“She’s sure fine looking, man. Wow, she’s something else!” That’s the Eddie Cochran lyric that came to mind when I first laid eyes on the Harden Switchblade. It oozes tail fins, chrome, and custom-car culture. It’s the cool kid on the block with a duck tail and a leather jacket listening to the gritty sounds of Link Wray. Blending retro-cool and classic American-modern design, this guitar is unique and fresh. Harden guitars (as well as amplifiers and overdrive pedals) are handmade in a little shop in Chicago. Every aspect of this guitar, from the body to the handwound pickups, is made to order. You pick the wood and the details you want, as well as finish color and number of pickups. On their website, Harden proudly states, “We are dedicated to making guitars and related items the old-fashioned way.”

Under the Hood

Our review instrument resembles a maverick Les Paul with a cocky attitude. It’s fairly heavy and obviously built for strength and durability. The solid, single-cutaway body appears to be made of three pieces of mahogany with a maple cap. The neck is glued to the body at the 17th fret, but the single cutaway allows full access to the entire 22 frets. The neck is also mahogany, and the fretboard is of rosewood.

The appointments are very creative. A stylish faux tortoiseshell pickguard accentuates the body curves. The handmade pickup looks like something out of a ’50s sci-fi movie, and it’s mounted on a plate that’s shaped somewhere between a rectangle and a trapezoid. The chrome tailpiece looks handcrafted as well, with a convex center that tapers down at the ends. A distinctive chrome piece is mounted right where your arm would create wear on the guitar finish. Pretty smart detail. Target-shaped fretboard inlays give the axe a pop-art vibe, and the headstock logo is most unusual—a V-shaped chrome triangle with an “H” cut out of the middle and filled with faux tortoiseshell.