Seller Spotlight: Carl's Custom Guitars

Here at Reverb, we’ve got plenty of boutique pedal smiths, along with our share of cigar box guitar and amp makers. Carl from Carl’s Custom Guitars in Lowell, MA is definitely the only shop that does all three.

Carl's Reverb shop is like a guitar general store. There's something for every player and all at fantastic prices. We recently talked to Carl about his many unique offerings and selling gear online.

Be sure to check out Carl's Reverb shop for limited time price cuts drops on all his items.


What got you into building guitar gear?

I've always been someone who had to understand how something worked to be able to fully enjoy it, so pretty much as soon as I began playing guitar back around age 11 I began taking them apart and tinkering with them.

There are a lot of different cigar box guitars out there. What stands out about your cigar box guitars?

Just about all the other cigar box guitars I have seen are more novelty items, many of them only have three strings and are something you may screw around with around the house or whatnot but they are not a reliable, pro quality instrument. What I wanted to do was build a fully functional six string electric guitar around a cigar box body, something that you could gig with and really rely on, and that would play and sound great as well.

On mine I use a solid mahogany interior body, very good quality necks, hardware and electronics and they all come fully professionally set up, playing great right out of the box. Also on mine the cigar box actually opens, which is a really cool feature and certainly makes these a great conversation piece as well.

Tell us a little bit about your two-in-one fuzz boxes. What sort of classic tones can these churn out?

These pedals, like all my other products, grew out of me building things for myself, playing out with them and then other musicians asking me what they were and if I could make one for them. In my head there's two basic schools of fuzz I really like: the early Hendrix really thick washed out Fuzz Face style tones and the more crisp sounding early Jimmy Page/Jeff Beck more Tone Bender style fuzz, so I did my research and came up with a circuit that can switch between both in one pedal.

It's definitely not just a two trick pony, however, and can really cover a lot of other ground in between and even in the overdrive/distortion range. The only thing missing that I couldn't squeeze in that pedal was the classic Band of Gypsy's style Octave Fuzz with that searing octave up overtone so I came up with another pedal that does both that and a non-octave very wooly silicon fuzz as well, again switchable both in one pedal. That's a whole lotta fuzz!

Dovetail Pine Speaker Cabinets -- On Sale Now

Apart from the obvious improvement in the looks department, how do your dovetail replacement cabinets impact the tone of an amplifier?

The select pine I use is a huge improvement over the very dead and dull sounding particle board used in many popular combos and extension cabs these days, it opens up a whole other world of resonance and harmonic richness and the dovetails, being a very secure and self locking style joint, help to increase that even more by making the whole cab react like one piece of wood. Plus they look so darned good!

The Speaker Soak attenuators might be your popular items on Reverb. For players who haven’t considered grabbing an attenuator, what’s the advantage of adding one to your rig?

Well, a lot of amplifiers "sweet spots" volume wise are often louder than we have the luxury of being able to play without seriously offending our families, neighbors, band mates etc etc, these devices allow your amp to operate at that sweet spot level where the tubes are really where they want to be to produce the best tones, yet at totally manageable and realistic volume levels

What’s your personal favorite guitar or piece of gear you’ve owned? How bout your dream piece you haven’t gotten your hands on yet?

Well, I have been very lucky to be able to acquire and hold onto a lot of great gear over the years, but I guess I would always go back to my first two "real" guitars, a 1979 maple neck Stratocaster and 1968 Gibson SG, everything else is kind of icing on the cake but if it all came down to it there's really not much I couldn't do with those two guitars, it all started there and I have certainly played the heck out of them. One thing I have been itching for lately that I haven't seemed to get a hold of over the years (or saved up enough money for) is a nice electric semi-hollow body, like a nice Gibson ES-335 or something, hopefully my business will continue to grow and maybe I will find just the right one on Reverb.com!

Speaker Soak Attenuators -- On Sale Now

Any tips for other boutique builders just getting started?

One thing that's always worked for me is that I only deal in things that I have a genuine pleasure working with and selling, I am very happy to be working on these things all day and am essentially surrounded by the things I really love and am passionate about. Also, no matter how good of a builder and how creative you are there's still the whole "business" aspect of it, you really have to know how to market yourself and have to constantly adapt to the changing market, I've been selling my wares online for about 14 years now, and in that time it's really mind blowing how many changes in the nature of the business I have had to roll with, but in the end it's really incredibly self satisfying and rewarding.

What do you like about Reverb as a place to sell your gear?

What I love about reverb is how, like myself, the folks running the site have a genuine interest and passion about musical instruments, and also they treat their members like real human beings, it's this attention to detail and the personal element that I appreciate most, they are really enthusiastic about connecting like minded buyers and sellers.

Carl's Custom Guitars Shop Now
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