An eye-popping gallery of radically reimagined guitars.

Dan Bontrager
Before acquiring its celestial finish, Dan Bontrager’s Ibanez JS700 had a standard red-stained mahogany body. “I picked it up from Craigslist, and it was in poor shape,” he says. Bontrager and a buddy rebuilt a routed-out bridge pickup cavity and stripped the original finish before applying a large-flake glitter coating. “The process was very low-tech,” reports Bontrager. “Spray clear, dump the glitter on, repeat. Finish with about 20 layers of clear, and then buff.” Dan says it’s a heavy guitar thanks to all that varnish, but that it sounds great with its GFS P90s. “Best of all,” he confides, “you can blind everyone at a gig with only a single 60-watt light bulb.”

Throughout the year we collect stories and photos of guitar-mod projects created by you, our dear readers. Some are so inspiring that we include them here in our annual Hot Rod issue.

Plus, the Fontaines D.C. axeman explains why he’s reticent to fix the microphonic pickup in his ’66 Fender Coronado.

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The emotional wallop of the acoustic guitar sometimes flies under the radar. Even if you mostly play electric, here are some things to consider about unplugging.

I have a love-hate relationship with acoustic guitars. My infatuation with the 6-string really blasted off with the Ventures. That’s the sound I wanted, and the way to get it was powered by electricity. Before I’d even held a guitar, I knew I wanted a Mosrite, which I was sure was made of fiberglass like the surfboards the Beach Boys, Surfaris, and the Challengers rode in their off time. Bristling with space-age switchgear and chrome-plated hardware, those solidbody hotrod guitars were the fighter jets of my musical dreams. I didn’t even know what those old-timey round-hole guitars were called. As the singing cowboys Roy Rogers and Gene Autrey strummed off into the sunset, the pace of technology pushed the look and sound of the electric guitar (and bass) into the limelight and into my heart. Imagine my disappointment when I had to begin my guitar tutelage on a rented Gibson “student” acoustic. At least it sort of looked like the ones the Beatles occasionally played. Even so, I couldn’t wait to trade it in.

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Need an affordable distortion pedal? Look no further.

We live in the golden age of boutique pedals that are loaded with advanced features—many of which were nearly unthinkable a decade or so ago. But there’s something that will always be valuable about a rock-solid dirt box that won’t break your wallet. Here’s a collection of old classics and newly designed stomps that cost less than an average concert ticket.

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