It's Fender Custom Shop's 30th birthday this year, and the firm began the celebrations in January with a NAMM showing for Master Builder one-off creations, and followed that with a number of limited run guitars crafted by some of its founding builders last month. Now Master Builder Paul Waller has partnered with a famous tequila house to build a gorgeous Stratocaster from agave that "brings to life the connection between Jose Cuervo and rock & roll."
The Cuervo x Fender Agave Stratocaster is the result of a collaboration between Fender Custom Shop and the Jose Cuervo Foundation, which has been promoting use of agave beyond tequila for decades – most recently working with Ford on agave car parts.
UPGRADE TO NEW ATLAS PLUS
More than 1,200 New Atlas Plus subscribers directly support our journalism, and get access to our premium ad-free site and email newsletter. Join them for just US$19 a year.UPGRADE
Master Builder Paul Waller began his agave guitar journey last year with a tour of the Jose Cuervo distillery at La Rojeña, Mexico. With the help of surfer Gary Linden, who collaborated with the Foundation in 2015 to make the world's first 100 percent agave surfboard, Waller harvested the agave stalks. Fender says that since stalk harvesting only happens at the end of the plant's life, and doesn't disturb regrowth, the agave Strat managed to tick some green boxes, too.
More than 30 hours of work went into building the one-of-a-kind solid body art guitar, with the Master Builder finding the soft plant material quite challenging to work with and opted to use relatively light 10-gauge strings as a result.
"The Agave Stratocaster has a specific sound compared to an alder and maple guitar, a unique tone that is going to start a conversation, and that's the purpose – it's exactly what the Fender Custom Shop has been doing for the past 30 years," said Waller.
The Strat's two piece body is made from pure agave, with a polyurethane finish and an agave paper back plate. It sports three hand-wound single coil pickups – a Fat 50s neck and RWRP (reverse-wound, reverse-polarity) middle and bridge – and a 5-way selector to switch between them. The guitar's "Stout V" neck is also made using agave and topped by a 21-fret agave fingerboard. It's by no means a heavyweight, tipping the scales at around 6.5 lb, which is almost as light as Michael Kelly's chambered Tele we featured last month.
Fender describes the instrument's sound as being "musical with the 'quackiness' of a Stratocaster pickup, making it a tonal fit for surf music" – as you can hear in the video below.
The Cuervo x Fender Agave Stratocaster was created to show the potential for the use of agave in future guitar making, and as such is not being offered for sale.