piece of wood added beyond that is just dead weight, dragging down and influencing the way the body resonates adding one more variable to the mix that is going to make the end result less consistent.
Necks – 25.5″ scale. Pearl Dot Open C and Clay Dot Full C (chunky shoulders) profiles. Both are .830″ – .950″ first fret to 12th fret. Nut width is 1&21/32″. I use only a vintage style truss rod. It is a one-way, bent rod with a wooden spline filling the channel between the rod and fingerboard. This is one case where I feel like those fellows in Fullerton and Kalamazoo got it right from the start. Modern straight channel route rods, whether one or two way, while making manufacturing easier/faster require the removal of more wood in the neck and I feel negatively impact the sting energy. I prefer flat sawn or rift sawn maple necks coupled with quarter sawn fingerboards. I know there has been a big push for quarter sawn necks by manufacturers over the past decade but I feel that is by and large price point bunk. Take a look at those same manufacturers’ guitars from the fifties and sixties and count how many quarter sawn necks you can find.
Finish – Swope guitars are finished in a very pure, no plasticizer, nitro-cellulose lacquer. While added plasticizers allow a guitar to be shipped all over the world without the finish checking the addition of those plasticizers means the finish never really cures. I want a thin, hard finish. While there are now thin urethane finishes they just don’t feel right to me and they still look plastic. I’ve been around too many vintage guitars to warm up to urethane. Pure lacquer will check so I get the ball rolling on that part for you. I offer two styles of finish, “Knock-Around” and “Drag-Around.” I want these guitars to be played. They are not garage queens. A “Knock-Around” will have nice finish checks and maybe a little doink here or there. While still a very clean guitar, the slight relic job takes the fear factor out of playing the guitar lest you put a mark on it. A “Drag-Around” is a full on heavy relic. They are a blast to build and feel great and if you don’t like them, as it seems half do and half don’t, I take no offense. I don’t tumble and rust my metal parts, they are chrome. Look at a 50 year old guitar with chrome and the chrome is still pretty shiny on average and introducing rust on a guitar is a poor idea. I also leave the plastics clean because the reality is if you play guitar your pick will do the real thing in no time!
Pickups – Swope guitar pickups can only be found on Swope guitars. There are tons of awesome pickups out there. Reproductions of PAFs, Filtertons, classic single coils, “Gold Foils.” I asked myself a long time ago, “What will make my guitars unique?” I just didn’t see why a shape with someone else’s pickups that everyone else can use would really offer anything different. And why would I want to sound like everyone else? What’s the point of that? The challenge is not to be different, but to be different and great sounding. To be unique, yet still have so much of what makes those classics classic. Being around as long as I have has some advantages. I’ve played everything under the sun and looked at the guts of most. I have a brain-trust of smart guys with big ears that I consult with. And I lean heavily on seasoned players to help road test and work out any bugs. You cannot design in a vacuum. It can sound great in your man-cave but what about in a concert hall? How about in an inner ear monitor? How does it sit in the mix on tape, or in the front of house, behind the soundboard of an amphitheater? For me this is all part of the process and what makes it so interesting!