Your Questions Answered.
Q: “Where can I read unbiased information about JET guitars that doesn’t come from JET Guitars or their dealers?”
Q: “How many guitars do you build?”
I have set up an efficient system for a one-man shop, capable of producing almost 50 guitars per year. Each month I start a batch of 4 guitars. This is a mix of custom orders and speculation pieces. At this point I select and rough the woods and start on the fingerboards. The next month they get all the woodworking done. The third month is for finishing and final. So, I can do rolling batches with 12 guitars in progress at any given time (although I have slowed down somewhat since 2009). It takes 3 months start to finish, anything over that is attributable to supply delays, personal schedule issues or simple backup.
Q: “Can you make a JET with a Brazilian rosewood neck?”
Brazilian rosewood, Palisander and Jacaranda rosewood are all closely related species (and practically interchangeable). Brazil stopped exporting its exotic woods several years ago, and so there are only hoards of it in the hands of a few individuals who will not sell it. Since I did not hoard Brazilian rosewood, the answer for the foreseeable future is no – unless you can supply it. The same applies for a few other exotic woods. The fact is, many of them are banned due to international conservation efforts.
Q: “What about a Cocobolo top?”
Cocobolo makes good fingerboards, but I have had bad experiences with this wood for larger pieces like tops. It is very hard to find a well dried stable piece that will not warp or check after being made part of a guitar.
Q: “Why don’t JET guitars have stainless steel frets?”
I considered the idea once, but abandoned it quickly. Stainless steel is very long wearing and feels slick, but on a real wood fingerboard its a mismatched technology because it still needs to be re-dressed occasionally due to changes in the wood. And re-dressing stainless is very tough. With a phenolic board over a graphite neck it would work much better. Those materials are capable of being machined to close tolerances that will last as long as the crowns of the frets.
Q: “Some people say it takes at least 1/2 inch of maple for a solidbody guitar top to make a tone difference, but your tops are thinner.”
JET guitars were designed to optimize the combination and dimensions of woods, including the top. A thicker top would indeed give more attack and sustain, but it would make the guitar much more heavy. To get the attack back, JET uses denser woods in the neck and fingerboard than many others, e.g. McNaught and MacInturff. Also the peak in the top joint adds more depth to the resonance, because it results in a much more complex sonic refraction pattern than the flat joint used by everyone else.
Q: “How can you say your neck pickup is in the perfect spot, right where the pickup would be in a 22 fret guitar, when some people say this is a null spot and makes it sound dead?”
Concern about the null spot is valid – but only when you play open strings. As you play up the neck the null spot shifts accordingly, along with the the harmonics on the strings. Do you know any player who only plays open chords with the neck pickup? Of course not, only beginners do that. Most players use the neck pickup for higher register soloing (rock) or comping (jazz), and it is here where it makes a BIG difference in the tone compared to being placed further back.
Q: “Do JET guitars come in neck-through or set-through designs?” Or, “Can you make a guitar that is constructed like a (other brand)”
No. The primary innovation that makes a JET guitar what it is, is the peaked top joint. Neck-through is a great feature – I have built several – but this method and the peaked top are mutually exclusive methods. I chose to do what no other luthier in the world does: the peaked top. The result is well reflected in dozens of comments from owners. If I were asked to build an Earlewood or Caldera without this feature, my response would be ‘Why’? Would Lamborghini put his name on a front wheel drive hatchback? Just go ahead and buy the Ford.
Q: “Some people say glue doesn’t resonate, so why is a 3 piece neck better than a 1 piece? Or, how can a set neck guitar sound as good as a neck-through?”
True, glue does not resonate, Then again it doesn’t have to. All it has to do is CONDUCT vibrations. With the tight joints we use, this isn’t an issue. Especially when we’re talking about longitudinal joints, where lengthwise resonance wouldn’t even be affected by poorer glue methods. JET uses 3 pieces because it makes the neck more stable. As for set-through or neck-through construction, it is not possible to do those and have the peaked top too.
Q: “Why do you use a 25 inch scale?”
The ‘traditional’ manufacturers i.e. Gibson and Fender chose the shorter 24.7 inch and longer 25.5 inch scale lengths respectively. A longer scale mainly gives more string tension. That results in sharper attack and requires more physicality in playing (makes sense when you think of Fender=twang). A shorter scale is easier on the hands, but sounds sloppier unless you are using heavy strings or a very clean sound (Gibson=jazz, at least in the 1940s). Modern builders, including JET, often go down the middle as a matter of splitting the difference between those of different taste. Of course, I will build a JET to order with any scale length you desire, as well as baritone.
Q: “Does a thick finish affect a guitar’s tone?”
Several other guitar builders have been claiming that thick paint adversely affects tone. Supposedly a thinner ‘natural’ finish such as oil or nitrocellulose lacquer won’t ‘soak up’ the resonance of the wood. As an over-simplified proposition, this sounds true. But is not a general truth in practice. Here’s why. In an acoustic instrument, such as a jazz archtop or folk guitar, indeed it is a fact that a thick finish deadens or changes the tone. After all, the tops in such guitars are painstakingly carved, thicknessed, and braced so as to deliver the best tone and most volume. The top is the soundboard, like the cone of a speaker. All of the sound projected by the instrument depends upon it’s ability to vibrate freely. Painting a thick finish on the top adds a lot of mass, and consequently the top is no longer effective as a soundboard. Electric guitars do not have soundboards. Thus, a thick finish cannot deaden the tone. Volume and projection are handled by electronics. That leaves only resonance to consider. Resonance (and the resulting tone) of an electric guitar is the sum of the vibrational interactions between all of its components. Paint is only one factor among many, in the overall design of an electric guitar to sound as good as possible. This craft is a matter of balancing these interactions, not simply making all the ‘good’ things big and all the ‘bad’ things small. In fact the original JET prototypes were painted in thin nitrocellulose lacqer, and they didn’t even sound as good as the JET Earlewoods being made now.
Q: “What is your favorite comment by a JET owner?”
This, from one of the eighteen reviews posted on Harmony Central: “I actually ration my playing on this guitar. I don’t generally practice with it. When I am recording or doing a really important gig, or searching for some inspiration, out it comes and the tone astounds me and I generally get exactly what I wanted. I think if I used it all of the time it would lose its magic and would tend to make me think all of my other guitars suck – and they really don’t.”