Reverb Interview: Introducing Shelton Electric Instruments

If you've spent any time combing the used guitar pages on Reverb, you've probably seen a few from Shelton's Guitars out of Frederick, Maryland. A veteran online seller, Shelton's wares are always supremely well-curated and listed with clean photos and expert details. In short, he's a model Reverb seller and a sturdy crossbeam in the guitar comings and goings on the site.

Recently, we got an intriguing email from Shelton letting us know that after years of buying and selling, playing and flipping every type of guitar there is, he was getting into the building business himself. To Shelton, being at the intersection of so many guitars has given him and his team a unique perspective on what works and what doesn't in guitar craft. We're lucky enough to have a sample Shelton Guitar here in the office, and the results are nothing short of astounding.

Watch the video below for a sample of what Shelton's new instruments have to offer. Take a look below for our conversation about selling guitars over the internet and what went into the new line.

You operate an online shop yet still have the sort of personality and vibe one associates with a brick and mortar. To you, how do you establish an identity as a seller when operating online?

The best shops are a reflection of the taste of the folks that are running them. Our mission has always been to have a ton of used gear that regular guys want and can afford plus offer some interesting guitars that were a little off the beaten path. That means a lot of Teles, Les Pauls, SGs, Strats, etc. But it also means I can throw in a few curveballs. It's easy to be a specialist or tie yourself to one brand or time period. We're omnivorous in a lot of ways and that takes a certain degree of overall sophistication. I love everything about a White Falcon but on the polar opposite end of the spectrum, I understand what is cool about a Charvel with a single humbucker and a Floyd. That's something that not every shop can do credibly and it's reflected in their vibe.

We're online only but we operate out of a dedicated facility. We're not selling out of the basement or mom's garage. I have one full time tech and a part time tech here as well. Everything that comes through is cleaned, restrung, evaluated, and processed. We're going into our 10th year.

It’s all about the guitars for us. We don't care about the velvet ropes, ego, or pomp and circumstance. Just give me cool guitars to sell and I'm happy.

In what ways has Reverb helped you do this?

Shelton GalaxyFlite

Reverb is great. We've had a great experience here. Almost everyone shopping here is a musician. That means they already know as much if not more than most of the sellers. They understand the lingo so you can communicate with them in a much more natural way vs the dumbing down you may have to do for a general audience.

When you sell on the-auction-site-that-must-not-be-named, you always feel like you're one step away from some crisis. Whether it's the auction site pulling the rug out from under you with a bunch of new and ever crazier rules and hoops to jump through or some wacky customer ruining your feedback, your blood pressure will nearly always be elevated selling there. The beauty of Reverb is that the marketplace is ran by musicians for musicians.

Reverb just makes sense.

What led you to starting your own guitar line? What hole in the market are these filling?

The time was right to do something bold. I had long entertained the idea of our own brand but previously never had the right pieces on the chessboard.

Shelton SkyFlite

After so many years in this business, we’ve literally had thousands of guitars come through the shop. Not only does that give us the insight as to what makes some guitars good and some great, it also tells us what the customers respond to. This is also across all price ranges as well. So, no fetish-izing of expensive or vintage guitars over utility or budget stuff. A good guitar is where you find it and we understand much of that good guitar formula.

We had a look at the most obvious competitors in our price range and realize we could not only make a better guitar in some respects but also offer more value. I think the finishes and aging work we offer are in many respects superior to our competition. In general, all of our finishes are a gloss unless the customer wants something otherwise. Many of the aged guitar builders tend towards a more matte finish.

Some of the builders use no name hardware. In most cases, we’re using good quality Gotoh, Kluson, and Mastery stuff. We’re NOT using Allparts or Mighty Mite necks and bodies. All of our bodies and necks are USA made. Yeah, it’s CNC, so have at it forum dudes. I could bandsaw everything by hand but it would be a waste of time and effort.

All of our electronics are Emerson Custom and are made in the USA with added settings and functionality. Our pickups are wound by Brian Porter and frankly sound better than most of the more obvious competitors. All of our guitars come with some sort of extra sounds built in. A lot of the stuff is equipped with an anodized aluminum pickguard. We use a lot of stainless steel hardware as well. Finally, everything comes in a Deluxe G&G hardshell case. No gigbags. All that at the same price the other guys charge.

Shelton TimeFlite

Things finally came together in the past year. I got the right combination of people and space to make it happen. We are constantly taking measurements throughout the process and we have very stringent standards to meet. I’m very proud of how consistent everything feels and sounds.

So far, the response has been very positive. The great thing is that we’re being favorably compared to the stuff a notch above your typical clone builder. Folks are saying that our stuff reminds them of custom builder stuff in the $3K and up range. That’s what I was aiming for, honestly. Something that acts as a bridge between the typical vintage style builder and the more out there mash up and custom guys.

What was the design process like and what were your priorities for these guitars?

We spent about a year getting our ducks in a row. We had to get our processes in order as well as coordinate with all of vendors. I knew we wanted a good, basic platform to start so all of our basic specs are very player oriented. I went with a nice 9.5 radius as it is good for bends but not shredder flat. We use a nice medium feeling Jescar 47095 fret. Our bodies are 2 piece light ash or alder with most completed guitars coming in at 7.5-7.9 lbs. I’ve got several neck shapes, everything from a mega hyped fat neck to a nice slim C.

Basically, our vintage models are a platform for more exciting and interesting stuff we’re planning on coming out with later. More mash ups. More fun combos. The fun part for me is the art and colour stuff. I love to combine the right finish color with just the right hardware and then age it to the perfect sheen and texture. Some of our metallic finishes with anodized guards look so incredibly space age to me. I’m a car buff so to produce something that reminds me of the stainless, chrome and anodized aluminum you would see on a 50s car is very satisfying.

Our mission with this stuff is to make a vintage style guitar but with style. A fresh take on a classic. I also want to offer some of the cool appointments and vibe of the higher end custom builders at a more attractive price.

Shelton Electric Instrument Shop Now
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