Crafter SA-TMVS Hybrid Acoustic-Electric
Updated: Nov 12, 2022
Sometime in 2011 I saw this one hanging on the wall in a music store in which I was teaching at the time. It was on consignment - $500. I glanced at the headstock and saw "Carvin" instead of "Crafter".
I've never played a Carvin I didn't like and I thought I could use an acoustic/electric like this. I took it down, played it for 5 minutes and said, "This feels really good, I'm going to buy it."
I didn't realize it wasn't a Carvin until I'd already bought the thing and saw "CRAFTER" in big bold letters on the case. D'uoh!
After the first “Well, f—k me runnin’!” moment subsided, I thought,
“Hey, I played it, I liked it, so who cares what the brand is?”
I'd never heard of Crafter; they're Korean, formed in 1972 and that's about all I know.
According to a Crafter forum I found online, the first 4 digits of the serial number are year/month. So my Crafter is 2006.
The “SA” model stands for “Slim Arch Top.”
This guitar is very well put-together.
It has LR Baggs electronics with a Kent Armstrong lipstick pickup in the neck position. It also has a piezoelectric pickup under the bridge and can sound reasonably acoustic. It has a blend slider that blends the two pickups along a continuum. Also a 3-band EQ, a volume knob, a phase button (when using both pickups) and a mute button.
The tuners are chrome with an 18:1 ratio. Mahogany neck, Indian Rosewood fingerboard. 21 frets - fully bound in cream all the way around. The top is Flame Maple with a sunburst finish. The back and sides are one piece of wood that's been hollowed out and the top put on. I’d not heard of that before. The binding is multi-layered. The stylized f-holes are also bound in cream. It's actually a beautiful-looking instrument.
It uses electric guitar strings. I use a set of 12's on it. It's comparable to a Taylor T5 - without the Taylor price tag.
It works. I use it. End of story.
Not End of Story. I did use it for several years. I definitely made my $500 back and then some:
In 2017 I bought a Taylor T5z Classic Deluxe. It rendered the Crafter redundant. I liked the Taylor better and so the Crafter hung on the wall in my studio for 5 years.
Recently I decided to sell it. I talked to a local music store about putting it on consignment.
I took it off the wall and used it to teach for a couple of days, just to make sure everything still worked. There was a little snap-crackle-pop in one place in the volume knob. Other than that it was fine.
The more I played it the better I liked it and began to feel conflicted about letting it go. I realized that in some ways I like it better than the T5.
At the same time, I had been using my 1972 Alvarez-Yairi nylon string on my solo gigs for a few songs and was really digging it. However, it’s not cutaway and not being able to access the upper frets was cramping my style. So I decided to be on the lookout for a solid body nylon string, or an acoustic-electric nylon string guitar with a cutaway.
Then I had an idea; why not put nylon strings on the Crafter? Two problems, one solution!
What could possibly go wrong?
I could think of all kinds of reasons why it wouldn’t work:
The neck would be wonky from the change in string tension.
The intonation would be off because the saddle is designed for steel strings.
The neck pickup wouldn’t work. It’s magnetic and needs steel strings.
The nylon strings wouldn’t put enough pressure on the saddle for the pickup under the bridge to make contact.
Nylon strings wouldn’t fit through the string holes in the bridge.
But what if it did work?
I wouldn’t have the dilemma of whether or not to sell the Crafter.
I wouldn’t have to buy yet another guitar.
The Crafter neck is narrower than a typical nylon string guitar; I definitely like that!
The onboard EQ would be very handy when running the nylon string guitar through the same pedalboard as the steel string. The pedal board was designed for the steel string; the Yairi sounds less than optimal when using it.
I decided it was worth risking a new set of nylon strings to find out.
The first issue was the nylon strings had no ball ends. So I had to thread them backwards through the string holes in the saddle and tie them off like on a regular classical guitar. Thankfully they fit through the holes.
The piezoelectric pickup under the bridge worked! Yaas!
Predictably, the lipstick neck pickup did not work.
The neck was wonky but not as bad as I expected. The 6th and 5th string fret-buzzed when played open. That was it! Every string on every fret was fine. A little neck adjustment &/or a nut modification would be all she needs.
The intonation was also better than expected. In fact, it was pretty good! The 3rd string was a little off; the rest of it was fine.
Holy crap! This just might work! As long as the piezoelectric pickup under the bridge works I’m good. I can do without the neck pickup.
So I left it with my buddy Cliff Eveland at Muddy River Guitars in Lenexa, Kansas. Cliff is a great tech as well as a player who performs in and around the Kansas City area. Cliff is the tech who made all the modifications to my Charvel/Jackson Model 4.
A few days later I picked up the guitar. All Cliff had done was adjust the neck. I went straight from the store to a gig. The ultimate test.
It played smooth as butter, but…the action was a hair too low. Perfect for steel strings, but nylon strings have a wider vibrating arc and I couldn’t lighten up enough with my right hand to keep the low E and A strings from slapping frets.
I played a couple more gigs with it just to solidify in my mind the tweaks I wanted.
After another consult with Cliff (“Easier to tweak the guitar than change your technique!”) I left the guitar at Muddy River Guitars a second time. This time Cliff installed a new bone nut.
The new nut solved the action problem but didn't solve the 3rd string intonation issue. I played it for a few gigs and determined I wasn't going to be able to live with it. It was going to require a new saddle.
The guy I've used my whole career for something like that has been Keith George. Unfortunately Keith passed away recently. So I've been on the lookout for someone I can use for luthier needs and repair.
Based on buzz around town, I decided to give the guys at Fountain City Guitarworks a shot.
Short story is I thought it was pricey - but they did a great job. After a new hand-carved bone saddle was installed the intonation issue is resolved.
That’s the ticket! I love it when a plan comes together! Like most of my other guitars, this one is now modified. It’s a shame the lipstick pickup doesn’t work with nylon strings but the piezo works; that’s what I really needed.
I didn’t have to make a decision about selling it, I didn’t have to buy another guitar and this guitar now fills a niche in my toolbox that was empty before.
Win/win all around. It’s a beautiful thing!
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