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Fender Custom Shop at 30 Years (book) 
A visually stunning look at the works of art that come from Fender's legendary Custom Shop

by Phil O'Keefe

2017 marks the 30th anniversary of the Fender Custom Shop. For those who have been living on Mars for the past three decades, Fender's Custom Shop in Corona, California is a place where fantasies are turned into reality. Not only do they make whatever some of the world's most famous musical artists can dream up, but they also make instruments based on their own interests and imaginations. Some of them are on the slightly bizarre side (cardboard Stratocaster anyone?), many are stunningly beautiful, and all of them have a story behind them… but how often do you get a chance to get that inside story? That's what the Fender Custom Shop At 30 Years provides.

What You Need To Know

  • This book was written by Stephen Pitkin, who as a professional has been photographing the people of the Fender Custom Shop and the instruments they build since 1995.

  • The Fender Custom Shop At 30 Years is also alternatively titled as Fender Custom Shop Master Built Year XXX on some websites.

  • The book is hardcover, and 160 pages. It measures 10" x 10", so it's large enough to not get lost sitting on your coffee table...but isn't so large it gets in the way.

  • There are brief Forewords from the author, as well as from renown guitar collector Billy Gibbons from ZZ Top and Fender's Mike Lewis, Fender's VP of Product Development at their Custom Shop.


  • A pair of photos show the Custom Shop staff circa 1999 and again in 2016. Since I personally know some of these people (and have for many years), it was fun to take a walk down memory lane and see a picture from back in 1999.The same was true for some of the guitars that are pictured, some of which I've personally had the opportunty to play - either while visiting the Custom Shop or at various trade shows over the years.

  • The Fender Custom Shop at 30 Years is a celebration of some of the Fender Custom Shop's achievements over the past three decades. The bulk of the book consists of beautifully-photographed images of some of their creations, along with personal stories from the artists and builders.

  • Through the stories that accompany the images you really get a sense of the creative process that goes into the making of these works of art - what inspired them, the challenges that their builds presented, and the way that the builders overcame them.

  • The culture and vibe of the Custom Shop also come across very plainly through this book. You get a sense of what the people behind the instruments are about, and what turns them on as people and builders.

  • Not only are there tons of guitars, but also pages dedicated to things like pickup winding, rounding fretboard edges, cutting nuts, and other guitar building activities that give you further insight into the care and craftsmanship that goes into the making of a Fender Custom Shop instrument.


  • If you're looking for detailed lists of everything that's come out of the Fender Custom Shop over the past 30 years, you'll be disappointed. This is an overview and celebration, not a definitive documentation of everything they've ever done.

  • Likewise, if you prefer a text-heavy book over a more visually oriented one, this is not the droid you're looking for. Here the text is supplementary to the images, not really the other way around.


This book is very interesting. It's not really the type of book you'll sit and read from cover to cover, but it's wonderful to browse through. You won't learn everything there is to know about the Fender Custom Shop, but you will get a sense of the people who make those beautiful guitars come alive, and get to gawk at and drool over lots of beautifully-photographed, one-of-a-kind guitar masterpieces. Visually stunning, the Fender Custom Shop at 30 Years is the kind of book that would make a great coffee table book for any fan of electric guitars in general, and Fender Custom Shop instruments in particular.   -HC-


Have questions about this review, or just want to share your thoughts? Then head over to this thread in the Electric Guitar forum and join the discussion!


Fender Custom Shop at 30 Years (book) ($30.00 MSRP, $19.49 "street")

Hal Leonard's product web page    

Fender Custom Shop at 30 Years
Hal Leonard Books
Author: Steve Pitkin

$30.00 (US)
Inventory #HL 00194661
ISBN: 9781495073915
UPC: 888680641788
Width: 10.0"
Length: 10.0"
160 pages

You can purchase the Fender Custom Shop at 30 Years from:




Phil O'Keefe is a multi-instrumentalist, recording engineer / producer and the Senior Editor of Harmony Central. He has engineered, produced and performed on countless recording sessions in a diverse range of styles, with artists such as Alien Ant Farm, Jules Day, Voodoo Glow Skulls, John McGill, Michael Knott and Alexa's Wish. He is a former featured monthly columnist for EQ magazine, and his articles and product reviews have also appeared in Keyboard, Electronic Musician and Guitar Player magazines.  

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