The year was 1995. The name “Taylor Guitars” was becoming known as a great-sounding, quality guitar when one of the most interesting stories in modern guitar-making history took place. It was the birth of Taylor’s “Pallet Guitar”.
The story – now a legend complete with multiple versions – still proves the point that owner Bob Taylor was trying to drive home at the time: the quality of construction is as important to a guitar as the type of wood used.
Taylor’s original Shop Pallet Guitar is still on display at the Taylor factory in California and this is the story of how it got there.
The Legend(s) of the Pallet Guitar
In my opinion, what makes the Taylor Pallet Guitar legend so interesting is not only the fact that such a guitar was even made but that there are so many different stories to explain its existence.
One account says that Bob Taylor (owner and namesake of Taylor Guitars) and some of his friends were walking around their church building which was still under construction when they came across some scrap wood. One man teased Bob that he could probably make a guitar even out of that wood…so he did.
Another account of the legend says that another guitar maker (namely Martin Guitars) had publicly commented that Taylor Guitars made such good-sounding guitars because they had access to the best woods. In order to prove to C.F. Martin and others that it was more than just their woods, Bob Taylor decided to make the Pallet Guitar.
Here’s the truth (per the Taylor Guitars book): the Taylor Pallet Guitar was designed to “return the emphasis to the guitar maker” instead of the wood. There’s no proof that C.F. Martin was the direct catalyst but their guitars were certainly a main competitor at the time (and still are).
Bob Taylor was convinced that a great guitar was more than just the wood, it was the top bracing, it was gluing process, it was the finishing process. It was a guitar-making expertise, he believed, that set Taylor Guitars apart from the others.
Photo credit: LA Guitar Sales
Making of the Taylor Pallet Guitar
So Bob went to the back of the Taylor plant and grabbed some pallets made of oak (for the back and sides) and some two-by-fours that couldn’t even be classified as a specific wood (for the top) and set off creating the pallet guitar.
Again, via the Taylor Guitars 30 Year Anniversary book:
“We did the back in a three-piece configuration, althought it actually took five pieces of oak,” Taylor explains. The top was made of six pieces of wood, although it was so skillfullly joined it was nearly impossible to tell. Rather than try to hide the nail holes that covered the back and sides, Taylor decided draw attention to them by inlaying aluminum dots that resemble nail heads in them. The fretboard features an inlay designed by Larry Breedlove of a fork lift done in formica and pearl.” (Pg 197)
Even the neck of the guitar was made using one piece of pallet oak.
Photo credit: LA Guitar Sales
Once he was finished, Bob Taylor showed off his creation to the world and more than a few people were shocked (including, reportedly, C.F. Martin himself). Sure, the guitar didn’t sound like a million dollars, but it sounded great. The pallet guitar was proof that what you pay for a name brand guitar can actually be worth it. The guitar manufacturer matters as much as the quality of wood used to create the guitar.
The original Taylor Pallet Guitar on display at the factory (photo credit: Guitarzysta)
Buying a Taylor Pallet Guitar
That was 1995. Thanks to the popularity of the guitar, five years later in 2010 Taylor Guitars decided to make a limited run of the Pallet Guitar. And when I say limited, I mean limited.
Only 25 of the Pallet Guitars were built and sold.
Because there were so few, the guitars originally retailed for $10,000 and sold mostly to guitar collectors. They were made in a Grand Auditorium body style using the same type of wood that the original had – oak. The only major difference between this limited run of Pallet Guitars and the original is that this limited run was outfitted with Taylor’s (then) NT neck design.
The back of the Taylor Pallet Guitar still had holes where the nails used to be. Now inlay-ed with aluminum dots. (photo credit: LA Guitar Sales)
A close up of the pallet oak wood used to create the Taylor Pallet Guitar. Multiple pieces of pallet oak, not just two are in the design. (photo credit: LA Guitar Sales)
The pallet inlay for the Taylor Pallet Guitar, designed by Larry Breedlove. (photo credit: LA Guitar Sales)
All of the Pallet Guitars sold out, but you can find one occasionally on eBay or a specialty guitar website. Although it’s still an interesting guitar that collectors love, the price has stabilized to a more reasonable range of $5,000-$6,000.
Finally, to see the guitar that started it all, schedule a tour at the Taylor factory in California. You can’t play the guitar, but it’s still there in the lobby – nail holes, forklift inlay and all 🙂Taylor Guitars 30 Years of a New American Classic