The Texas Mesquite Stratocaster

October 11, 2011

I live in the sticks out in the Texas Hill Country... I have been around Mesquite almost all of my life and have grown to appreciate its beauty. Ranchers around here can't bulldoze and burn it fast enough because it is very invasive and it takes over valuable cattle grazing land. It was while living in Corpus Christi in 1991; the first thought about owning a mesquite Stratocaster entered my mind. That thought generated more than a few laughs back then from my friends. They would say, "You've lost your mind! You want to make a guitar out of cook wood?"

About four years ago, I was in the middle of gathering parts to assemble my own EVH/Fender Frankenstein Replica guitar. The idea of a mesquite body Stratocaster popped back into my mind. After thoroughly searching eBay and the web for mesquite bodies, mesquite guitars, and any other combination, I didn’t find much on the subject. I contacted guitar manufacturers Warmoth and B. Hefner to see if they would shape a body for me out of mesquite if I would supply them with a plank of wood with the right dimensions. I had purchased and experimented with several parts from both in the past and of course was counting on a yes! A Warmoth representative renamed the reply subject line in my email request as "RE: SPAM!!!! Mesquite Stratocaster body request". The body of his email response had this message:

“We will not use mesquite, as we find that it is not suitable for guitar wood. Basically, it’s too inconsistent, inch to inch.”

B. Hefner refused to produce a Stratocaster body from mesquite as well. It was as this point in early 2008. that I decided to make the mesquite Stratocaster on my own.

"Why use Mesquite?", is a question I have heard many times since starting the project. There is a Les Paul quote about the LP model that has managed to stick in my memory:

“I wanted something very dense, something that would sustain long and more pieces of wood that would be soft, sweet, for more of a mellow sound. “ ~ Les Paul

Besides being very dense, it is beautiful, extremely stable and warp resistant… Why not? I’ve always said if it doesn’t work out, I’m throwing it in the fire and we’re having steaks!

1 Mesquite Plank Front

25 Barrier Coats

Loving both Rock and Blues, I chose to use the Lonestar Stratocaster wiring diagram. Texas specials single coils in the neck and middle position and a Texas made Rio Grande BBQ Bucker in the bridge position (I changed the cover and pole screws to gold). The bridge is a Fender Stratocaster Deluxe Gold tremolo. A Fender LSR nut is installed on the Warmoth birdseye maple neck. The tuners are gold planet waves locking tuners and are self trimming.


The body is modeled after a late 1950's Stratocaster body with the exception of a contoured neck heal upgrade that I've included. The pickup routes were routed with extra room to eliminate the pickups and controls fitting tight. The control and pickup cavities are painted with conductive paint for shielding. The body was sprayed with vinyl sealer and a vintage thin skin nitrocellulose lacquer finish as Gibson and Fender both used in the 1950's. The Body Weight is exactly 6 lbs with the tremolo inserts installed. The neck is a Warmoth pro construction Stratocaster neck and as mentioned before they do excellent work. Being a huge fan of Van Halen, I chose a birds eye maple neck with a Wolfgang asymmetric back contour and a vintage truss rod. The vintage truss rod was my choice in an attempt to help capture a vintage tone. That being said, the neck does have a Gotoh side adjuster to ease the burden of adjusting the truss rod. There are 22 frets at a scale length of 25 1/2" with an 1-11/16" nut size and a compound radius of 10" to 16". According to Warmoth, a 16" radius at the heel has proven to afford 2-1/2 step bends with action below a 16th of an inch! In usage, the changing radius is not really noticed. It is simply more comfortable easier to play on.

I've trimmed the guitar in gold and picked Texas Specials in tribute to Stevie Ray Vaughan. I've experimented with three main humbuckers for the bridge position. The Seymour Duncan Antiquity humbucker is a faithful replica of the great sounding "patent applied for" humbuckers that Seth E. Lover designed in 1955. The Seymour Duncan "Pearly Gates" humbucker and currently I have the Rio Grande, BBQ Bucker installed in the mesquite Stratocaster. The Planet Waves tuners are gold, locking and self trimming. The tremolo system is a gold 2 point Fender Deluxe Gold tremolo with a steel block, snap in swivel arm and an LSR roller nut installed at the neck.

49 Final Pictures

For that Texas accent, there is a sterling silver pendant with a gold star embedded in the headstock that was designed originally for our State Capitol in Austin. The gold neck plate is custom and was chosen to honor the battle of Gonzales where the first shot was fired in the Texas revolution. The "Come and Take It!" flag was flown in Gonzales on October 2, in 1835.
42 Neck Plate

My mission from this point moving forward is to take the guitar to Billy, Frank and Dusty this month to get them to sign the back of the guitar. I've heard it said that the term "guitar hero" is overused in today's language. I can assure you that it doesn't apply in this case. Billy has been a guitar hero of mine for decades, as I am sure he is to many of you out there as well. The guitar is Texas themed and built for Blues/Blues Rock and I cannot think of anyone else that I would want to sign it. Maybe some of that Texas Mojo will rub off onto the guitar...

Replies to This Posting

  1. RE: The Texas Mesquite Stratocaster

    October 15, 2011

    Hi Texaswyatt-

    Beautiful instrument!! Really enjoy reading this article - your description and attention to details are great. I think the guitar has enough mojo as is, but I'm sure the boyzz would enjoy it, too. What amp does this beauty usally go into? Would like to hear some sound clips of the Texas Mesquite!

    Sr. Volto

  2. Re: The Texas Mesquite Stratocaster

    October 15, 2011

    Greetings Sr Volto,
    I want to thank you for your kind words and for the feedback on the Mesquite Stratocaster story. The guitar has mostly been played through a Fender Blues Deluxe and Marshall 59 SLP 100w full stack amplifiers. I'd love to try playing it through a Fender 59 Bassman though. I'll be pulling in Pro Tools 9 very soon and will be in a position to share the sound clips with all who are interested.

  3. Re: The Texas Mesquite Stratocaster

    October 18, 2011

    Hi Texaswyatt-

    Those are great amps for the blues.

    The gold hardware looks great, and nice pickup selection. I'm glad you didn't go with the Diamond Plate BBQ Bucker!!

    What guage strings does the Mesquite sport?

    Sr. Volto

  4. Re: The Texas Mesquite Stratocaster

    October 19, 2011

    Hi Sr Volto,
    Thanks again for chiming in! I use 9's on the Mesquite Stratocaster which is standard for the Fender LSR roller nut. The Fender LSR will take 10's as well though and anything heavier would require a modification of the string channels on the LSR roller nut to widen them out. Most guitarists believe that the heavier the string gauge, the better the tone will be. Stevie Ray Vaughan believed in this approach as well. I read somewhere that Stevie Ray Vaughan was warned to back down a gauge that he would tear his hands up. Stevie most frequently used 13s. I like the advice that BB King gave to Billie Gibbons though. BB asked Billy why he was working so hard upon inspection of his guitar and seeing that Billie chose the largest gauge that he could handle. I've read that Billie uses a custom gauge of 7s now. I plan on asking Billy soon on what his experience is with 7's. Do they stretch out and go flat too soon? What is the lifespan of 7's? Do they break easy? Etc.. I'd love to experiment with lower gauge strings in the near future. I'll post the answers back here once I get the scoop.

  5. Re: The Texas Mesquite Stratocaster

    October 23, 2011

    I attended the show in Corpus Christi, at the American Bank Center on 10/21. I bought a Platinum VIP ticket that advertised a photo op and meet and greet. It was my first time being on the front row at a concert and the performance by Lynyrd Skynyrd and ZZ Top was flawless. The crowd went wild when Billy reached down at one point and signed their first album as an audience member held it up during the show. I was literally standing there whistling and cheering in awe after hearing many of my favorites live. Just before the show, I had told the hostess that I was carrying a custom handmade mesquite Stratocaster with a Texas theme and wanted to have the band sign it. I asked if she would be taking any items back stage to get them signed or should I get towards the back of the line in the meet and greet. She said there was no guarantee, but falling to the back of the line would be the best bet. After the show, we were told to meet over by the far right side of the building near the dressing room area for the meet and greet with ZZ Top. I fell to the back of the line with my guitar to insure that I wouldn't impact anyone else in line. A guard lined up behind me and the guide directed us down a few hallways until we came to a stop. The hostess announced loud and clear that we would not be able to shake hands with the band. She said that the music industry is getting away from handshakes. Fist bumps or a light tap on the shoulder would be fine but under no circumstances should we touch the band members anywhere else. She said someone shook a guitar players hand recently so hard that he couldn't perform the next day. She also mentioned germs and bacteria worries. We were instructed that she would take the picture of us with the band and that we needed to move forward and exit the hallway trough a door immediately after the picture was taken in order for the next person to move in for the next photograph. She also announced that autographs would be forbidden. The band signed a copy of the "A Tribute from Friends" compact disk for all of the VIP members before the show and were tired of signing things that they were done with it. People in line were saying, "Oh my god, are you serious? Unbelievable."
    The line moved forward very quickly and there were about eighteen to twenty people total that moved through the picture taking process. When I was the next person in line to move forward and get my picture with the band, their tour manager stated loudly " He's got a guitar! What the F%^^ is he doing with a guitar? The guide then began motioning for me to put the guitar away. She was mouthing the words silently "put it away, put it away..." I strapped the guitar on and told them, surely I can pose for the picture holding my own guitar." While moving into position for the photograph, I said hello Dusty and Frank while walking past them. I looked at Billy Gibbons and said, Billy, I have a guitar here that I made myself from Kingsville, Texas mesquite. Before I could finish the sentence, Billy said "Yeah, yeah" and was pointing to the camera motioning for me to get ready for the picture. After the picture was taken, the boys immediately shuffled through a separate door and the photographer said that's it we are done, you can use that door to exit. I didn't get to finish my first sentence. I didn't get to meet them or greet them in any way and certainly didn't even have a chance tell them my name. They didn't even look at the guitar. It was awful. I'm a member of the fan club who purchased a Platinum VIP ticket with a meet and greet as well as a photo op with the band. The only thing that I wanted was a chance to ask one of my all time Texas hero's to sign a one of a kind Texas mesquite Stratocaster. If they would have talked to me and if they would have signed the guitar, it would have taken an additional 30 seconds to 1 minute of their time that night. That night I left the concert hall feeling as if I were kicked in the gut and thrown out the back door. I'm still very bumbed by the events that unfolded at the very end that night.

  6. Re: The Texas Mesquite Stratocaster

    November 14, 2011

    Hey there, congrats on the guitar. It's a work of art. You should be proud of it!!!
    Craigo

  7. Re: The Texas Mesquite Stratocaster

    December 9, 2011

    Very Nice

  8. Re: The Texas Mesquite Stratocaster

    December 24, 2011

    Very nice work! Did you do the routing? That was the hardest part for me on my first attempt at a guitar (http://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=2145313486610&set=a.2144655790168.89046.1659453186&type=3&theater).

  9. Re: The Texas Mesquite Stratocaster

    December 28, 2011

    Gorgeous guitar! Congratulations on such a masterpiece. Love it.

  10. Re: The Texas Mesquite Stratocaster

    January 12, 2012

    Killer

  11. RE: The Texas Mesquite Stratocaster

    April 10, 2012

    Texaswyatt, I wouldn't be too bummed and dont blame the band for how they HAVE to do things. Think of the last 20 idiots that brought guitars for Billy to sign, how rude someone must have been. I'm a player myself, and never gave any thought to someone shaking my hand so hard Id have trouble playing for a couple of days. You might be the nicest greatest cat in the whole world, just understand ZZ has been meeting the public since 1970, and some of the public let's face it.... They should first be deloused, then waterboarded, and then taken behind the tour bus so that two .38 slugs to the back of their head will put them out of their misery. In addition to being a 30 year player, I grew up in the Saloon Biz, spending 22 years behind the bar. Many was a night I would mutter, "Man, people suck."

    Anyway, very unique ax you've got there. It's got to sound great doing Blue Jean Blues. I run a Jap Strat( Unbelievably good guitar) through my Fender Tweed Blues Deluxe Reissue(USA), and have to stop playing to the record to see where the Reverend ends and I begin. I love chasing tone. Instead of a '59 Bassman, look into a Marshall Vintage Modern Combo. Circuit is based on a '59 Bassman, uses KT66 power tubes, and the Hendrix Reissue greenbacks are unreal good. Can use all the tone at bedroom to plexi volume and all points in between.... I use that tone monster for lots of classic bands including ZZ, Zep, Free, Allmans, James Gang,etc...

    Again, don't be too bummed about your experience. After the King of the Hippies bought it outside the Dakota in Manhattan, no one is safe, and I can't blame artists for setting limits.

  12. RE: The Texas Mesquite Stratocaster

    October 18, 2012

    Dam that's one sweet machine!!! You did one hells job on that thing!
    You should be proud a that one!

    Only thing you can say is Have Mercy!!!

  13. Re: The Texas Mesquite Stratocaster

    February 1, 2013

    That's amazing! I commend you!! Wonderful work and obviously well thought out. Billy would go CRAZY over this!
    Breckin The Red

  14. Re: The Texas Mesquite Stratocaster

    February 2, 2013

  15. RE: The Texas Mesquite Stratocaster

    February 25, 2013

    I also make mesquite strats in Tucson, AZ. I have my own supply of mesquite logs and my own saw mill. I think I read that you are looking for a new neck and fretboard. Try desert ironwood for the fretboard, incredibly hard and beautiful. Contact Arizona Ironwood on the web.