Fender Will No Longer Build Production Model Guitars With Ash

In 1950, Fender debuted what would become the first commercially successful solidbody guitar. After an early name change, the guitar-playing world would forever know it as the Telecaster. It featured a bolt-on maple neck married to a solid ash body, and the company continued to use ash as its primary guitar body tonewood through mid-1956. Though the brand has diversified its build materials over the years, ash has remained a (limited) staple in the catalog.

Stevie Ray Vaughan’s “Jimbo”

But today, Gear News reports that Fender will largely discontinue its use of ash due to environmental considerations.

According to Fender, the threat to ash stocks is twofold: Climate change is leading to increased flooding in the Mississippi Delta (where Fender sources most of its swamp ash), while the Emerald Ash Borer (an invasive insect) continues to wreak havoc on ash trees throughout North America. Over the past 20 years, the insect has killed tens of millions of ash trees. With efforts to control it falling flat, losses are expected to reach the billions.

"In order to uphold our legacy of consistency and high quality," Max Gutnik, vice president of Fender Electric Guitars, Basses, and Amplifiers, said, "We, at Fender, have made the decision to remove Ash from the majority of our regular production models."

These days, ash is only used in a smattering of Fender’s guitar models—primarily in era-specific reissue lines. Alder became the go-to tonewood for the brand’s guitar bodies in mid-1956 because of its availability and affordability, and is still today what most modern Fender bodies are made from.

Some of the current ash-bodied production models still in the catalog include the Custom Shop ‘51 Reissue Nocaster Relic, the American Original ‘60’s Telecaster Thinline, and the American Ultra Stratocaster. Ash was also used for the body of one of Fender’s longest-running models within its catalog, the American Vintage ‘52 Telecaster.

Although Fender will be phasing out the use of ash within its more common guitar models, it appears that the brand will still use the tonewood for highly specific and limited series. "What little Ash we are able to source will continue to be made available in select, historically appropriate vintage models, as supplies are available."

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