Fender Custom Shop Basses

Most bass players have heard of the Fender Custom Shop, but few know how and why it came into existence.

Fender started this division in 1987 to produce high-quality instruments that would reflect the way Fender built basses back during the “golden years” of the late ’50s and early ’60s.

The custom shop was created by then CEO Bill Schultz during a time when Fender was still trying to rebuild its image as a premier guitar and bass manufacturer. The main goal was to create very accurate reproductions of the early classic Fender designs as well as special order instruments and limited edition production runs.

By the early 1990s, Fender hired Vince Cunetto to create aged versions of Fender’s reissue series. This new line was called the relic series and it had a huge impact on other guitar and bass builders, essentially starting the relic craze that persists to this day. Today the Custom Shop employees some fifty craftsmen all of them highly skilled luthiers.

Fender also started offering the “time machine series” with closet classic and new old stock models. The closet classic series featured basses with aged finishes and parts but no relic treatment, as if someone had purchased the bass back in the early ’60s then kept it in their closet, playing it only occasionally. The new old stock models were simply brand new versions of the classic axes as if you went back in time and bought them off the showroom wall.


There are some important differences between the original Fenders and the Custom Shop models. The Custom Shop basses feature quarter-sawn maple necks, the old Fenders all had flat sawn maple necks. According to some the quarter-sawn necks offer more stability and are visually more appealing than flat-sawn necks.

The Fender Custom Shop also uses modern CNC machines on their limited production run basses as opposed to hand shaping bodies like was done back in the old days at Fender. Some of the most popular Custom Shop basses are the “artist series” models which feature faithful recreations of selected bassists favorite axes.

The Pino Palladino Precision Bass and Jaco Pastorius Jazz Bass are both accurate reproductions with highly detailed relic treatment and high-quality woods with premier build standards.

Fender also offers a line of “modern classic” basses that feature a combination of vintage designs and modern appointments like graphite reinforced necks and active electronics.

Of course, the price of these instruments is quite high, with some models costing as much as a real vintage Fender bass. But if you have the money and you’re seeking a high-quality Fender bass that will rival any boutique bass or you need a Fender with exact specifications then the Custom Shop just might be the way to go.

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