Friday, 24 April 2015

DIY guitar kits in Saltdean

My usual hardware store shopping list probably looks something like this:

  • Jayes cleaning fluid? Check.
  • Bin bag? Check
  • Pan scourers? Check
  • Multi-part DIY guitar kit? Check.

Ok, maybe that last one doesn't always make the list.
But that might change, after a recent discovery!

After helping a friend with his cooker hood, I called in at a little hardware store, on the main high street in Saltdean. Steve had already recommended calling in, just because of the bizarre combinations of things sold in there. So while I was in the area, I took the opportunity to see what he was on about.

And there they were - in the middle of a hardware store, among the tins of paint and rubber gloves and packets of wood screws, was a selection of DIY guitar kits!

Each kit comes complete with all the hardware for each particular guitar. So with the flying-V guitar, you get a Gibson-style fixed bridge and two humbuckers, with the Telecaster you get a maple-necked fretboard and two classic single-coiled pick-ups. The Warlock style guitar even comes with a Floyd-Rose style floating bridge, and locking nut!

Prices range from £140 to £160 - which when compared to a new instrument, isn't too bad at all. In some ways, these are even better than the cheaper-end guitars on the market, as each has a solid wood (mahogany) body (though the Les Paul copy has a striped maple veneer on top). That's far better quality than my first Squire Strat from over twenty years ago, which - even back then - had a plywood body!

Most of the range, other than the Telecaster, have rosewood fingerboards. I quite fancied trying a maple fingerboard again (my very first guitar had a shiny maple fingerboard, and every other guitar I've owned since then has been rosewood) but I really don't like the Telecaster shape (nor the slightly twangy sound from the rather basic electronics).

So what's the downside? Well, you've got to put it together yourself. You've got to put in the time and effort to get a decent finish. Some of the guitars on display were absolutely stunning - lacquered and sanded back and polished and lacquered and sanded back and polished about five or six times. And it showed. A couple looked like they'd been thrown together, just to complete the display!

So to get a really nice finish, you need to be prepared to put in a bit of work.
But other than that, these kits look like a really nice, relatively easy introduction to making and setting up your own guitar.

They're obviously coming out of China, but with modern CNC routing tools, there's no difference in build quality between these and the Fenders coming out of Korea, Mexico or even the US. Maybe the purists would balk at the idea of using anything but the most exclusive, expensive hardwoods, but for the price, these are pretty decent instruments.

The action on the few guitars I tried there was nice and low, without being "buzzy". The necks are nice and slim (my first Squire had a neck like half-a-drainpipe, it was so fat and round!) and easy to play on. The guitars were pretty much in tune, straight from lifting them off the shelf, despite just hanging in a hardware store for weeks at a time, so the machine heads and other hardware seems to be of decent quality.

 I haven't heard them through an amp, so have no idea what the electrics are like.
But the feel of the constructed demo models was pretty good.
Now I just need to rack up my brownie points, so I don't create World War Three when I come home with a new Flying V or Warlock in pieces in the next few weeks......

[edit: the website hasn't been updated for a while, but the kits are available online at ]