Today I received the LP Style build your own guitar kit from BYO and…
Detailed Photographs of the BYO Guitar LP Kit.
Right from the start, here is the box it arrived in as you can see the packing is what it is and a few things got loose (like one of the Machine heads and a few screws) and banged around a little in there with the wood. Okay so $h1t happens and the UPS guys are often gorillas, I generally expect these things and at around $250 shipped they had to save money somewhere and why not the packing…
Unpacking and Inspecting the Kit. We pulled the instructions and paperwork first but I’ll get into that later… Never read anything quite like them… So onto the important parts… We weren’t expecting a godawful lot out of this kit as it was only $250 or so total cost shipped but indeed it was $250 frog skins which is a chunk of change.
BYO Guitar Kit Review
NOTE: Images available at higher resolution… Just click.
First the Guitar body:
The “flame” pattern on our kit is interesting and pretty nice the veneer is no more than lets say 2mm thick though, there is a thin coat of sealer on it so that will make an Aniline Dye burst tricky at best. The routing and drilling is fairly clean here on the face of it.
Now the BYO site said this: “… made of select Mahogany” I’m not so sure what they mean by “Select” although I did only found one very small worm hole. Here the routing is a tad rougher and not exactly aligned straight. Right off the bat I took a look at the control cavities and thought Hmm.. the Kit has ones that fit fairly well but they ain’t even close to a Gibson’s.
Taking a Look at the Guitar Neck:
I don’t know why this surprised me but…
The images on BYO Guitars site did not show this (The one image they had of the tenon area was at too low of a resolution and too dark(ish) to see the difference in the wood grains) and it was not mentioned but this kit does indeed come with a 3 piece neck.
The Critical Fit Test (Quick Version):
The neck fits straight and everything lines up pretty good and tight, there is a gap down the high E side where it looks like the angle of the dangle was a bit off for an inch or so but there is no wobble from it and that shouldn’t be hard to shim… We did not check the back tilt yet, but we will get to that later.
Very quickly before I get to the real complaints, the other stuff…
Guitar Hardware and Electrics
Now the Bad News:
Complaints about this Kit
You can see how the binding sticks up here and is in need of a trim however can you see where the binding meets the top… Pretty rough in a few spots.
Somebody needed some sharper tools (or a little more patience). Examples of tear outs and gouges in the wood.
The frets aren’t just sharp on the edges… They be sticking up a little out of the board.
I suppose this could be some valuable buckle rash relic work but… There are more than a few.
So… This is an example of the BYO Guitar Les Paul Style Kit available here: $229+ Shipping Cheap am I complaining? … Yes… Am I surprised? No not really. If I were your every day average consumer I probably would return this kit… That is if I noticed the problems as a novice Guitar luthier. Am I going to return it and ask for a replacement or a refund? Heck no! This is just what we found unpacking this guitar kit and there is more to to discover I’m sure (I’m just that way… Makes my wife crazy too). This isn’t the end of the story, and it’s a story I wouldn’t miss for the world.
Now I’m not saying this kit is total junk however a lot of the things that are wrong is from just plain sloppy workmanship. Even though the raw materials (wood) are somewhat lacking they are really not that bad. As to the hardware… Well the good stuff would cost at least twice as much as this whole kit… I consider it a freebie.
So, we moved on to checking the tenon and neck pocket on our BYO Guitar Les Paul Style Kit…
Guitar Kit Problems, the Neck tenon and pocket.
As illustrated here the neck tenon dropped right into the pocket like a charm at an angle of 4.2° and we thought all was well…
Sliding the neck back just a hair I could see through that there was a gap between the bottom of the tenon and the neck pocket… A pretty big one. So we set out to measure it.
The depth of the neck pocket was exactly 2mm deeper than the neck tenon… No kidding 2mm straight across the board. My best guess as to why this happened is that the flame top veneer was laid down after the fact of the body and neck cuts because it is exactly 2mm thick. This is not a really hard fix but the three piece neck is now a 4 piece neck.
We cut a 2mm thick maple shim and fabricated it to fit the bottom of the neck tenon with the shims grain at about a 10° bias to the tenon’s grain. We chose Maple over Mahogany for the shim material because it was easiest to plane down to 2mm with out it exploding, this particular piece had a tight straight grain. I had this planed down at my lutier friend’s shop and brought it home to fit it… What a pain.
The shim was carefully fabricated to fit and prior to laminating it to the tenon we lightly sanded cross grain with a 400 grit, dampened the surfaces in order to open the grain a little and applied the glue (Tight Bond III) to both sides brushed out in a very thin coat.
We used my monster straight edge (36″ X 4″ X 3/8″ of tempered steel) to distribute the clamping force evenly along the shim to tenon lamination and left it to set overnight. After re fitting the neck and sanding to adjust the angle of the dangle we will use carbon paper cut to fit in the neck pocket, a little knock and wiggle will transfer carbon to the high places to allow us to see where and how it is hitting the tenon.
I originally started this whole thing as a guitar kit build pictorial aiming at high quality images to document the process… But It’s turned into more of a criticism of guitar kits and the pictures have suffered… These for example were shot with my wife’s little D3000 because by the time I was done running around getting it all together I was too beat to set up the studio to shoot.
I will say it again, this kit is not total trash… It just has some issues.
To Be Coninued…
Next up: Re working the peg head…It’s just all wrong… Only the Chinese would use an 11mm, 10.5mm and a 3/8″ Drill bit to cut 6 holes…
BYO Guitar Kit… Final Review.
So I set out to rework the headstock as the next post in the series and I did… Here are some images of what was done:
After I finished up to this point working on the neckI decided I’d kill some time (like I had any to kill as of late) by starting in on sanding the body. This kit came with a “Sanding Sealer” on it… Should be called an anti sanding coating because it comes off like semi cured nitro if you know what I mean. I spent about an hour on the top (very carefully as not to cut the veneer) and considering the wife wasn’t going to let me back in the house all covered in dust I went ahead and started on the rest of the body with a block… And look what I found.
This is not the only split (in the now visible) 5 piece mahogany back, the sealer had masked these defects during the first inspection. This whole section of the back has several other splits including one on each side of this one too fine for the camera to illustrate here. With much of the sealer removed it is obvious and by stressing the body by hand over my knee you can see them open up.
So… Time to go searching for another kit.
Adding this to the three piece neck, poor (popped up) fret work, loose neck pocket and the other odd “things” , I am now going to pronounce this one… Firewood
I think I have a metal trash can and some naphtha around here somewhere…
UPDATE… Okay, I’m not a quitter.
I woke up this morning in an industrious mood so I took a second look at the cracked mahogany in this things 5 piece back…
Okay so this thing is going to be a “Dark Back”… Very dark like a Black Back. The frame of these shots make it look level, however, the guitar body is tipped down at about a 45 degree angle in order to allow the Thin Cyanoacrylate Glue (CA) to run down the crack.
I guess next I’ll Set the neck.
RETRO POST – May 15 2011
Just a few details as I completed the build.
In the end this kit gets poor marks all the way around and had I not been pressed on to finish this “review” I simply would have junked it and moved on. What we have now is a rather flawed guitar however it does play well ( Only due to some extraordinary fixes and re working of the original kit)
Clamping the Neck:
Dying the top:
Skip ahead a few weeks, and here is the finished guitar.
The Les Paul Kit offered by BYO guitar is less than satisfactory even at it’s low price. Without extreme measures this kit would not have ended with a guitar that was even playable (let alone looked good even at a distance). Aside from the problems I’ve already gone over, it was necessary to cut 50% of the life out of the already soft frets to get them level and setting the intonation requiredsome major dinking around with a file on the bridge and saddles.
I’m going to give the BYO Guitar kit an over all grade of C-mostly because even though the build was a nightmare at times, ant the wonky placement of the knobs make it look like a down syndrome kid sitting next to it’s Real Gibson Les Paul hanger mates… it is a playable guitar and that is the least I would expect from a low priced guitar kit..