About one year ago I was on the hunt for the perfect Stratocaster. Wanting something more unique than a brand new, stock Fender, and not wanting to spend a fortune on a real vintage Strat, I was checking out boutique guitar makers like Nash Guitars and Mike Lull Custom Guitars. Then, during a lesson with guitar great Carl Verheyen, he recommended a local company called LSL Instruments. He was a big fan of their guitars, and told me to contact Lance, the owner of LSL.
So I called up Lance about getting a guitar, and he recommended I come by the factory. I live in West LA, so it was about a 20 minute drive to Van Nuys where I pulled up in front of the understated LSL headquarters. Hanging outside was a group of guys, all clad in work clothes and covered in paint and sawdust, the kind of crew that reminded me of my grandfather and his bronze casting foundry. Out of the bunch came an older gentleman, Lance, who greeted me and led me on a tour of the factory.
Inside, the place even looked liked my grandfather’s foundry – raw materials, tools, paints, chemicals, interesting smells. Lance explained that he and the crew make everything (except for some plastic and metal components) in house. They shape the bodies and necks from raw wood. They cut the pick guards, and lay the frets. They hand wind their pickups, mix their own custom paint colors and do their own aging. Basically, this small, in house operation is the closest thing to what I’d imagine a pre-CBS Fender factory to be like. Pretty cool!
Needless to say, I was completely sold. This was definitely the company that could deliver that ideal Strat – and I loved that I knew exactly where and who it was coming from. Lance and the crew gathered up a few various guitars and had me plug into a Bogner amp, testing all of the different combinations of elements. LSL offers bodies made of Swamp Ash, Alder and Pine – yes, Pine. They have the option of 50s or 60s wound PUs, Maple or Rosewood Necks, and various neck shapes, widths and radius options. They also have an essentially unlimited amount of finish colors and designs, done to your liking, complete with Nitro Cellulose Lacquer and topped off with a signature aging process.
That day I was playing a lot of Eric Johnson and Carl Verheyen inspired, intervallic rock type licks – and this is what I ultimately hoped to do with the axe. Upon hearing this, the crew recommended the following combo: Pine Body, 60s PUs, and Rosewood Neck. Unable to take orders directly, Lance sent me down the street to California Vintage Guitars where I placed my order. I opted for a thick, V-shaped neck, minimum aging (LSL requires some amount) and a Surf Green finish – The Strat of my dreams!
Long story, made somewhat shorter, about 8 weeks later my guitar was ready. I picked it up from CVG and was stunned. There she was, “Francesca” (LSL gives all their guitars a woman’s name with a name tag on the neck plate). The Pine body is so lightweight, the guitar easily weighs under 6 lbs – built for the stage. The NC Lacquer allows the guitar to vibrate with the strings, giving it a very “live” feel. And the PUs perfectly capture that hand wound vintage sound. Ultimately, it’s an awesome guitar, and as close as you can come to a vintage Strat without breaking the bank!
LSL has been on a steady rise ever since. They now have a Carl Verheyen signature model, and an ever expanding list of distributors, where you can purchase already crafted guitars or place a custom order. LSL models include the Saticoy (Stratocaster), the T-Bone (Telecaster) and the newest addition, the Topanga ( Les Paul Jr. Double Cutaway). For more info check out the LSL Instruments website.
“Never sell a guitar, that you don’t want to keep.’ – LSL Instruments