One of a series of stripped-down Custom Shop San Dimas guitars built for online retailer The Music Zoo (themusiczoo.com), the SD-2H features a body made from old-growth recycled redwood–which must have spent time in the bottom of a river from the number of small worm holes in it–and a bolt-on neck of beautifully flamed maple. As with other models in the Carbonized Natural Series (which includes versions with recycled ash and pine bodies), the SD-2H‘s woods are subjected to a kiln drying process that uses heat and pressure to drive out excess moisture in order to make the woods lighter and more resonant, and also very resistant to changes in climate. The “cooking” process effectively ages the wood by removing the hemi-cellulose that gives woods their flexibility, and the end result is that the stiffness to weight ratio of the woods is increased by 15 to 25 percent (depending on the species), which enhances the tonal response and also makes the woods easier to cut and machine. The lightness of the SD-2H is instantly captivating, and since the only finish is a thin coating of gunstock oil on the body and neck, the surfaces have a very warm, natural feel. This no-frills guitar has a pair of uncovered Seymour Duncan humbuckers (SH-2N neck, Custom 5 bridge), which are screwed directly into the body. The Volume and Tone knobs, as well as the exterior parts of the 3-way selector, are all made from machined brass.
The workmanship on the SD-2H is stellar. The jumbo frets are crowned and polished to perfection, the neck fits super tightly in the body, and the intonation in all regions of the fretboard is very good. The action is extremely low, and the playing feel is light and quick. I dig the neck’s slim profile, and my only gripe is that the brown position dots on the fretboard can be difficult to see in dim light.
The machined brass NOS trem is an old-school affair that features adjustable saddles and an arm that has to be threaded in carefully to avoid cross threading. It’s not great for bending anyway, so I just left the arm off and enjoyed the solid, sustain enhancing contact with the bridge seated flush to the top with three springs in place. If you’re a serious trem user you’re probably going to want to put a Floyd on this guitar and keep the NOS unit around for a paperweight or something.
The SD-2H sounded great whether dialed for crisp clean tones, warm solo textures, or moderately overdriven sounds when played straight into either a Fender Deluxe Reverb or a Victoria Ivy League combo. When using best distortion pedals (including a Hermida Audio Nu-Valve and Fuzz Face), the SD-2H tended to get a bit wooly sounding when pushing high gain settings, but by slightly backing off the Volume control (or lowering the gain slightly) the clarity instantly returned and sustaining notes sounded stringy and well detailed.
Light, toneful, and fun to play, the SD-2H definitely brings a sly, “parts guitar” attitude to a price category where the norm is flame tops and fine gloss finishes. This guitar radiates coolness, though, and anyone looking for a different take on a twin-humbucker solidbody should give it shot.