Fender is phasing out most of its ash guitars

The wood will be sparingly used for select and historical models.

Image: Robert Knight Archive / Redferns

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Fender is phasing out the use of ash wood in its guitar production, according to an email that the company sent dealers yesterday.

In the email, Fender explained two key environmental factors that led to the decision. Firstly, an invasive insect species, the Emerald Ash Borer, has been responsible for the sharp decline of ash trees in North America over the last two decades. Fender VP of Electric Guitars, Basses And Amplifiers Max Gutnik said in the email: “While there are currently efforts to cultivate ash borer-resistant trees, there is a 40- to 50-year growth period required for instrument-grade wood.”

And secondly, the increased flooding of the Mississippi Delta, where the company gets most of its swamp ash wood, has caused a “near-total elimination of ash lumber from the market”, Gutnik claims. Last year saw record-setting floods, which caused the swamp ash harvesting grounds to remain underwater for most of the year.

As a result, Fender has as of 27 March stopped supplying dealers with certain ash models such as the American Pro Stratocaster, Telecaster and Jazz Bass.

“As many of you know, it has become increasingly difficult to obtain a steady and predictable supply of ash over the last several years,” Gutnik added. “In order to uphold our legacy of consistency and high quality we, at Fender, have made the decision to remove ash from the majority of our regular production models.”

While the company hinted at introducing “exciting tonewoods” and “historical woods” to future production models, it isn’t completely abandoning ash. “What little ash we are able to source will continue to be made available in select, historically appropriate vintage models, as supplies are available,” Gutnik said.

Fender has had a long relationship with ash wood, stemming from the introduction of The Broadcaster in 1950. Earlier this year, the company even launched a limited-edition Raw Ash American Performer Stratocaster and Telecaster.

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