My article about Modding & ReSelling New Guitars, was based on a Squier Bullet Stratocaster. Solid “bones” to mod onto, no doubt. But what about those cheap Chinese guitars on ebay for $70?
If Indio can do a good, cheap strat for $99, a no-name guitar should be ok at $70, right?
Maybe. Maybe not.
Good ‘Uns & Bad ‘Uns
In the best case scenario – as in the first two shipments I got of white Strats, the main differences were lighter, cheaper components (than Squier), slightly greater tolerances and more work to be done during the setup.
Blems & Scratches
In my most recent shipments, which were black because they had run out of white, the quality was even further downhill.
Roughly half the shipment had deep scratches on the body front that could not be buffed out (not even with Scratch ‘X’!). But it got worse..
Every one of the guitars has blemishes on the pickguards. Most pickguards have two protective layers of film that can be removed. After removing the top layer of film, what seems to be blisters appeared.
No problem – it’s just the second layer pulled up in areas, right? No. There was no second layer to be found. It’s like these cheap pickguards had a film bonded to the surface to give a simulated glossy appearance. However, pulling off the protective layer pulled up the bonded material in places that looked like blisters.
I’ve decided I don’t have time to replace all the pickguards, so I’m dumping these guitars as ‘B-stock’ at a steep discount.
But It Got Worse!
Pain In The Neck
The neck plate bolt holes going through the neck had been drilled to the same size as the receiving holes in the body. This meant that tightening the screws applied even pressure to both neck and body. That’s not what we want.
I drilled out the neck holes so the screw threads would only bite into the body. But I also had to shim the neck.
Have A Seat
The trem block string holes were too narrow and the string ball ends weren’t seating properly. Not only did the ball ends have to be unstuck with an allen key, but the holes had to be drilled out so strings could be properly seated.
Not So Slick
Like the Super Squiers I described in the aforementioned article, these maple fretboards looked to be bare wood. Oil from finger tips, dirt and just plain crud will easily find a home in fingerboards like that and it wouldn’t be long before you had to look closely to determine whether it was a maple fretboard or ebony!
One or two very thin coats of TruOil did the trick on the Squiers, but the grain was so open on these cheap Strats that they gulped down six coats and appeared to want another dozen!
I stopped at six coats. This was taking up so much time and at some point, you simply have to bow to the profit margin gods.
But It Gets Even Worser!
(Spellcheck does not like me to make up words – like ‘worser’, but sometimes a creative word just fits too well!) Intonate at the 12th fret? Not unless you want to move the bridge up about a quarter inch! Oh, that also means replacing the body since you can’t really move the routed tremolo cavity!
I checked my toolboxes, but couldn’t find a “hole-mover”! I was able to intonate pretty well, up in the “cowboy frets”, which is likely where most beginners will play. (That’s mostly where I play, after forty-plus years!)
I suppose I could use my table router to shave material from the neck end, but I would also have to saw off material from the front edge of the fretboard to prevent it from jamming into the neck pickup.
Found myself wondering, “Just how much below $5/hour do I want to make on these?“, as I headed to the table router, necks in hand.
This Story Has A Moral!
As I stated in my earlier article, I’d lost the contact info for my original supplier. Whenever dealing with new suppliers, especially if they’re overseas, it’s always best to begin with small quantities.
Since this is the beginning of our Christmas season, I felt I didn’t have that luxury, and I paid the price.
The “moral” is, PLAN. Plan to have sufficient stock from trusted vendors before your big selling season(s). And TEST. Test new suppliers with smaller orders until they’ve gained your trust.
When you’re buying wholesale, and especially if you’re buying from overseas, you generally can’t expect vendors to make good on product issues. Expect problems and be prepared to resolve them.
But such a big problem on a large percent of the order may call for some compensation. In my case, the vendor only offered $3 per unit. Only by tough negotiating did I move it up to $10 per unit. But that is only enough to cover the cost of new pickguards, not the time to replace them.
You can’t expect a vendor to compensate for your time. And I was lucky to get any compensation at all.
All the time and previous orders it had taken to find my original vendor was lost with a moment of carelessness in cleaning files.
But maybe the biggest lesson in all this is to consider that saving an extra ten or twenty dollars per unit on the purchasing end may actually cost you more on the preparation end.
I use a cool stamp set to put my own serial numbers onto guitars I sell. This helps record-keeping, warranty tracking, etc.
The painters tape is to help me keep the numbers in a straight line. I’ll add a link to where you can buy these shortly. I use a small hammer and a light tap to make each indentation.