I sat down with Eben to get a little more insight on the first production guitar created by Cole Music Co. (We promise, no bourbon was injured during the recording of this interview.)
So Eben, what inspired the Hollowtop?
I was in love with the neck pickup on my Gibson ES-125T, but I am a Tele guy at heart, so I thought I would Weird Science me a guitar. The first Hollowtop actually had stereo output that fed into a pan pedal I built out of a wah casing, haha. It was actually pretty cool! I could send the neck pickup to one amp and the bridge pickup to a seperate amp, then use the pedal to pan between the two rigs. It's evolved quite a bit since then.
What makes a Hollowtop unique?
The most unique feature is the chambering we do around the neck pickup. We start by removing a substantial amount of wood on the upper bass side of the pine body. That chamber then gets topped with acoustic grade Sitka Spruce. The neck pickup is mounted to the spruce top, and sits mostly suspended in the neck chamber. The pine body is super resonant, so the pickup is capturing a lot of that acoustic resonance...similar to a semi-hollow guitar. To further perfect the tone we asked Silver Hand Pickups to design some neck humbuckers specifically for the guitar. The results, the Mini Link and Mini Bird, are not only spectacular sounding, there is literally no other pickup like them in the world. That's something not many builders can claim.
How are Hollowtops produced?
All our guitars are built by hand (including the necks!), in my workshop, using the same production methods that the classic guitars of the 50’s used. Pin routers, shapers, and big old sanders do the rough shaping. Then we fine tune every detail with hand tooling. In a world of modern CNC guitar production, our methods seem a little antiquated, but I am ok with that.
What's the biggest thing you've learned making Hollowtops?
What I’ve learned, and I’m relieved that I can say this, is that I really love building guitars! There are a lot of luthiers out there building really cool guitars one or two at a time, and that is a ton of fun. But to make the leap to production numbers, and presumably guitar building being your main source of income, is a monumental feat. It's a whole different dynamic when you are building guitars for a living, and many find it’s not near as fun...or easy, as building a few on the side. So I am really relieved to find out all the time and money we have dedicated to this venture is my new dream job...and I already have a pretty awesome job :)
What gets you most excited about Hollowtops?
On the design level, it’s the fact that the Hollowtop is a truly unique design, and that it isn’t weird just for the sake of being unique. I am happy with the production Hollowtop design and may make minor tweaks in the future, but am quite proud of the current builds. And now that there are Hollowtops out circulating in the world, I am really excited to start hearing the kinds of music they produce.
Let's go through the parts. Tell me all the neat aspects of what goes into a Hollowtop?
Before I go all guitar snob on you, let me preface my answer with this: Anybody that knows me will confirm that I like guitars of all kinds, including cheap, funky guitars. But if you are building a high end guitar, it better have high end components. And the hardware on the Hollowtop is top tier: Hipshot Grip Lock tuners, Bourns sealed pots, Musicraft tone cap, I have obsessed over every detail on this guitar. And when you can’t find the parts you want, you have them built! We were able to contract the same company that makes Gibson’s ABR’s to make our Tele bridges. They made the sidewall cuts just where I wanted them, they made them extra thick, and the compensated saddles are the best I have ever used. I couldn’t find an output jack plate I liked, so we make those...it’s a ton more work to do all this stuff, but I think all those little touches really elevate the look, feel, and tone of this guitar. Check out all the specs here.
Who is a good fit for a hollowtop?
If you’re a Tele guy and want something familiar, yet unique, the Hollowtop is for you. Anyone that needs a lot of clarity and definition out of a guitar, or wants a clear tonal base for an extensive pedal board, or even someone that just needs a really light, resonate guitar, we got you covered.
What does the future hold for Hollowtops?
Not much! Really, the design is finalized. We will continue to make minor tweaks and improvements as we discover them, but as for the overall form and function, I am pretty happy with what we’re building. Plus, that means we can start working on a new model for 2019!
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