Pat Wilkins Creates a Masterpiece Guitar
Gleaming, smooth, player-friendly and finely-crafted guitars are a labor of love for Pat Wilkins, but that’s not how he makes his living. Instead, he’s the master of something that is on every guitar: the finish.
Seeing Pat Wilkins’ NAMM booth featuring guitar finishes didn’t prepare me for his guitar-building prowess. A quick glance at the Pat Wilkins Strat-style six-string is deceiving. You are apt to think you’re looking at something that’s very traditional. While not ordinary (it’s too pretty for that), the guitar appears to be a very straightforward piece of gear. And then you come closer and you discover you’re wrong, for this is an extraordinary instrument.
A gleaming, state-of-the-art appearance is certainly what you’d expect from the man who owns Wilkins Guitar Finishes, but the overall superior quality of the axe leads to a continual state of astonishment as you put it through its paces. The more you play it, the more you discover about its sweet synergy of design concepts. It’s as if every aspect of the guitar-builder’s craft was tweaked into top shape before being allowed to touch his luthier’s workbench.
Custom from Stock
The unusual thing about the ultra-high standards of the Wilkins guitar is the stock nature of almost all the parts. “You won’t find anything that I invented on this guitar,” Wilkins states, “I just took what I believe are the best solutions for making a bolt-on solidbody and incorporated every one of them into my design.” The result of his having combined several different methodologies is one slick axe that plays like a dream.
If you order a custom-built Wilkins, you can specify almost any combination of fingerboard, fret wire, pickups, bridge, and finish, but his current “Standard” (which might be called a Pat-Strat or perhaps a Pat-ocaster) is the kind of thing you hope gets built on a regular basis.
Evil vs. Sweet
For his part, Wilkins admits he would enjoy selling more of his guitars. “I began formulating my design concepts in the early nineteen eighties,” Wilkins states, “but some of my ‘one-only’ guitars seemed too radical for most players. One of them looked ‘too evil,’ according to many who saw it, and it played too sweetly for the metal performers who liked the way it looked.”
It was that reaction that prompted his decision to work in a more straightforward style, but utilize the finest components available for guitar-makers. That means carefully-selected woods for the body and neck, drying of the wood until it reaches the optimum moisture content, and precision woodcutting for alignment that is right on-the-money. The entire guitar feels like it is a single entity since all parts contribute to the whole in a harmonious relationship. Pun intended.
The body is contoured to snuggle up against you as if it’s an extension of your torso. It is a joy to hold and you can play it for hours without any fatigue. Part of the reason is the sleek fingerboard which has a compound radius that’s 10 inches at the nut and 16 inches at the last fret. Even at the nut, it’s nowhere near the curvature of the old Fender 7.5-inch radius but it never gets as flat as a classical guitar.
The headstock utilizes staggered tuning gears to avoid the use of string trees, and the six-in-line tuners permit a straight string-pull from the carefully crafted nut. Frets are slotted evenly and inserted carefully to offer superb intonation. Wilkins can custom craft an axe in any configuration, but here he went for medium fretwire, a conservative choice that seems perfectly in keeping with the classic style of the guitar. Not too small, not too large.
When you strum the Pat-Strat unplugged, you feel the controlled vibration up into your chest and under your fingers. The guitar seems to be alive from the end strap-button to the tip of the headstock. It’s a great feeling.
When you plug it in, the sound is perfectly adaptable to whatever sonic configuration you wish. Played straight into an amp, the Pat-Strat sings with a high shimmer, a meaty midrange and a hint of crunch at the bottom end. Tone controls give you a broad sweep, and the volume has no discernible drop-off.
The finish is award-winning. If you need to check your appearance before stepping out on stage, you won’t need a mirror because you’ve got the Pat-Strat in which you can study your reflection.
Some guitars you want to caress. Some you want to admire. Some you want to play. The Wilkins scores a ten in all three categories.
Contact: Pat Wilkins, Wilkins Guitars & Finishes, 15734 Stagg St., Van Nuys, CA 91406; (818) 909-7310; firstname.lastname@example.org.
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