Why Buy Vintage Guitars?
Vintage Guitars sort the best when getting designed. Though TWDA (Trevor Wilkinson Design Associates) world-renowned for top specification and high quality guitar hardware and really has got its feet firmly on the ground as regards its approach to component development and manufacture. That’s good news, because the all-important ‘common sense’ factor so often gets swept aside in the continuing search for improvement.
Trevor Wilkinson loves guitars and everything that goes with them. His enthusiasm for guitars is infectious. His knowledge of the guitar genre is boundless. Plus he maintains a constant interest in why the best guitars are how they are, what works and what doesn’t, and what can be done about it.
He’ll ask direct and forthright questions of the people who matter, people responsible for the best guitars ever made, and people who’ve played the best guitars ever made, and he’ll get straight answers.
Best of all, Trevor’s been around guitars just a little too long to be swayed by unfounded ‘opinion’. He knows that that’s the path to nowhere.‘ What Vintage tried to do is eliminate many of the manufacturing discrepancies involved in making guitars,” comments Trev. “That way, they can ensure that they're making a superior, consistent range of top level guitars.”
“ Steel is steel,” explains Trev. “If it’s heat treated it’s gonna last. Bending a piece of steel, whether it’s done by a Korean guy or an American guy on their bending machines, it’s still the same component part – providing the bend is done in the right place!” The bridge specified for the V6 guitar, for instance, is built to the exact specifications given to Trev by Leo Fender all those years ago in California. The actual spacing of the strings, the actual gauge of the bent steel string saddle, the shape, the size, everything is exactly as it should be. And as Trev says, improvement is the name of the game. “ We’ve learnt over the years that you’ll never ever make a screw-in vibrato arm that doesn’t eventually work loose and wobble around, so why not use a push-in arm? We’ve made that change and I think it’s for the better.” “ The Wilkinson sustain block that Vintage use for their V6 and VRS guitar vibrato systems is ‘stagger drilled’. Have a look at the base of the block and you’ll see that the hole positions in the block have been moved where the strings sit. This has the effect of making the angle of the saddle follow its natural intonation point to keep that pressure even at all points, which helps with the vibrato. Why? Because when you push a vibrato down, the strings go slack and they lift off the saddle.“ If there’s too much down pressure there, too much angle coming off the back of the saddle, the string then changes attitude on that saddle and when you let go of the vibrato bar, the string comes back sharp. “ That's one of the main reasons why a guitar goes out of tune – bad return to zero on the bridge,” argues Trev, “and that’s what I mean when I
say we’re trying to eliminate such performance discrepancies.”
With a guitar like the Vintage V6. I’m a firm believer that the pickups were originally placed in harmonically enhanced positions,” maintains Trev, and rightly so. “I don’t believe in messing with that. We want to keep that classic tone. That’s why we’ve specified alnico V pickups using staggered layout, chamfered edge polepieces to give you the killer sound you expect.” And again, improvements have been made to enhance component performance. “ On the windings of the Vintage V6 guitar pickups, we do make concessions; we re-calibrate the pickups as they come down the guitar to ensure consistency of tone and output. We may be the only mass guitar manufacturer doing this. Plus, the middle pickup is reverse wound so that
position 2 and 4 in a 5-way switch are actually in hum-cancelling mode.” But it’s not just the pickups that have received such meticulous attention to detail. The classic 3-saddle design of the TC200 base plate has been around for over 50 years, and is still widely regarded as the ‘tone machine’. On the Wilkinson unit, newly designed staggered brass saddles achieve individual string intonation never before available on this type of bridge. But Trev’s careful not to interfere with success – the baseplate itself is a faithful reproduction of the original, made from steel, very important in a bridge of this style due to the tonal effect it has on the magnetic field of the pickup mounted in it.
A straight string path across the headstock matters tremendously with vibrato systems in particular, in helping maintain accurate tuning. Trevor, ever the ideas man, is aware of this, but hasn’t been content to leave it at that. “ With regard to this, we’ve developed a set of tuning keys with an idea that I’ve been working on for the last 12 months, what we now call our E-Z-LOK™ tuning post. You can actually use it as a locking tuner or you can use it as a standard tuner. Combined with everything else on the guitar I would say this will give you tuning stability second to none. “ Additionally, the tuning post string insertion heights are staggered low to high along the pegheads which keeps the string break angle across the nut at a consistent level. This eliminates the need for a string tree too, a known source of friction which promotes tuning problems.”