The Fender Stratocaster guitar design is iconic. It looks like what a guitar should look like to so many people.
It’s also a simple design that makes it great for a DIY project. Because of that, I decided to get one for Christmas. This turned into a real interesting buying experience.
First of all, you can spend a lot or a little on a guitar kit. I’ve seen kits anywhere from $50 - $500 and everywhere in between.
Looking around on Amazon and eBay, it is not hard to find a decent looking kit for around $100. Even a couple specialty stores I found are $100-150 depending on components.
Speaking of components, when you buy a guitar kit you are getting generic components and parts. That’s just the way it is. No matter what kit you buy, you have no idea what kind of parts you’ll get.
That brings me to the nature of the kits themselves. Most low end guitar kits are nothing more than a box of parts shipped in from China. That’s not a bad thing.
However, you need to know that there isn’t a lot of differentiation between the different kits. I’m pretty sure there are a few factories in China or Korea cranking out these kits. They are all largely the same.
That leads to the kit I bought.
Cheap Ebay Magic
Ebay is very hit and miss when shopping for anything. What is amazing is every once in a while you come across a clearance sale or something that works in your favor.
I managed to find a bunch of guitar kits listed for $60-70 each with free shipping. That is a ridiculously cheap guitar kit!
Looking at the price of other kits and other components, it’s difficult to even put together all the pieces for less than $100, so if anything is decent in the $65 kit, you probably come out ahead on the deal.
My guess is it was mid December and the seller wanted to get rid of kits while people were still buying gifts.
Needless to say, I pulled the trigger on that $65 Stratocaster kit.
Building The Guitar
The kit was a great price, but everything was there. All the pieces were in the box and were in new condition. I was surprised that the body and neck were nice and seemingly straight.
I’m not a professional guitar builder by any means. This is my first build, but I am pleased that the components didn’t suck.
There was one minor hitch. The kit didn’t come with instructions. Luckily, I was able to find a PDF from BYOGuitars for their Stratocaster kit. That worked like a charm.
The other thing missing was some of the holes on the guitar kit needed to be drilled and I needed to router out the neck join area so that it would be more flush with the body.
Those were easy enough to deal with and I was able to put the guitar together in a couple evenings.
Playing The Guitar
The moment of truth came and it was time to plug it in. Would it even play?
Yes. It made noise! It sounded like a guitar!
Right off the bat there were two easily fixable issues.
First, with a new set of strings getting everything in tune requires tuning, playing, tuning, playing, etc. until the strings settle in.
Second, the bridge of the guitar by default wasn’t setup high enough. That meant the strings were buzzing on the frets.
Again, an easy fix. I grabbed a tiny Allen wrench and raised the height on each string until it felt good.
That threw everything out of tune, but that’s to be expected.
Once it was all settled, I started to fall in love with this guitar.
Finishing The Project
The guitar project isn’t finished. Once I put it all together it’s in a nice state of being put together and being playable. Now I have to take it all apart and finish the wood.
That isn’t going to be a hard process, but I’ve enjoyed playing the new guitar enough to not be in a hurry to do it.
Here in the next month or two I’m sure I’ll get around to it. Until then, I’m going to enjoy playing the new guitar.
I feel like it’s the best $65 guitar I’ve ever played.
At some point in the future I’m going to build more guitars because it’s a lot of fun. This is probably the start of a fun and somewhat expensive hobby.
As for the $100 DIY guitar kits out there? I’m sure they are just as great, but maybe they come with instructions. Every kit is going to be a bit different.
I will say that building a guitar is a fun experience, especially if you play guitar or like building things.
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