The second part in our developing relationship with Karge Guitars (pronounced KAR-ghee).
This one is truly special, with high end appointments all around.
Karge guitars are the product of Randy Springis, a Desert Storm veteran with a hard working past and a history of fine woodworking.
After his military service, Randy attended Boston’s famed North Bennet Street School for artisan trades and fine craftsmanship in its furniture and cabinet-making program. Upon graduation, he opened his own furniture and cabinet shop and to this day continues to run the shop by word of mouth only.
Randy has spent countless hours studying and recreating the masters’ work of the past. What he has found is that there was once a high level of execution of overall design and aesthetics—no compromise in materials used or craftsmanship employed. The subtle undulations of a curve, the faintest bit of a tool mark, the obvious handmade labor of love—all of these added up to the subtle differences between two pieces of furniture that at a casual glance appeared to look the same but had measurable differences.
Applying this knowledge and experience, Randy observed that many of today’s guitars lacked life and soul. There’s no difference from one to the next—no subtle undulations, no whispers of a tool mark, no uniqueness that a guitarist could tap into to bring out the best of themselves.
“You go to a big box guitar store or even a small corner shop, and you can’t dictate what you want,” he says. I like to work with players to build them the guitar they really desire. I shape the neck and body by hand, slowly, over a period of days, which allows the wood ‘room’ to move and react, in turn letting me create an instrument that sounds and feels right in someone’s hands. The guitar is easier to play longer, without fatigue.
“It’s a great time to be a boutique guy in the guitar industry,” Randy says. “People are rebelling. They’re tired of paying $2,000 to get a mass-produced guitar that doesn’t do what they need. For a little more money, they can get something custom made to satisfy their own unique playing style and aesthetic—a curly maple neck shaft, for instance, maybe Brazilian rosewood for the fret board—that will really give back to them for many years.”
And now, on to Randy's fine Blackguard, serial number KG-015. First, you'll note the low serial number. This is an opportunity to own the early work of a builder who we think has the potential to make a big splash.
This Blackguard bears signature Karge features on the neck, which is what stood out to us when we first encountered Randy's work. The flamed maple is absolutely gorgeous, as is the nitro finish. The 3-layer lamination between the neck and the fat, slab fretboard is an element that displays Randy's talent and attention to detail. The contours at the heel and headstock transitions are sublime and are comfortable when playing low or high on the neck, like the grip of a quality tool. The neck shape is what Randy dubs a "Classic Karge". The edges are rolled and feel amazing. The back of the neck is a fat C shape, and the thickness of the neck is nearly uniform from the 1st to the 12th fret. It is a bit different, and it really feels like home! A well-cut bone nut and era appropriate frets round out the neck.
The body of this particular guitar is cut from a beam that was salvaged from a 19th Century North Carolina tobacco barn. It does give the guitar a slight twist on what you might expect from a Tele without straying from that sound we all want. The body finish is lightly aged and is covered with authentic checking that doesn't appear overdone or kitschy as some relic guitars do.
The electronics continue the high-quality, spare-no-expense theme: Klein Blackguard pickups, an Emerson harness with a paper-in-oil cap and a tone bleed option in the circuit, and Oak Grigsby switch, cloth wiring and a Switchcraft jack - plus, all cavities are lined with shielding.
The pickguard is a legit Bakelite style piece, complete with the lacquer and wear that you would see on a 50's Fender. The Callaham bridge sports compensated brass saddles. There is just no kidding around with this guitar!
To wrap it up, the guitar is light and very resonant and has an amazing vibe to it, with classic looks and some distinctive woods and features.
There is so much value here. Look around at a lot of the custom guitars you see these days and remember that many in, and even above this price range are really guitars that are custom ASSEMBLED, not really custom/hand MADE like this Karge.
You'll love it - we do!
- Color: Butterscotch Blonde Nitrocellulose Lacquer
- Weight: 7lbs 1oz
- Body: Reclaimed 1800's Chestnut from a North Carolina tobacco barn
- Neck: Flamed maple, C shape with rolled edges
- Fretboard: Flamed maple slab over three laminate layers
- Inlay: Black dot
- Frets: Stewart MacDonald 148
- Fret count: 21
- Nut material: Unbleached bone
- Nut width: 1.6875"
- Scale: 25.5"
- Radius: 9.5"
- Neck thickness at 1st fret: .935"
- Neck thickness at 12th fret: .945"
- Neck pickup: Klein Epic Nocaster 7.6K
- Bridge pickup: Klein Epic Nocaster 8.3k
- Pickguard: Traditional Lacquered, Bakelite Blackguard
- Bridge: Callaham with compensated brass saddles
- Tuners: Gotoh SD91
- Switch: Oak Grigsby
- Pots: Emerson Pro with Emerson 0.047 Paper in Oil Cap and Treble Bleed Circuit
- Case: Fender lightly lacquered tweed
- In the case: COA, build sheet, warranty