I first heard about Tom Painters guitars via a couple of glowing recommendations on the internet which piqued my interest as I’m always keeping an eye out for new guitars for the shop then I saw this video:
Before I go any further let me talk about the difference between solid wood and laminate in jazz guitars. In flat top acoustics it’s generally accepted that “solid wood = better sounding than laminate” but in the world of jazz guitars that isn’t necessarily the case. Unquestionably one of the most popular jazz guitars of all time is the Gibson ES175 which is all laminate. It was originally a mid priced affordable instrument and the laminate contributed to keeping the cost down and as a consequence many classic era jazz guitar recordings were made on such instruments. In my opinion one of the best recorded examples of this is on the album “For Django” by Joe Pass. Solid wood guitars are generally more ‘open sounding’, full of rich harmonics, not the dark sound that many people prefer. (I will talk more of solid wood jazz guitars another time).
Modern era Gibsons (and pretty much any mass produced laminate jazz guitar) tend to be made from laminates which are thicker than the classic era ones which makes them heavier and not quite as pleasing in tone which is where Tom Painter has come to the rescue! Tom vacuum presses all his own laminates in house which means he can not only keep the quality and consistency rock solid but he is able to do custom and one off finishes with virtually any wood. Aside from the body construction the hardware is superb, handmade pickups from Pete Biltoft are some of the best I’ve come across.
As they are all hand made, basically almost anything is possible in terms of neck width, body depth, scale etc. I commissioned a short scale guitar from Tom (which has just sold!) as there’s no-one doing a short scale at the moment, you can get vintage Byrdlands but who wants to pay that much… I’ll definitely be getting another soon. We’ve had P-15, P-16, P-16 short scale and 2 x P175 and they were all superb; I’m really pleased and privileged that Tom supplies guitars to us and it’s great that we’ve got something a little different and as far as I know pretty unique, affordable, hand made all laminate boutique jazz guitars.