Chatting to MusicRadar, Fender Custom Shop Master Builder Todd Krause went into detail about how he recreated Robertson’s famous bronze Stratocaster for a limited-edition custom shop model. Here’s five highlights from the interview.
The Limited Edition Robbie Robertson Last Waltz Stratocaster. Source: Fender Custom Shop
1. The project has been in the works for almost 15 years
While it’s only been recently unveiled as a Custom Shop Model, Krause suggests the project has been in works for a while now, estimating he began work on the project around 2002 when Robertson sent him the guitar to repair and service after years of being stashed away behind a display at Hard Rock Cafe.
2. Eric Clapton was the catalyst for the recreation
When asked how the guitar went from being a repair to a full limited edition Custom Shop model, Krause implied that Eric Clapton’s own signature Stratocaster was the basis for Robertson’s own recreation. “At some point, I think he’d talked to Eric [Clapton],” said Kruase. “I’d done the recreation of [Clapton’s famed Telecaster] Blackie. At one stage, I had [Robbie’s guitar] here and showed it to a couple of the managers and said it would be a cool guitar to replicate. It wasn’t, ‘Let’s do this’ and it just happened, it took a while.”
3. The body is literally dipped in bronze
While Krause affirms that the Stratocaster wasn’t dunked into a smouldering volcano of molten-bronze, he does liken the job, done by the aptly-named California company The Bronzery, to that used in the process of moulding baby shoes. Krause also went into detail regarding his own attempts to create the guitars unique aged bronze finish, revealing that even Master Builders make mistakes sometimes. “I tried a couple of experiments,” said Krause. “I thought I’d do the patina by hand, which was a huge mistake. I actually destroyed three or four of them. The process that I used wouldn’t stop – one of them turned green like the Statue Of Liberty. So I just decided to let the plater do his thing.”
4. The pickups are wired totally differently
Robertson’s original Last Waltz Stratocaster featured a unique Franken-strat approach to the pickup wiring, in which a neck single-coil and a humbucking bridge pickup were soldered together, creating an interesting tone in conjunction with the bronze-dipped body. “I don’t know who actually came up with the mod, but the thing that surprised me about wiring those two pickups together the way they are, then putting them in a guitar that is enclosed in metal, is that you’d expect it to sound a certain way,” says Krause. “But while it has a lot of output, like a humbucker, it has a lot of clarity, too, like a single coil. So you play big open chords and it’s not muddy or mushy at all. The first time I plugged it in, it was like, ‘Wow!’”
5. Google made making the guitar way harder than it already was
When asked how difficult Robertson’s Stratocaster was to recreate, Krause gave a rating of 10/10, citing the finish of the body and recreating the vintage specs of the guitar as the most painstaking aspects. Krause also singled out Google’s immense searching tools as a difficult aspect in creating the guitar. “I spent over a year just trying to find someone who could bronze the body,” he said. “You’d think that would be easy with the internet, but anything I would type into the search, I’d just get tanning salons.”
Fender are distributed in Austrlia through Fender Music Australia.