Vintage Guitar - March 2017 - Open - 97
Will Meadors: Michael G. Stewart.
the company's Micro-Nut and
At its launch, Micro-Frets offered four models - the Plainsman,
Covington, Huntington, and
Orbiter - with a body shape often
compared to a potato (thanks to
wide lower bouts) and with symmetrical cutaways. Dubbed the
Style 1 series, today they're noted
for having klunky two-piece bodies
fastened with clips and bearing a
pronounced seam around their
sides created by what Jones labeled a
"Tempered Masonite Gasket." His
system routed two slabs of poplar or
maple that were then joined using
recessed metal clips and secured by
screws in the neck plate and bridge.
The design allowed access to electronics and installation of a stylish
grillecloth that covered the sound
hole from inside (he patented the
methods and machines used in
their execution using the name
"Tonesponder"). The company's
first pickguards were a bi-level
design with a scalloped edge that
half-exposed four thumbweel
controls - two Volume, two Tone.
While attractive, their placement
The Micro-Frets catalog page
for the Signature model.
(LEFT) Will Meadors with a 2004 Spacetone.
Sharing the frame are an '04 Comet, a 1968
Stage II, a '70 Spacetone, an '04 Golden Melody
in Holly Berry finish, and an '04 Calibra in Black
Gloss. (RIGHT) Micro-Frets builder Gary Free
in the company lobby in 2004, strumming one
of two new Golden Melody models finished in
color-shifting paint. Other instruments on display
include (from left) a '67 Wanderer, '67 Plainsman,
'66 Golden Comet, another new Golden Melody,
a Calibra, the first Spacetone (made for Hazel
Jones), and an '04 Golden Melody in black. Luke
Greffen, a woodworker in the latter version of
Micro-Frets, sits to the right, gazing at the M-F
ad in Vintage Guitar. Hanging on the wall is the
14-foot outdoor sign used by the original company.
FAN OF THE BRAND
WILL MEADORS AND MICRO-FRETS IN THE 21ST CENTURY
s a teen growing up in
Frederick, Maryland, Will
Meadors frequented Colonial
Music and Frederick Music Center, where the walls were lined
by Fender, Gibson, and Martin
instruments along with a few by
Gretsch, Harmony, Epiphone, and
imports like Teisco, Coral, and
And then there were these
oddball guitars made by locals...
"I remember the first thing
through my mind was, 'They
sure are weird!'" he recalled
about his first experience with
a Micro-Frets guitar. Picking
one up to strum only furthered
the notion. "They rattled and
creaked... sorta felt like they
were about to fall apart!"
As a young man, Meadors'
choice in instruments followed
the mainstream, but he nonetheless maintained an appreciation
for Micro-Frets and its local ties.
In 2004, that interest intensified
when he and fellow software engineer/guitar guy/Frederick resident
Paul Rose assumed the expired
patents, copyrights, designs, and
rights to the brand with the intent
to reintroduce it to the market.
"We opened a small shop
where we built guitars to most
closely match the Style 3, with
hand-made pickups and CNC-produced bodies and necks," he said.
The 21st-century Micro-Frets
produced only about 30 guitars
(with serial numbers starting
at 5001) before the onset of the
Great Recession, which created challenges in their effort
to secure funding and space to
go full-scale. All that remains
today is a handful of parts.
"Much like the original
company, we made everything
except the fretwire and tuners,
including the Micro-Nut and
Calibrato. Ours, though, were
not cast or plated steel, but were
polished stainless steel and billet
aluminum formed on a CNC. They
offered significant improvement
in appearance and durability."
For Meadors and others,
Micro-Frets' enduring charisma
lies partly in the anti-Gibson/Fender aspect of their very
existence, as well as exotic,
hand-made elements like the
"I marveled at how a machined,
stamped, screwed-together assembly could be better than a basic piece of plastic, and for years I
figured it was snake oil," he said.
"But when we started producing
them, we saw how it made every
note on the fretboard play in tune;
that sold me. It's really amazing
when you don't hear off-sounding
notes or beat-frequency oscillations between intervals."
That was reinforced one day
when Meadors was working in
his office and heard Gary Free
noodling on a guitar in the next
room - sounding very out of tune.
"Without getting out of my
chair, I softly hollered at him, 'Hey,
can you intonate that better?'
A couple minutes later, I heard
him again... still... So I went out
and here he was playing a '77
Les Paul - not one of Gibson's
best efforts, I know, but at that
moment I realized that our guitars
sounded so much better."
Even if their efforts to market
a new line proved unsuccessful, Meadors thinks the
latter-day M-F did some good.
"Because we designed and
machined our parts to original
dimensions and test-fit them on
original models, we know they fit
the old guitars," he said, looking to
aid anyone who may be searching. "Pickups, of course, were
the most sought-after items, and
unfortunately we don't have any
of those left." - Ward Meeker