Esteemed UK guitar builder Alan Entwistle is continuing his busy start to 2024. After working on a huge range of Vintage guitars, he's released a new generation of Rapier guitars – and our eye is immediately drawn to the Deluxe model, which looks remarkably like the lovechild of a Gibson Les Paul and a Fender Stratocaster.
Rapier Guitars first came about in the '60s, offering an affordable alternative to American Stratocasters. Originally produced by Watkins Electric Music (WEM), the same UK firm responsible for the CopiCat echo, they were ultimately discontinued in the late '70s, before Entwistle reprised the guitar with the newly-formed Rapier brand in late 2021.
Alongside three new bass guitars, the new Rapier range adds the aforementioned Deluxe and, another new body shape, the Mercury to the line.
Described on the Rapier site as “effortlessly stylish”, the Deluxe catches the eye with its Strat-meets-Les-Paul shape, a hybrid concoction that has been flirted with before – see the likes of Fender's Troublemaker Teles.
However, this is an interesting take, melding the Fender-like headstock, tremolo and triple-pickup configuration of its predecessor the Rapier 33, with a Les Paul-like single-cutaway, set-neck build.
In the Deluxe, you’ll find three twin-blade twin coil EWR64 pickups. These low-noise pickups feature soap bar steel finishes, with the middle pickup striking the signature Rapier wonky pose.
Newly updated circuitry allows players to boost treble, cut bass, and provide low noise output. They should serve up the “'60s jangle” you'd expect from a Rapier, with its original rhythm/solo toggle now replaced by a three-way selector blade.
The Mercury, meanwhile, adds a dash of Jazzmaster with its puddle-shaped pickguard and array of controls. Others may suggest that Entwistle has been taking cues from the Epiphone Wiltshire silhouette whilst carving out a little more curve at its bottom – and there's even something of Brian May’s Red Special in that pickup array.
Typical of Entwistle builds, the duo are cut from Central African okoume for their body wood and the “warmth, depth and high-end clarity” it offers to players. The Mercury offers a four-bolt C-shaped neck, and both guitar’s necks are constructed from Canadian maple and topped with jatoba fretboards.
A Gibson-like 24.75” scale length, with 23 medium jumbo frets, is common across the builds. That fret count includes the zero fret which is nestled on the other side of their nu bone nuts.
Wilkinson E-Z-Lok machine heads and a roller bridge also feature, alongside whammy-wielding Rapier Hi Lo tremolo systems. These offer modernized specs compared to the original builds, as Entwistle looks to bring the guitars up to speed without losing their vintage kick.
The Mercury is loaded with three chunky-looking Alan Entwistle Astrosonics single coil pickups. They're bolstered with switchable middle pickup and bass-cut circuitry. The trio of pickups set out to deliver "clear sonics in abundance" with a tight and weighty response. There's plenty of headroom for driving its output via pedals and amps too.
If any criticism can be laid at Entwistle’s mad-scientist-turns-guitar-making pastiche, it’s that they can be a little overly complex.
As Guitarist pointed out in its positive but frank review of the Rapier 33, getting to grips with these guitars and their complex array of “sonic permutations” does make reading the manual vital.
However, Entwistle’s reputation for rock solid builds stands strong and we can see these having particular appeal as a second/third/ninth guitar, for more established players looking for something different and affordable.
The new electric guitar duo follows last year’s superbly over-stuffed four-pickup Rapier 44 and the Deluxe isn’t the first time that Entwistle has toyed with bringing Les Paul and Strat vibes into a hybrid result.
The Rapier Saffier, however, went for a more Frankensteined approach, putting a Gibson-esque headstock on a slightly bloated Strat-like body.
The Deluxe comes in a see thru red finish, while Rapier has opted for gloss black with the Mercury.
Cost-wise, the Deluxe comes in at £479 (approx $603) and the Mercury sees a small price bump at £499 (approx $628).
For more information, head to JHS.