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Modern Builder Vault: Peters Instruments

Like so many other teenagers, Shad Peters picked up the guitar when classic rock and metal from the likes of AC/DC, Metallica, and Ozzy Osbourne reigned king on his stereo.

Like so many other teenagers, Shad Peters picked up the guitar when classic rock and metal from the likes of AC/DC, Metallica, and Ozzy Osbourne reigned king on his stereo. But try as he might, Peters couldn’t get the Kirk Hammet-esque tones he was looking for with the entry-level Strat he bought from his guitar teacher. He knew he needed a new guitar, but was disappointed every time he went out looking because they were more than he could afford and he never saw the type of guitar he wanted. “It wasn’t just that the catalogs didn’t carry the guitars I wanted,” says Peters. “The guitars that I doodled in my notebooks during class just didn’t exist.”

When a friend of his began building a banjo, Peters figured it was time to start making a guitar. Although he didn’t know the first thing about building a guitar at age 15, Peters had always possessed a passion for making things with his hands and expressing himself through woodworking, music, and other art forms. “I think the biggest influence that got me started building was not playing or woodworking, but rather the same thing that got me into playing and woodworking: a passion to create,” he says. “To be able to take something all the way from a mental concept to a finished, functional product is such a thrilling and rewarding process.”

Peters cites Ron Thorn, David Myka, and Matt Artinger as the three builders whose work he admires most. But Peters contends that the most inspiring guitars he sees are coming from the hobbyists who are making the types of guitars that established builders often don’t have the time to try or don’t want to risk doing. “When I see a guitar that’s pushing the envelope of what a guitar is and can do, it’s often not from one of the big names,” says Peters. “It’s from a weekend builder on one of the [forums] that I frequent. That’s where I see a lot of cool stuff happening.”

And Peters takes that approach in his shop. Though keeping the builds exciting, fresh, and interesting is a constant challenge for the luthier, he doesn’t like to do the same exact thing twice. “There is often very little in common from one guitar to the next,” says Peters. “I try to build instruments that are unique works of art and personalized for each individual, and this type of building philosophy does not lend itself well to standardized models.”

When asked what sets his instruments apart the most, Peters says it’s his aim to build guitars that are distinctive but somehow still familiar, like a classic that someone has never seen before. “Generally, I think simpler is better and I try to let the materials of a build speak for themselves,” he explains. “I endeavor to see the beauty in each piece of lumber, and rather than cover it up, I want to showcase it.” Peters believes this approach to building yields a guitar that looks and feels organic, as though it simply ought to be that way. And while he doesn’t take issue with other guitars, he doesn’t think that organic feel is something one can achieve by just putting parts together. “There are a lot of builders out there who make boutique guitars, but there are considerably fewer who make actual custom guitars. I strive to be one of them.”

Pricing and Availability
Peters runs a one-man shop and plans to keep it that way for the foreseeable future. The luthier is currently producing between 10 and 20 guitars annually, and the approximate build time is between six and 12 months, depending on the complexity of the build. Base pricing for one of Peters’ custom guitars ranges from $1,750 for a solidbody to $3,250 for an archtop hollowbody, and a variety of custom upgrades are available for an additional price. While the “Orders and Pricing” section of Peters’ website provides more detailed information on the process, the luthier is also available to discuss builds via email.

Hell Cat
The Hell Cat spent a significant amount of time in Peters’ brain before being put to paper, and in many ways, it’s a refined version of his very first build. The Hell Cat’s highly figured top is carved from buckeye burl, while the tailpiece, pickup covers, knobs, and unique bridge use walnut burl. Other appointments include abalone inlays set in copper, curly maple binding, and a pair of GFS Soapbar 180s.

12-String Custom
With a nod to the classic 12-string guitars from the ’60s, Peters’ 12-String Custom is a looker finished in pelham blue. The instrument has an alder body, a quartersawn maple neck, and an Indian rosewood fretboard adorned with mother-of-pearl block inlays. Other features include a Gotoh bridge, Schaller tuners, a pair of Seymour Duncan Antiquity II mini humbuckers, and a silver-wire logo inlay on the headstock.

Offset Avenger
The 25.5"-scale Offset Avenger features a neck-through design with a carved walnut-burl top, an ebony fretboard with split-block inlays, a bone nut, and a 5-piece neck made of curly maple and walnut laminate. Outfitted with a Seymour Duncan JB in the bridge and a Seymour Duncan Jazz in the neck, the Offset Avenger also includes Sperzel locking tuners and a Gotoh bridge and tailpiece.

The Outlaw
Like many of Peters’ other instruments, the Outlaw came to life on a piece of scrap paper during math class. Borrowing some inspiration from Jerry Garcia’s “Tiger” guitar, the Outlaw is a 24"-scale sustain tool with its aggressive EMG 81 and 85 humbuckers. Simple yet ornate, the neck-through Outlaw is finished with nitrocellulose over Danish oil, and features a redwood burl top, a maple fretboard with mother-of-pearl inlays, and a 3-piece neck made of curly maple and cherry laminate.

Ranger #2 Antiqued
Urged by a friend to make an antiqued version of his first Ranger build, Peters created the Ranger #2 Antiqued. This twang machine utilizes tulip poplar for the body and rock maple for the neck and fretboard (which has a buffalo-horn nut). The Ranger’s eye-catching pickguard and headstock logo are made from custom handtooled leather, and the guitar shoots from the hip via a pair of GFS Fatbody pickups.

Vixen #4
The Vixen #4 is a semi-hollowbody offering from Peters with a quilted-maple top, an African-mahogany back, and an Indian rosewood fretboard topping the African-mahogany neck. To contrast the sublime mother-of-pearl fret markers and cream-colored plastic binding, Peters chose Indian rosewood for the pickup rings, tailpiece, and knobs. For electronics, this sapphire blueburst Vixen is outfitted with a duo of Lindy Fralin Pure PAF humbuckers.