Kit Guitars: Worth, Experience, etc.

GibPhone

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I seem to recall making a thread very similar to this a few months back. However, I believe it was closed.

I've been playing for almost a year now with daily practice (self-taught), and I got my first electric a couple of months ago. I'm beginning to actually look into kit guitars/guitar building, however, I know that a lot of people have 'strong' feelings about them.

Reasons for wanting one:

I don't have the proper tools for making a guitar from scratch.

I want something of an easier level to build (definitely LP style, recommendations?)

Not sure about electronics/pickups, probably upgrade them in the future anyways (Seymour Duncan Pearly Gates [neck] - 59 Custom/Hybrid [bridge])

Preferably with a nice looking top when bought, I don't think I want to go into the world of finishing too fast. - however willing to do some sanding, oiling/finishing.

Not insane price (350 MAXIMUM).
______________________________________________________________________________________

That's all I need. I mostly want to do this for the learning experience, but it'd also be cool to say, "Yeah, I've built a guitar!" at the end.

I was going to put some links that a couple of Guitar YouTubers have used, but on second thought, I'll leave it to you guys. ;)
 

ARandall

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You're not going to get much for that sort of $$ unfortunately.

We have had people posting kit builds from the lower price range......and fair to say that the vast majority had some form of flaw that required luthier type skills to overcome.
Also if its an 'all-in' kit where you have a full guitar, then the hardware is absolute bottom of the barrel stuff....such that full replacement ends up being what most end up doing.

If you can save a bit more money, then a basic Precision Guitars kit will give you a finished product not too dissimilar to a Gibson. One that you can put alongside any other guitar in your stable.
 

redking

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Go for it if you are doing it as a fun project. Don't do it if your goal is to make a better guitar than what you currently have, or make a "great" guitar overall. I have built many "kit guitars" from Warmoth and Precision - more on the high end of the parts makers - and the first 4 guitars I built did not meet my own expectations before I learned what I liked well enough to get it mostly right (85 - 95%) on the 5th, 6th, 7th and 8th guitars. Then on my 9th guitar, I built an amazing guitar that I can definitely say is the best guitar I have ever owned. Each one of these "learning opportunities" cost me $1,000 - $1,500 (although I did sell or trade the first 4 for reasonable prices because they were high quality parts). {Yes, I am a slow learner! :wave:}
 

CB91710

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Ditto.
Fun project.
Cheaper to buy an Epiphone since you won't be happy with the hardware.
Tops are veneers, and frequently the edges and joints are contaminated with glue, making the success of a stained finish iffy, but the veneers are often too thin to sand out the glue.

Solo makes some of the better kits, with pre-shaped headstocks, so you don't need any power saws or drum sanders.

But so you know what to expect... here's my Solo Spalted Maple kit... haven't built it yet.
That dark line on the headstock that SHOULD be the joint in a nice bookmatch has a noticable gap... and it's not centered.
If/when I build it, NONE of the supplied hardware will be used.

SoloComp.jpg
SoloBodyBack.jpg
SoloBodyTop.jpg
Cap.jpg
GlueSmear.jpg
20200323_184918.jpg
SoloNeck.jpg
SoloHeadstock.jpg
 

jvin248

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.

Do you love the finishing stages? staining/painting/sanding/more sanding? Then the kits are perfect.
If you like the other hardware assembly, fretwork, wiring and so on then getting an abused used guitar and fixing that up or upgrading it will be more fun. Used guitars are essentially a 'kit guitar'.

As for the bare wood kits, these are the ones I'd suggest looking into:
-Crimson Guitars (not sure the cost they run)
-Harley Benton (around $75 or so)

People complain about 'gotta upgrade all the hardware' but there are smarter moves in the upgrades. You can push around a guitar's tone for $20 of pots 'n caps just as much as swapping $200 pickups. You can wax pot microphonic pickups. You don't need locking tuners if you know the roadie tricks of string changes (wrap the post and thread the hole giving you as quick of a string change as lockers) and know how to 'tune up' to pitch rather than trying to hit pitch on the way back down (if you overshoot then drop a half step lower and 'tune up'). Eric Clapton uses a wood block on his Strat trems.

You could buy a new Harley Benton SC 450/550 or the "Custom" I think they came out with for a starting LP 'kit'. Then go through and swap parts you like or want to try. They run from $150-$250 range.

Glarry guitars sells new Strat-Like-Objects for $75 including shipping through Amazon.

You could buy separate chassis parts off Stratosphere (they buy new guitars from Fender/Gibson, dismantle them into pieces to sell off -- like a car chop shop does).

If you want to experiment with pickups, pots 'n caps, and switching mods ... the best option is a cheap Strat because you can cut pickguards yourself out of 1/8th inch hardboard, cut a swimming pool route in the body, and then swap loaded pickguards. I've put sets of P90s, Tele, Jazzmaster, and other pickups in my tester rig. I bought the guitar chassis used and abused for $15.

.
 

smk506

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I’ve done a few kits and a few more on the bench now so to speak. I’ll echo the sentiments here.


Parts can be a real crap shoot, I’d rather buy my own budget parts than trust what comes in a kit.

Wilkinson tends to make really good cheap stuff in my experience. I’ve even had decent luck with some of the unbranded cheapo stuff from Amazon/ebay.

I would highly recommend upping your budget a bit, but I’ve also made a pretty killer guitar for around what you want to spend.

all parts unfinished neck - $120 shipped
Wilkinson tuners- $25
Tusk nut -$10-$15
Cheap tele body - $65
Used tele pickups- $35
Pots/cap/switch - $35

all prices a few years old, but should still be doable. Spending the extra on the all parts neck is 100% a good investment on a kit build imo, great necks in a variety of sizes and styles.
 

smk506

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For $202.94 I just put everything I would need (except a body, neck plate and trem) for a pretty bitchin strat in my cart at stratosphere. That would leave you $150 for the rest. Guitar fetish has cheap bodies that by all accounts are pretty nice.

You can absolutely get a nice guitar for your budget.
 

dmac in SC

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Just a suggestion.... you could get yourself an Indonesian G&L or two or three. They can be had for 500 bucks or less. If you know how to set the action and intonation, you have got the basis of an awesome players guitar. The bridges on these guitars are sensational, and the fret board radii are 12'', which is majorly important to me.

To make it better, you can completely gut the electronics and replace with what you want for 200 bucks or less, but the pickups are pretty damned good as received, and you can sell them in short order . The POTs, CAPs, wiring are garbage.

To make it even simpler, the Mojotone solderless kits are great for around 100 bucks if you don't feel comfortable soldering .

That's what I did, and I offloaded three Fender USA guitars for what are now better axes, and I pocketed enough cash for a new amp and a pedal or two. I will never look back.
 

BadPenguin

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About 8 or so years ago I picked up this non reverse Firebird kit from eBay for 129 bucks. I wasn't expecting much, and hardware wise, I got exactly what I expected. Crap tail piece, bridge, switch, ,pretty as bad as I expected. HOWEVER, the wood was brilliant. Same with the neck and fretboard. I expected First Act, I got Lower end Gibson.

From opening the box, to playing, including finish, took about 5 days. I gigged with it on the 6th day, then tossed the mini hums in the trash, and put in a couple of P90's, screwing up the finish and not really caring, then gigged with it for about 5 years straight. Maybe I got lucky.
 

GibPhone

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Ditto.
Fun project.
Cheaper to buy an Epiphone since you won't be happy with the hardware.
Tops are veneers, and frequently the edges and joints are contaminated with glue, making the success of a stained finish iffy, but the veneers are often too thin to sand out the glue.

Solo makes some of the better kits, with pre-shaped headstocks, so you don't need any power saws or drum sanders.

But so you know what to expect... here's my Solo Spalted Maple kit... haven't built it yet.
That dark line on the headstock that SHOULD be the joint in a nice bookmatch has a noticable gap... and it's not centered.
If/when I build it, NONE of the supplied hardware will be used.

View attachment 499399 View attachment 499400 View attachment 499401 View attachment 499402 View attachment 499403 View attachment 499404 View attachment 499405 View attachment 499406
This is one I have looked at, I already knew that the electronics would be garbage, however, The guitar itself looks great, although I've heard veneer is paper thin on these kits, so you have to be extremely careful sanding. What did kind of appeal to me was the building level is so low on their website, I mean, the guitar is all cut out, routed, etc.

But it'd still probably be better off buying a beat to hell Epiphone or one of the more expensive kits. In the future, when I'm better at this kind of stuff, I'd like to build a guitar out of scratch with that beautiful spalted maple top. (I know you can buy spalted maple veneers for anything on Amazon.
 

GibPhone

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.

Do you love the finishing stages? staining/painting/sanding/more sanding? Then the kits are perfect.
If you like the other hardware assembly, fretwork, wiring and so on then getting an abused used guitar and fixing that up or upgrading it will be more fun. Used guitars are essentially a 'kit guitar'.

As for the bare wood kits, these are the ones I'd suggest looking into:
-Crimson Guitars (not sure the cost they run)
-Harley Benton (around $75 or so)

People complain about 'gotta upgrade all the hardware' but there are smarter moves in the upgrades. You can push around a guitar's tone for $20 of pots 'n caps just as much as swapping $200 pickups. You can wax pot microphonic pickups. You don't need locking tuners if you know the roadie tricks of string changes (wrap the post and thread the hole giving you as quick of a string change as lockers) and know how to 'tune up' to pitch rather than trying to hit pitch on the way back down (if you overshoot then drop a half step lower and 'tune up'). Eric Clapton uses a wood block on his Strat trems.

You could buy a new Harley Benton SC 450/550 or the "Custom" I think they came out with for a starting LP 'kit'. Then go through and swap parts you like or want to try. They run from $150-$250 range.

Glarry guitars sells new Strat-Like-Objects for $75 including shipping through Amazon.

You could buy separate chassis parts off Stratosphere (they buy new guitars from Fender/Gibson, dismantle them into pieces to sell off -- like a car chop shop does).

If you want to experiment with pickups, pots 'n caps, and switching mods ... the best option is a cheap Strat because you can cut pickguards yourself out of 1/8th inch hardboard, cut a swimming pool route in the body, and then swap loaded pickguards. I've put sets of P90s, Tele, Jazzmaster, and other pickups in my tester rig. I bought the guitar chassis used and abused for $15.

.
This kind of reply is one of the best I've ever had (although I can't dis on all of the rest of the replies coming in, thanks so much to everyone for these suggestions)

I'm going to go look at some of the kits mentioned (Harley Benton, Precision, Warmoth).

But I won't be overlooking at a beat to death Epiphone Studio or something (really looking for an LP style guitar, I currently have a Tele.
 

CB91710

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This is one I have looked at, I already knew that the electronics would be garbage, however, The guitar itself looks great, although I've heard veneer is paper thin on these kits, so you have to be extremely careful sanding. What did kind of appeal to me was the building level is so low on their website, I mean, the guitar is all cut out, routed, etc.

But it'd still probably be better off buying a beat to hell Epiphone or one of the more expensive kits. In the future, when I'm better at this kind of stuff, I'd like to build a guitar out of scratch with that beautiful spalted maple top. (I know you can buy spalted maple veneers for anything on Amazon.
I do think that, as woodworking goes, the Solo kits are the "top of the bottom of the heap"
The pre-shaped headstock is a nice touch for those not wanting to do ANY woodworking, or who just can't come up with a good looking, balanced headstock design on their own.
Neck fitment is rock-solid, neck alignment seems to be dead-on with the pickup openings and bridge parts.

They do have both mahogany and basswood kits. Mine is a mahogany kit with a maple cap, plus the veneer, so be careful when selecting the kit.
My original plan was to dye it amber, and go with wine red for the body and neck... but with the neck being maple, it would not take the dye the same as the mahogany body... and the more I look at the pictures, the more I think natural would work well for both the top and neck, which also eases my mind on the glue contamination on the top.
I did buy a spalted veneer to use on the headstock to hide the "crooked vajayjay" bookmatch.
I also bought a chunk of mahogany cutoff from a local lumber yard to practice stains and finishes, but I really think I am going to leave it natural.
Hardware will be all black... including the Duncan Nazgul/Sentient pair... which have dark poles as well as frames, so I think I'm going to go frameless on these.

I would like to darken the fretboard.


So ya... It depends on your intent.
If your intent is to "obtain" an inexpensive guitar, buy something used. It'll be less expensive, and have some resale value.
If your intent is to have a project to occupy a few afternoons, then the kit builds are not a bad way to spend some time alone with your tools and imagination, particularly if it's a project with the kid(s). They'll be as proud of it as they would had they bought a Gibson.
 

GibPhone

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I do think that, as woodworking goes, the Solo kits are the "top of the bottom of the heap"
The pre-shaped headstock is a nice touch for those not wanting to do ANY woodworking, or who just can't come up with a good looking, balanced headstock design on their own.
Neck fitment is rock-solid, neck alignment seems to be dead-on with the pickup openings and bridge parts.

They do have both mahogany and basswood kits. Mine is a mahogany kit with a maple cap, plus the veneer, so be careful when selecting the kit.
My original plan was to dye it amber, and go with wine red for the body and neck... but with the neck being maple, it would not take the dye the same as the mahogany body... and the more I look at the pictures, the more I think natural would work well for both the top and neck, which also eases my mind on the glue contamination on the top.
I did buy a spalted veneer to use on the headstock to hide the "crooked vajayjay" bookmatch.
I also bought a chunk of mahogany cutoff from a local lumber yard to practice stains and finishes, but I really think I am going to leave it natural.
Hardware will be all black... including the Duncan Nazgul/Sentient pair... which have dark poles as well as frames, so I think I'm going to go frameless on these.

I would like to darken the fretboard.


So ya... It depends on your intent.
If your intent is to "obtain" an inexpensive guitar, buy something used. It'll be less expensive, and have some resale value.
If your intent is to have a project to occupy a few afternoons, then the kit builds are not a bad way to spend some time alone with your tools and imagination, particularly if it's a project with the kid(s). They'll be as proud of it as they would had they bought a Gibson.
Yep, have three kiddos at 14... :rofl:

But really, are solo kits actually worth it because that is what I'd been looking at. Oh and every time I see that spalted maple, I think, "Man, That looks gorgeous."

I know that Darell Braun guy did one, and got his finished by another guy, who made the same kit on his own.
 

GibPhone

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Ditto.
Fun project.
Cheaper to buy an Epiphone since you won't be happy with the hardware.
Tops are veneers, and frequently the edges and joints are contaminated with glue, making the success of a stained finish iffy, but the veneers are often too thin to sand out the glue.

Solo makes some of the better kits, with pre-shaped headstocks, so you don't need any power saws or drum sanders.

But so you know what to expect... here's my Solo Spalted Maple kit... haven't built it yet.
That dark line on the headstock that SHOULD be the joint in a nice bookmatch has a noticable gap... and it's not centered.
If/when I build it, NONE of the supplied hardware will be used.

View attachment 499399 View attachment 499400 View attachment 499401 View attachment 499402 View attachment 499403 View attachment 499404 View attachment 499405 View attachment 499406
Hey, so I'm assuming that this is the kit your doing:


Because I noticed yours does not have the bolt-on neck. I'm only a little confused because the one in the link does have a very different top (although I know it does very).
 

CB91710

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Yep, have three kiddos at 14... :rofl:
Well... it's possible ;)
Hey, so I'm assuming that this is the kit your doing:


Because I noticed yours does not have the bolt-on neck. I'm only a little confused because the one in the link does have a very different top (although I know it does very).
Ya, that's the kit. Mine was $175, but I got it a couple of years ago.
 

GibPhone

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You could buy a new Harley Benton SC 450/550 or the "Custom" I think they came out with for a starting LP 'kit'. Then go through and swap parts you like or want to try. They run from $150-$250 range.
Uhh, there's no way anything good is coming out of $110, the current price on their website right now (and it's not marked off in price).


Unless you think otherwise... (but as a 14 yr old, I am looking for something that won't "break the bank", which is why I am looking at those kits from Solo.
 

pshupe

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Uhh, there's no way anything good is coming out of $110

I do not think this to be true. Although if you do not want to learn about building and expect to put this kit together without any issues then I bet you are correct. Since this is the Luthier's Corner, it may be a great value to start to learn how to fix and adjust a guitar. I'm almost tempted myself just to see what you get for $110. Not really, mostly kidding here.

Cheap kit guitars are great, and even not so cheap kit guitars, if you like the prospect of doing modest wood working and finishing. A great way to learn or figure out whether you would like to build a guitar from scratch.

Cheers Peter.
 

dspelman

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I seem to recall making a thread very similar to this a few months back. However, I believe it was closed.

I've been playing for almost a year now with daily practice (self-taught), and I got my first electric a couple of months ago. I'm beginning to actually look into kit guitars/guitar building, however, I know that a lot of people have 'strong' feelings about them.

Reasons for wanting one:

I don't have the proper tools for making a guitar from scratch.

I want something of an easier level to build (definitely LP style, recommendations?)

Not sure about electronics/pickups, probably upgrade them in the future anyways (Seymour Duncan Pearly Gates [neck] - 59 Custom/Hybrid [bridge])

Preferably with a nice looking top when bought, I don't think I want to go into the world of finishing too fast. - however willing to do some sanding, oiling/finishing.

Not insane price (350 MAXIMUM).
______________________________________________________________________________________

That's all I need. I mostly want to do this for the learning experience, but it'd also be cool to say, "Yeah, I've built a guitar!" at the end.

I was going to put some links that a couple of Guitar YouTubers have used, but on second thought, I'll leave it to you guys. ;)

I think the budget and the premise are unrealistic. If you don't have the proper tools to build a guitar from scratch, you probably don't have the experience (or the tools) to do a good job on a guitar, and your budget indicates that you won't acquire either as you go. Most kits end up looking okay, but after assembly are good for little but hanging on the wall.

FInishing for most of these cheaper kits pulls up short at an oil finish which, while looking fairly good, doesn't protect the guitar from moisture, dirt or dings. It's the easiest, but the least useful.

Given your budget, you're unlikely to do a good job on finishing the frets, either, and that's pretty much fundamental to playing the thing when you're done. I know this sounds like a smart idea to a beginner, but I'd suggest that it's not.
 

Neemo

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I bought a bunch of parts to build a telecaster...and the only work i did was on the body, belly cut, forearm contour, weight relief and a dye and polyurethane finish...i bought a licensed fender neck for it tho...i have no idea where to even begin for a neck from scratch...and all the other parts are pretty good quality.

i dont pretend to be a luthier by any means, but has been a fun experience so far working on the body...i may grab a kit in the future to build with my kid but we are going to try to refinish an old beat up B.C. Rich first that i bought for $150 lol, that way she will be able to see all the stuff in the guitar and how it goes together/and comes apart lol
 

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