Gearspotting Blog


Finally here. I started posting about the build back in April.

A reminder of the specs:

  • 8-string headless
  • 25.5 - 27" fan
  • Strandberg licensed Endurneck profile
  • Swamp ash body
  • Walnut top
  • maple neck with bubinga stripe
  • birdseye maple fretboard
  • [Lace](] Alumitone Deathbucker in the bridge, X-bar in the neck
  • luminlay side-dots
  • two volumes with push-pull coil split


That fretboard...




For scale, here it is next to the Agile Intrepid Pro that it's going to replace:


What can I say? Tom does amazing work.

It's light. Probably weighs half what the Agile does.

The ergonomics are spot on. Standing or sitting, over either leg, it balances perfectly and sits just right. I took a leap of faith on the endurneck and I think it paid off. I'm sold. It's instantly comfortable. You don't notice the corners like you would expect, you just find that your thumb ends up in the right place. The setup is pretty much perfect, though I might put some heavier strings on the F# and B, out of personal preference.

The fan took me a little longer to get used to. On the high frets, there wasn't any adjustment time, but for the first few hours playing it, I had a hard time playing anything fast or complicated on the low frets. Ultimately a bit of time and some good old boring scale exercises took care of that.

The Lace pickups are very interesting. It's hard to describe, but they really are something different than your standard Seymour Duncans or DiMarzios or EMGs or Bare Knuckles. More of an open, wide, hi-fi tone. Reminds me a bit of a blend of a regular magnetic pickup and a bit of piezo. The dynamic range on them is much larger than anything else I've ever played. There is no compression at all. That makes for amazing sounds, particularly clean, but combined with the abundant highs and lows, can make them tricky to dial in for distorted tones. Most of my existing amp settings and presets just didn't work with them without quite a bit of adjustment. Some of my go to heavy tones I haven't yet figured out how to dial in similarly with the Laces. It's not hard at all to get something good sounding out of the Deathbucker, but it won't necessarily be exactly what you're used to.

I can practically taste the walnut and swamp ash...

setup time

Still waiting on my OAF custom. Not a ton of visible progress since the last post, but here's the body routed:

routed body

Supposedly, the neck is carved as well and it's nearing completion.

My guitar is in the second batch being built. The first batch is done though and looks stunning. I mean, check this one out:

OAF batch 1 guitar

Or this one, which was actually a prototype rather than part of the run, but still looks fantastic and also shows the badass hard cases that we've got coming:

OAF Xen prototype and case

Can. Not. Wait.

A couple years back, fresh from a Meshuggah concert, I decided that I would make the move up to an eight string guitar.

I sold my Schecter seven string to my roommate and combined that money with my tax return and I ordered an Agile Intrepid Pro 828. At the time there weren't many options for 8-strings. You could get very expensive custom built ones from luthiers like Blackmachine, Ibanez had the very expensive Ibanez 2228 and the poorly reviewed RGA8, ESP had the ESP LTD SC608B, and then there was Agile. Agile was mail order only, so no try before you buy, but they'd gotten a halfway decent reputation for acceptable quality, particularly considering their prices.

The 828 was well worth what I paid for it. Solid, good tone, simple and straightforward. Nothing about it was outstanding. It played OK, intonated fine, had pretty good action, but the fretwork was rough, the balance wasn't great, and the neck profile made my hand cramp up pretty quickly. I've played the hell out of it for years now though. Even though it's no match in quality for my Parkers, the extra range of the eight has been compelling. I have a weekly informal jam session with three or four other guitarists, which gets a bit crowded sonically, and the eight string gives me much more room to move around to where there's an opening, whether it's up high, or down into bass territory. Even with the one bridge pickup and no tone knob, I've found that I can cover quite a bit of musical territory with it, from metal to more shoegaze or jazzy stuff. All in all, I'm completely sold on the idea of an eight string for my needs, even if the quality isn't 100% there on my particular one.

So since getting the Agile, I've been thinking a lot about trying to find a higher quality eight that would keep that range I've become accustomed to, but have that quality, precision feel that I miss about my higher end guitars when I play it.

I discovered Oni, who were doing great things with Parker inspired carbon-fibre skins on multiscale eight strings, and started looking into a custom from them, but my timing sucked and Dan from Oni announced that they were going to stop doing those experimental builds and focus on a couple standard models for a while instead.

Then, last summer, Tom Drinkwater from Oakland Axe Factory announced a budget group run on Oakland Axe Factory is pretty small and not well known yet, but had already developed a reputation for quality and experimentation. Plus they are based in Maine, just a few towns over from where I grew up. The specs were sort of up in the air, but as soon it looked like it was going to be a multiscale eight string, I jumped on it as fast as I could.

The specs that the run eventually settled on are a headless, Xen designed ergonomic-bodied singlecut 7 or 8 string multiscale (25.5 to 27" for 8's) with a swamp ash body, maple neck, upgrades available for fancier tops, a couple different pickups to choose from, and either Tom's standard C-profile neck, or a Rick Toone IPNP neck profile. I went with a curly walnut top, a birdseye maple fretboard, the IPNP neck profile, and Lace Alumitone Deathbucker and X-Bar pickups. Later, Tom announced that he was licensing the Strandberg Endurneck profile and could offer that, so again, I jumped on it.

The build was originally planned to be finished this past winter and has clearly missed that mark by a little bit. This seems to be pretty normal for custom builds though and the overall planned timeline was much shorter than other builders usually offer, so it hasn't been an issue. Plus Tom has been very active keeping everyone updated and posting pictures of the work on Facebook. It looks like everything is lined up and running smoothly now and finished builds should start shipping out in the next month or two.

I'm getting more and more excited every day. I've even got pictures of my in-progress body and neck blanks, ready for routing, shaping, and finishing:

OAF body blank

OAF neck blank

I will definitely have more pictures and a review when it is finished.

This site is mostly about highly structured information about music gear and it will stay that way.

But I started feeling the need to have a place to dump slightly less structured stuff. So I added this little blog.

This will be a place for news and updates about the site itself as well as thoughts about music gear in general, music gear news, and whatever else doesn't quite fit exactly in one of the existing data boxes.

I'm really hoping that this informal outlet will get me back in the habit of thinking about gearspotting and drive me to put more work into the site again.