Download Example 1
Bridge Pickup
Download Example 2
Neck Pickup (with distortion)
Download Example 3
Both Pickups (with distortion)
Clips recorded with a Fender Pro Junior mic'ed with a Shure SM57 into ART Tubeamp studio into GarageBand. Distortion courtesy of The Tone God NerFuzz pedal.
The Kenai
While the Choptank bears an unmistakable Fender influence, the Kenai uses classic Gibson design cues as a springboard. The single-cutaway mahogany body with maple cap, 24 3/4"-scale mahogany neck with rosewood fretboard, and twin humbuckers are all Les Paul hallmarks. Unlike a Gibson, though, the Kenai has details like a body that is comfort-carved on the back and a custom all-in-one bridge and tailpiece. Like its cousin, our review Kenai model was a looker. The flamed maple top was positively striking in a finish called Winter Solstice—a pale blue stain with a clear coat that brought out a three-dimensional quality in the grain. In contrast, the neck and back of the guitar were a rich natural mahogany. Subtler wood flourishes included maple body binding and an ebony headstock overlay and matching truss-rod cover.

Plugged into the Fender Pro Junior, the Kenai offered
old-school, PAF-like warmth and tons of body and
sustain for both lead and rhythm riffing.

The Kenai’s all-gold hardware lends a regal appearance to the instrument, and the three-in-line open-geared butterbean tuners— accessories more commonly seen on ancient Martins and Gibsons than on modern electrics—were a nice touch, as was the headstock’s “Morning Star” motif, repeated nine times in progressively smaller fretboard inlays. I only had one small complaint regarding the design: on a high-end instrument like this, it seemed a bit odd to have an unbound fingerboard. (Binding is included, though, on a Tier 1 version.)

Craftsmanship on our Kenai was topnotch. As on the Choptank, the fretwork, bone nut, and saddles were flawless. The inlay work, neck joint, body binding, and nitro finish were all perfectly done, too.

Right out of the box, the Kenai felt just right, with a totally agreeable action. Its neck, based on Gibson’s famously hefty 1959 profile, felt authentic—unlike many of the exaggeratedly large necks claimed to be inspired by ’59s that are so popular these days. Although I am accustomed to slimmer necks, I had no difficulty adjusting to the Kenai—I was able to play for a stretch without developing any fretting-hand fatigue. And the 22 medium-sized frets were ideal for bends and legato effects.

Well balanced between neck and body, our Kenai was a joy to hold. Thanks to the weight saved in the body contouring, at 8.75 pounds our Kenai was pretty light for a guitar of mahogany and maple construction. And I was able to play it standing for a good while without feeling overburdened. Like the Choptank, the Kenai was fun to play without amplification. Unplugged, it’s a bit louder than the average solidbody, with a thick, crisp tone and a short natural reverb—a good indication that the guitar would really come alive when plugged in.

The Kenai was decked out with Seymour Duncan Seth Lover neck and bridge humbuckers, with Volume and Tone controls for each pickup and a 3-way toggle switch. Plugged into the Pro Junior, the guitar sounded remarkably old-school, with PAF-like warmth and tons of body and sustain for both lead and rhythm riffing. On any pickup setting, the guitar sounded vivid and detailed, with complex overtones. And it proved super-responsive to picking nuance and dynamics.
Buy if...
you love Les Pauls, but want a more updated axe with a luxurious appearance.
Skip if...
you think little of electric guitar design after 1959.

Street $5500 - Knaggs Guitars -

The Verdict
Borrowing elements from Fender and Gibson, Knaggs has created a new line of superbly built electric guitars that are both familiar and fresh. The Choptank combines the best elements of Fender’s Telecaster and Stratocaster in a highly playable and fine-sounding instrument that boasts a distinctive appearance thanks to its updated contours and wooden pickguard.

The Gibson-inspired Kenai provides a richly detailed, classic PAF sound in a comfortable modern package. Deluxe touches like maple body binding and an ebony headstock overlay lend the Kenai a touch of exclusivity.

Both guitars are refreshing takes on classic electrics, impressive both sonically and aesthetically, and totally gig-worthy instruments that will most likely get even better with age. Call ’em keepers!