Every guitar made is a custom instrument, with the customer able to have as much or as little input as they want in the production.


Zuni Custom Guitars is a crosscontinental partnership between Michael Blank, an Illinois resident and purveyor of all things wood, and Thomas Stratmann, a German luthier and teacher of guitar making. Michael has been supplying wood to guitar manufacturers for the past quarter of a century, and after meeting Thomas, decided to get into the guitar making business. With access to wood that has aged twenty-five years, as well as some that was cut in the mid-1800s, almost anything the customer can dream up can be accommodated. This brings up an interesting point: Zuni Custom Guitars are just that, as they have no stock models. Every guitar made is a custom instrument, with the customer able to have as much or as little input as they want in the production.
Zuni Exhibition Wild Cherry

First Impressions
The guitar we got our mitts on was the Exhibition Custom Wild Cherry, which features a black wild cherry body, with a beautiful, tiger-striped, Eastern maple top. The neck is a curly maple/quilted maple laminate with black cherry stringers running between the two woods. Topping off the neck is an ebony fingerboard with Birdseye maple binding. Another unique feature of the neck is a volute, effectively strengthening the joint between the neck and headstock. Other niceties include Birdseye pickup surrounds and cover-plates, intriguing deer and elk antler knobs, switch tips and tuner buttons and unique, Southwestern-flavored fingerboard inlays.

To be honest, pictures do not do the Zuni justice. In particular, the antler knobs, and angular fingerboard inlays seem almost overdone and garish in photos, but in person the effect is quite striking, giving the guitar an unexpected, almost understated, charm. It’s as if the over-the-top pieces balance out the gorgeous top, not giving any one element too much visual strength over the other, as can sometimes happen with fancy-topped guitars having otherwise simple elements. All of the little parts come together to make a very attractive whole, with the overall effect being almost organic in appearance.

Picking the guitar up lets you know it is no featherweight, but it isn’t a heavy guitar either – given all of the maple that it contains, it comes in solidly middle of the road. The neck feels nice; once again, not too big, and not too small, with a comfortable, familiar profile – think of a medium Gibson profile. I can’t imagine anyone not getting along with it.

When we first pulled the Zuni Wild Cherry out of its surgical-looking, metallic flight case, it had a touch too much relief. A quick scan of the headstock above the nut revealed no truss rod cover. A glance down toward the end of the fingerboard was also fruitless, but further inspection revealed a tiny hole between the nineteenth and twentieth fret. After a quick call to Michael to make sure I was on the right track, I inserted the provided two-millimeter screw, and an ebony plug popped out, allowing access to the truss rod. I adjusted the rod, replaced the plug, and the access was once again nearly invisible. A nice touch, to be sure.

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