Through his extensive collaboration with bluegrass legends Charles Sawtelle and Peter Rowan, Preston Thompson was able to study and learn from some of the finest guitars ever made in the prewar era. Building off of the knowledge and dimensions gleaned through those years of study, Preston developed his own guitar designs, which maximize the sonic potential of time-honored acoustic templates. Sadly, Preston passed away in 2019, but his legacy lives on in every guitar built by the Thompson guitar company in Sisters, Oregon.
This Thompson D-MA was made in 2019, and it is among the last guitars made with a label signed by Preston. Its design is fairly straightforward: 14-fret dreadnought with a Bearclaw Adirondack Spruce top and Honduran Mahogany back and sides. Under the hood, it has "Advanced" (a.k.a forward-shifted) X-bracing that is scalloped, just like prewar examples. All of the bracing is made from Adirondack Spruce, too, and its solid Mahogany neck has a 1-3/4" nut width a Soft V profile. As you'd expect, all of the fittings are premium—ebony or bone, Waverly tuning machines, etc. This D-MA is a prewar-inspired guitar, and its spec sheet reads like right of the late-'30s.
While these specs are available from a ton of modern-day builders, what makes this Thompson special is how it was made. Through sharing his extensive knowledge of fine vintage guitars, Preston was able to pass on his special hand-made touches to the team of luthiers at Thompson guitars. Each Thompson guitar is crafted—with care—by hand, one at a time. By approaching the build with this level of attention to detail, Thompson's team is able to precisely fit the dovetail neck joint, properly graduate the top, and voice the braces by hand. All of these meticulous steps maximize the sonic potential of the guitar, allowing each one to capture its own voice and character.
This 2019 Thompson D-MA is pretty clean all around. Its setup is approaching, and it's a fantastic flat-picker. It has been played and enjoyed, so it shows some superficial wear, but nothing excessive (see photos). Most severe are two small scuffs right on the edge of the lower bout, where you arm sits across the bass side.
- Body Size: D
- Top: Adirondack Spruce w/ Bearclaw
- Back & Sides: Honduran Mahogany
- Bracing: Advanced X-Bracing, prewar-scalloped Adirondack
- Neck: Mahogany
- Neck Profile: Soft V
- Nut: Bone, 1-3/4"
- Fingerboard: Ebony
- Peghead Overlay: Figured Ebony
- Scale 25.4"
- Bridge: Ebony Belly
- Saddle: Compensated Bone Drop-In, 2-5/16" spacing
- Tuning Machines: Waverly Nickel w/ Butterbean buttons
With this D-MA in your hands, it's easy to understand why some of today's top bluegrass pickers prefer Thompson guitars. Nevertheless, this is a versatile Mahogany dreadnought with a lot of depth and a wide dynamic range. While it nails the bluegrass sound, its big, throaty tone is capable of so much more. It plays clean, clear, and true all the way up the fingerboard, and it evokes the vibe and feel we love in prewar guitars. Original Harptone case included.