Choose a Build Level: Master Built
Imagine the greatest artists in history gathered under one roof; Michelangelo, DaVinci, Picasso and Dali working next to each other, sharing pigments, knowledge and expertise. The Fender Custom Shop is exactly that, the world’s most esteemed luthiers gathered together to create peerless instruments that are astounding works of art—the Master Builders. They are known the world over for their skill and have built instruments for Jeff Beck, Ritchie Blackmore, Eric Clapton, Dick Dale, Mike Dirnt, Bob Dylan, Robben Ford, Buddy Guy, Merle Haggard, Reggie Hamilton, Mark Hoppus, John 5, Keith Richards, Sting and U2 ... just to name a few!
John Cruz came to Fender in 1987, joined the Custom Shop in 1993 and became a Master Builder in 2003. Being a guitarist and understanding what a great guitar should look, feel and sound like has always been a top priority for him. Custom guitars are his passion, and he is the man behind several famous Custom Shop instruments, including the replica of Stevie Ray Vaughan’s famous "Number One" Stratocaster guitar, the Jeff Beck Esquire Relic (as used with the Yardbirds), the replica of Yngwie Malmsteen’s famous "Duck" Stratocaster, the John Mayer Limited Edition Black 1 Stratocaster and the famed Limited Edition Gary Moore 1961 Fiesta Red Stratocaster as well as countless others.
John has built fantastic guitars for players such as Doug Aldrich of Dio and Whitesnake, Dave Amato and Bruce Hall of REO Speedwagon, Mick Mars of Mötley Crüe, Richie Sambora of Bon Jovi, Bono of U2, Duff McKagan of Guns N’ Roses and Velvet Revolver, Ike Turner, Brad Whitford of Aerosmith, Jeff Beck, John Mayer and countless others. Furthermore, his meticulous work was essential to of the initial Custom Shop Relic guitars and basses and he initiated the Custom Shop’s quality assurance program.
Todd Krause has built exquisitely crafted custom instruments for many of the world’s greatest artists, including Jeff Beck, Eric Clapton, Bob Dylan, David Gilmour, Robbie Robertson, Kenny Wayne Shepherd, Robin Trower, Roger Waters and many others.
His guitar-building apprenticeship began in early 1981 at Jackson/Charvel guitars. Krause arrived at Fender in 1991 and steadily rose through several roles, including one-off instrument builder, R&D model maker, and woodworking machinist. He became a Custom Shop Master Builder in 1997 and has created countless distinctive instruments, all of which embody his personal design philosophy: "Form and function are the biggest part of it," he said. "It’s about the way an instrument sounds and feels. It has to look cool, and it has to compel you to play."
Like Fender itself, Dennis Galuszka is a Southern California native. Combining his dual passions for music and woodworking, he began building high-end acoustic guitars during his 13 years as a cabinetmaker. As a working drummer, it was a 1999 audition with one of the Fender Master Builders that led to a job interview and a new kind of steady gig—as an apprentice at the Fender Custom Shop.
After only eight months there, Galuszka was promoted to Master Builder. He has since built finely crafted instruments for influential players including Paul McCartney, Andy Summers, Johnny Marr, Patrick Stump, Mike Dirnt, Sting and many others. He has lent his expertise to a number of truly distinctive instruments, including double-neck guitars and unusual takes on classic Fender designs along with several artist models. "It’s all about the feel and sound of an instrument," Galuszka said. "Those things are number one with me, above everything else."
Greg Fessler came to the Fender Custom Shop in 1990, working his way up through the ranks as an apprentice. He assisted with the Robben Ford signature line of guitars, eventually becoming the sole builder of those instruments and, later, Ford’s personal builder. Fessler has built one-off Stratocaster and Telecaster models for a host of players, including Joe Bonnamasa, Jeff Healey, Hank Marvin, John Mayer, Rhonda Smith, Neil Schon and Pete Wentz, to name a few.
Fessler’s remarkable abilities as a Master Builder have earned him accolades from many Fender artists and from discerning customers worldwide. His meticulous attention to detail is exemplified in every instrument he creates, each of which is a perfect example of the intense commitment it takes to earn the title of Master Builder.
Dale Wilson arrived at Fender in 2003, joined the Custom Shop in 2005 and became a Master Builder in 2011. Building guitars has been a driving passion for the California native since childhood. "Ever since I can remember, I’ve always loved guitars," he said. "I didn’t dream of being a rock star; I dreamt of building the ultimate guitar. I was equally enthralled with the guitars just as much as I was with the players."
Woodworking runs in the Wilson family, and the requisite Custom Shop zeal for outstanding craftsmanship has long been part of Dale’s DNA. He did repair work and mods in a small guitar shop right out of high school in the late 1980s; subsequently, he moved on to stints at Dobro and Rickenbacker before arriving at Fender, where he worked on Guild, Gretsch and Benedetto guitars before beginning his apprenticeship with various Custom Shop Master Builders.
He enjoys calling upon his extensive and varied experience as a craftsman to create highly distinctive guitars such as the Resophonic Thinline Telecaster®. Wilson also built five beautiful custom guitars for the January 2011 NAMM Show while still an apprentice and was asked to signed the back of the headstocks, garnering him his Master Builder status.
Paul Waller is a Southern California native with woodworking and luthiery in his blood. He built his first guitar at age 14 in his high school woodshop, joined a cabinet shop right out of high school and, after a stint at a small Southern California guitar maker, enrolled at the acclaimed Roberto-Venn School of Luthiery in Phoenix, from which he graduated in spring of 2000.
Waller joined Fender in 2003. He spent two years working closely with master archtop craftsman Bob Benedetto, and became steeped in the many facets of building techniques from all the Custom Shop’s Master Builders. After an extensive seven-year apprenticeship, Waller became a Master Builder in 2010.
His Fender Custom Shop work includes bass guitars for U2’s Adam Clayton, a custom Thinline Telecaster for U2 vocalist Bono, Telecaster guitars for the Rolling Stones’ Keith Richards and co-work on a Stratocaster for fellow Stones guitarist Ronnie Wood, Stratocaster guitars for Buddy Guy, the Nile Rodgers "Hitmaker" Stratocaster, a custom double-neck Jazzmaster for Queens Of the Stone Age guitarist Troy Van Leeuwen and the George Harrison Tribute Rosewood Telecaster.
A Custom Shop veteran and son of longtime Fender R&D legend Dan Smith, Jason Smith grew up on Fender — "It has always been in my family," he said, "And I was always extremely interested in everything my father did."
Born in Rochester, N.Y., and raised in California, Smith remembers meeting guitar greats from about age 5 on through his father’s work with Fender—Eric Clapton, Yngwie Malmsteen, Jeff Beck and Robben Ford, to name only a few. He went to his first big rock concert at age six—Rush—and remembers going backstage with his dad and meeting Geddy Lee after the show. Before he was even in his teens, Smith was going to see Pink Floyd, ZZ Top and many other major artists.
Rock music and Fender are part of Smith’s DNA. He joined the Fender Custom Shop in 1995 and in 2006 completed a five -year apprenticeship under acclaimed Senior Master Builder John English. Among many diverse projects with English, Smith worked on a pair of double-neck Stratocaster guitars for Stone Temple Pilots guitarist Dean DeLeo. He has since crafted fine instruments for players and acts including John 5, Michael Landau, Flea, Josh Klinghoffer, Steve Harris, Reggie Hamilton, Linkin Park, Kenny Wayne Shepherd, Neon Trees and many others.
From handcrafting many of his own woodworking tools to showcasing his world-class luthiery skills and custom inlay work, Yuriy Shishkov is truly a renaissance guitar builder. It was in the small confines of a root cellar in his hometown of Gomel in the former Soviet Union that Shishkov got his start building guitars for friends and colleagues.
When he arrived in the United States in 1990, Shishkov settled in the Chicago area and collaborated with a range of top artists, including late shredder Dimebag Darrell of Pantera, Jimmy Page and Robert Plant of Led Zeppelin, Nuno Bettencourt of Extreme, Robin Zander of Cheap Trick and Paul Stanley of KISS. Shishkov joined the Fender Custom Shop’s Master Builder team in 2000 and has crafted truly magnificent instruments featuring exquisite detail and inlay work.
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