Back in the early 1990s, British luthier Patrick Eggle made a name for himself as one of the premier guitar builders on the boutique scene. His instruments, in particular a top-of-the-line design dubbed the Berlin, were seen in the hands of legendary players like Brian May, and he crafted artist models and one-off builds for guitarists ranging from Tony Iommi (the TI Legend) to British session great Big Jim Sullivan (the JS Berlin) to Rory Gallagher, whose instrument, a customized JS Berlin Legend, was later sold at auction for 25,000 pounds.
However, by the middle of the decade, Eggle’s operation had grown so large that he walked away from it entirely. “My role morphed into one of largely sitting at a bench writing production reports and explaining things to shareholders,” he recalls. “And I thought to myself,’ This isn’t what I got into this for. I just want to build great guitars.’” He subsequently spent several years crafting guitars on his own, and by the early 2000s had relocated to the U.S., where he primarily built acoustics. “I wanted to go back to the types of instruments I was making when I first started out at 15,” he says. In 2005 he returned to the U.K., overseeing operations for Faith Guitars, and eventually formed Patrick James Eggle Guitars, using his middle name to distinguish his new line from his still-in-operation former company.
To further separate PJE from his earlier brand, Eggle also continued to build solely acoustic instruments. That is, until now. Roughly two years ago he unveiled his first new electric model in many years, a double cut design with a slightly oversized Les Paul Junior-style shape that he christened the Macon. He quickly followed this up with a Strat-style model called The 96. Recalling what led him back to electrics, Eggle says, “I think it was just kind of a nagging thing. I was looking at what was out there, and a lot of the time I was thinking, ‘Hey, we could do better than this.’ I had a few ideas and I felt I had something to give.”
Now, Eggle has unveiled his third electric design, the Macon Single Cut. As for why he opted to do a variation on his first model? “Everyone kept asking for it,” he says.
Eggle’s instruments, both acoustic and electric, have long been distinguished by topnotch craftsmanship and high-end appointments, and the Single Cut shown here is among his most exquisite offerings. The semi-chambered body features mahogany back and sides, and is topped with a hand-carved—and quite stunning—6A quilted maple cap boasting a luxurious “Denim” finish. That finish, Eggle says, is “double-stained, with a light burst that is sprayed straight onto the wood.” It is accented by “fake binding,” wherein, Eggle explains, “we color the top and leave the edge of the cap natural, and then kind of scrape the top corner to get that ‘bound’ look.”
Other features on this Macon include a mahogany neck that is set into the body via a “slipper” heel joint, which is then carved away to make things more ergonomic and provide easy access to the top frets. The Fat-C shaped neck is topped with an ebony fretboard adorned with crown frame inlays, each of which is crafted from four separate CNC-cut pieces of mother-of-pearl. There’s also an ABM aluminum bridge, aged nickel plating, Gotoh SD90 vintage tuners and a bone nut and saddle.
For pickups, the Macon sports a Mojo P90-style soapbar at the neck and a Mojo humbucker at the bridge. “They’re made in England by a chap named Marc Ransley, who hand-winds all his pickups,” Eggle says. “And they’re scatter-wound. The bridge humbucker is about 14kΩ, so it’s quite hot, and I actually had him underwind the neck pickup by about 15 percent from what the standard P90 would be. I find the underwound P90 works really well with the humbucker.” The Macon’s pickups are controlled via a 3-way switch and distinct Volume and Tone knobs, with a coil tap option on the humbucker. “The switching is kept quite simple and traditional, so you haven’t got a huge range of sounds,” Eggle says. “But the sounds you do have are all ones you want and that you’ll use—the soapbar on its own; the soap-bar with the split humbucker, which is killer; the humbucker on its own; and the humbucker split, which is really nice as well.”
Eggle and his small, four-person team work out of their own shop within the Faith Guitars facility in Oswestry, about 200 miles outside of London. The small-batch production schedule results in roughly a dozen new instruments each month, though he takes custom orders as well. “Anything’s possible,” he says as far as building customized instruments. “It’s just down to time and money.” Up until recently, Eggle’s guitars were only available for sale in the U.K., though he recently began offering instruments in the U.S. through Rebel Guitars and Music Zoo. And, as exemplified by the $6,600 price tag of the Macon Single Cut shown here, a Patrick James Eggle creation doesn’t come cheap. But he finds particular satisfaction in designing and producing a top-quality, high-end instrument.
“Everybody has their price-point where they feel comfortable, and this is where I’ve always sort of been,” Eggle says. “I just think it’s more rewarding, at least for me, to build a guitar that feels special. And I think we produce a very good guitar for the money.”
He laughs. “I suppose we could make them cheaper. But we’d have to leave something off!”