Today’s post is a guest review of the Gaskell Classic I guitar by Alan Williams, who has recently taken the reins at Gaskell’s new European division. This very guitar is available to try out or purchase, or alternatively those in Europe can contact Alan directly for other available options and pricing.
Higher quality images of this guitar (and others) can be found on the Gaskell Europe Facebook page or on the main Gaskell website – links at the end of the article.
Gaskell Classic Review by Alan Williams
Gaskell Guitars build only left handed guitars. That’s got to be good news for us lefties who have every reason to feel unloved by the mainstream manufacturers. I don’t know about you, but this hits me every time I read a review – go down to the “left hand available” and find a stark “No” staring back. Most makers do a token number of “easy call” models as lefties and a few are now offering a wider selection, but there are almost no other companies who offer only guitars for us southpaws.
Any of you who’ve seen my guitar collection on the Leftyfretz Facebook page will see I’m predominantly a Gibson/PRS fan. Given that the Classic is based on a Gibson design, comparisons to those come most naturally to mind. Despite being involved with Gaskell Guitars, I’ve aimed to be unbiased in this review. I know how let down I feel if I’m oversold something. Happily my experience closely reflects Neal’s findings with his Gaskell Allrounder (edit: It’s my favourite guitar at the moment! –Neal)
Gaskell Classic I Left Handed Guitar Review
The Classic is based on the time honoured Gibson Explorer design. It’s available in production, PRO, or full custom versions. Within the production version there are 2 variants, the main difference being the scratchplate on the Classic II. A wide range of colours are available for each configuration.
The angular styling and stark colour schemes of the original explorer has a pretty strong association with metal/hard rock style music. This colour scheme of model demonstrates the versatility of the body shape. The sunburst finish adds an interesting twist to an established image, is very neatly applied and is nicely graduated as the photos demonstrate.
Construction and Feel of the guitar
The Classic comprises a mahogany body, maple set neck and rosewood fretboard. The neat grain of the mahogany is clearly visible through the lighter part of the finish, giving the guitar a classy look. The high gloss finish is smooth, with just one or two signs of buffing marks evident on very close inspection, but easily removed with a bit of elbow grease if they really bother you
This particular model weighs in at around 7½ pounds, (that’s about 3.5 kilos in new money) so it’s a fairly comfortable proposition, as you’d probably expect with the relatively small body. No instant backache.
I understand that the body on the Gaskell Classic has been slightly redesigned (slightly more rounded and reduced in size), improving the balance of the guitar. Never having had the chance to hold a lefty Gibson Explorer I can’t personally comment on the difference. What I can say is that it’s well balanced, no hint of neck heaviness.
22 frets on a 24 ¾ inch scale is immediately familiar to anyone used to the feel of a Gibson. Although described as a “thinner 60’s neck” I found it to a reasonable handful of wood, very comfortable and familiar, not at all like some of the skinnier necks I’ve found on some more modern designs. The chunky frets are cleanly installed and very well finished. One or two of the dot markers would have benefitted from a bit more TLC on installation, but compared to similarly priced lefty models from far bigger companies, nothing to be noted.
The strap pegs are large and provide a secure anchor for your strap, more akin to bass pegs or those on a PRS than the smaller type found on many guitars. In fact putting on a reasonably heavy leather strap will require a reassuring few minutes of twisting and tugging. Probably not a lot of need for straplocks (health warning, don’t come to me if I’m proved wrong but I wouldn’t be installing any).
One aspect I wasn’t really anticipating was the ease of access to the dusty end of the neck. The location of the strap pin (on the body, behind the heel of the neck) holds the neck well out to your left (well, only a tiny amount really) thus putting the mid/high end of the neck very closely in touch. This, combined with the amazing high-end access (the body meets the neck a little below the 22nd fret) encourages you (me) to spend more time up here. Conversely, if you spend all your time playing open chords, this layout probably doesn’t favour you. But then again, you might not be looking for this style of guitar if that were the case?
Unplugged I was surprised at how loud this guitar is. It’s pretty bright acoustically, probably a consequence of the body shape distribution and maple neck. Sustain is considerable too, comparable to many of the higher priced guitars I’m lucky enough to own.
Plugged in the Wilkinson humbuckers do the job admirably. I struggle when I read descriptions of how things sound. Hence I’d struggle even more to write descriptions of how things sound. Fortunately for us all, I don’t have to bring my limited playing talent to the fore to demonstrate the Classic. A number of helpful contributors have done so already. Try looking / listening here and here (the second showing the non scratchplate version) and judge for yourself.
The Classic in this review represents the heart of Gaskell’s range. Being based on a Gibson Explorer, it has become the company’s most popular model. Reviewed here is a standard production model. The PRO series offer the next step up in component quality, with upgraded hardware, finishes and Platinum setup as standard. If you’d like to specify the guitar of your dreams, the custom shop will take the Classic template (or any shape you specify) and hand build you a unique guitar (there are a number of custom Classics on my Facebook page)
This Gaskell guitar sits comfortably in the low-middle end of the price range of lefty guitars available. It’s neither incredibly cheap, nor scarily expensive. The build quality is pretty much exactly what you’d expect at this price. It comes complete with a lockable shaped hard shell case or a quality gig bag. I personally think it looks stunning, and gives a very refreshing interpretation of a classic design. Where else are you going to get a left handed sunburst Explorer style guitar??
So what are you getting in buying a Gaskell? Well, often you’re buying a model that, being a lefty, you just can’t get from the originator of the design. Make no mistake, these aren’t fakes trying to pretend to be the original, these are “inspired by”, and in cases (as in the redesign of the body here) modified by Kevin and his team to improve things in their view. Buying from Gaskell is supporting an initiative that’s totally focused on us lefties – so when you next read “Not available left handed” in your favourite guitar mag, think of the company which says “only available left handed”.
Coming soon– reviews of Gaskell Hybrid and Gaskell Firestarter LE.