Stepping outside the mainstream isn’t for everyone, but if you fancy something a little different the UK has a host of electric guitar makers ready to turn your dreams into a special instrument.
At the end of 2022 we were chatting to Maybury Guitars’ Jason Snelling about this custom world and suggested he build us a guitar. We soon had a basic spec in place – more of a quasi-custom instrument – to show off his wares.
Snelling draws from three basic designs and we were attracted to his Cholla model. You could have fun spotting the influences and references here: the outline looks a little like an offset Telecaster with a thinner upper horn, but then you could suggest it’s quite a nod in the direction of the EVH’s Wolfgang.
Our Cholla, however, is slab bodied with only a slight ribcage curve on the back and an overall depth of 46mm. But despite featuring a chambered sapele body, which you might expect would be in the mid-weight area, our sample is on the higher end of the solidbody single-cut world. “Sapele is the heaviest wood I use,” explains Snelling, “but I could just as easily use swamp ash, light alder or meranti. Spruce is probably the lightest I’ve used. The wood type and weight is entirely down to the customer.”
The top wood is an unusual flamed ash that has quite a beautiful, understated figure, not least under the oh-so-classic Cherry Burst finish with a light satin polyurethane coating. The job is completed with cleanly scraped (if deep) edge binding.
You might expect a glued-in neck considering the visual style here, but this is a bolt-on with a full Fender scale length. The quite dirty-looking maple is heavily figured and features a centre lamination of sapele augmented with a couple of thin ebony stripes, a style that’s echoed by the ash and ebony ‘racing stripe’ of the body back.
The headstock continues the individuality with its curved front face and there’s a quite pronounced volute under the truss rod access hole. While the 254mm (10") dark Indian rosewood fingerboard is pretty traditional craft, those circular brass inlays boast some individuality, each centre filled with a copper-coloured resin.
There’s a slight '70s vibe to the brass-plate truss-rod cover and neckplate along with the pickup mounting rings, which continues with the small Gibson brass strap buttons and a slightly aged-looking circular brass Electrosocket-style jack mounting plate.
These unplated, already aged-looking parts are contrasted by the bright nickel plating on the Gretsch-style control knobs, the Schaller bridge with its width‑adjustable roller saddles and the Goldö Les Trem II, not to mention the rear-locking Sperzel tuners and those Filter’Tron-style partial pickup covers. With the natural back colour and that ’burst top, it all works with a strong artisan vibe.
Feel & Sounds
If the visual cues suggest quite the mash-up, then the feel is equally diverse. In simple terms, it has a Fender-y feel to the neck with the bulk of a Les Paul. The neck is on the narrow side, just under 42mm at the nut, and relatively narrow along its width with a pretty full-shouldered ‘D’ profile that’s slightly flat on the back. It’s oil and wax finished and feels super smooth.
Although the top edges of the fingerboard are nicely rounded, the sides are left a little square and would benefit from incurving slightly, particularly since the relatively narrow width encourages you to wrap your thumb around the bass strings. Jason has chosen a Jescar EVO gold fret wire that’s medium/tall in size and, to be very picky, it could do with a little more rounding of the fret ends.
Setup is pretty mainstream, slightly higher than we’d like at the nut but nothing a few strokes with a nut file wouldn’t cure. Once the strings had settled, it proved to be very stable tuning-wise, even with some vigorous waggles from that Les Trem II, which has a very smooth, Bigsby-like feel and range.
Yes, this guitar is weighty, and yet that gives it a very centred strapped-on feel and it feels much more balanced played on your lap than our Les Paul. But it’s simply the gorgeous sounds we hear that leave any concerns about that bulk far behind. While the pickup style might be familiar, on this platform both pickups come across as pretty big sounding with a little more power and clear detail at the bridge.
It’s a superb vehicle for classic Gretsch-y cleans, but it’s the gainier sounds that feel like home: a real halfway between a classic-era PAF and a good single coil’s sparkle.
There’s some very P-90-like, snarly character to the bridge and almost PAF-like flute-y-ness to the neck, all slightly pulled back in terms of bluster compared with our Cream T Aurora reference that’s loaded with a pair of Whiskerbuckers.
If you live in that more rockier environment, you might want to install a stud tailpiece; conversely, the Les Trem II here is a perfect fit with some of those cleaner guitar amp voicings. Overall, there’s a great quality to what we’re hearing.
There’s some excellent, purposeful craft on display here, a very strong foundation for what is an original design, which can be customized to your own style and taste.
You don’t have to put up with limited colours, someone else’s idea of ‘good’ pickups or a lead-time stretching into years. Even though this wasn’t a specific custom build, we certainly mulled over the specification, aiming for quite a classic style, which Snelling has really nailed.
In combination with the Sunbear pickups, this is an offset that sounds like a big ol’ Les Paul with beef and sparkle in just the right balance. An advantage of the smooth-feeling Les Trem II is that you can simply swap back to a stud tailpiece, but then you could easily imagine a lighter weight build with some of Sunbear’s early PAF-style ’buckers. Either way, with a custom build like this, you choose.
- PRICE: £2,500 (inc case)
- ORIGIN: UK
- TYPE: Offset double-cutaway electric bolt-on
- BODY: Chambered sapele body with ash/ebony racing stripe; flamed ash top with cream binding
- NECK: Flamed maple with quilted sapele/ebony laminated centre strip, bolt-on
- SCALE LENGTH: 648mm (25.5”)
- NUT/WIDTH: Bone/41.7mm
- FINGERBOARD: Indian rosewood, brass and resin inlays, 254mm (10”) radius
- FRETS: 22, medium jumbo (Jescar EVO gold)
- HARDWARE: Schaller STM roller-saddle bridge, Duesenberg Les Trem II, Sperzel locking tuners – nickel-plated
- STRING SPACING, BRIDGE: 50.5mm
- ELECTRICS: Sunbear BearTron (neck) and Grizzly BearTron (bridge), 3-way toggle pickup selector switch, individual pickup volume and tone controls
- WEIGHT (kg/lb): 4.41/9.7
- OPTIONS: As with any custom maker, choice of spec is considerable (£POA)
- RANGE OPTIONS: Other original Maybury designs include the Fish Hook T-Type and the Saguaro double-cutaway. Maybury also produces the Upscaler guitars made from reclaimed and recycled materials and parts
- LEFT-HANDERS: Yes
- FINISHES: Cherry Burst top – satin polyurethane clear coat to the body; oil/wax finished neck
- CONTACT: Maybury Guitars