This is a review of an electric guitar kit I have assembled myself:
I had ordered an LP-style kit from ML-Factory in Germany (the price is around 200 €, depending on the chosen model).
One of the most critical and tricky operations has already been executed in this kit – it comes with the mahogany neck already glued into the body.
If you stick to an easy-to-apply oil and wax finish, the assembly of a kit such as this is a nice project for one day (or, maybe better, one weekend). The only slightly more advanced step left to you would then be sinking the back plates into the routings in the body’s back.
I had decided to apply an Osmo Color wood wax finish to the kit, which, naturally, added a few days more to the process, due to wood preparation, masking, and drying times.
Interestingly, I found it harder to apply a consistent finish to the top’s ash veneer, compared to the mahogany used for both body and neck. The wax colour was harder to get even and flat, and much more red seeped beneath the masking tape onto the multi-ply binding.
On the back and the neck working with Osmo Color was much more fun, easier, and quicker in drying. The end result is a nice tomato soupish red hue, with the finish feeling quite organic – a bit like Gibson’s Faded-series.
In my opinion the bound headstock on this ML-Factory kit is rather pretty, even though there are a couple of discoloured spots on the mahogany veneer (glue, perhaps?). I left the headstock face au naturel, using oil and wax.
The eagle-eyed may notice that the headstock isn’t 100-percent straight, which is why the tuners on the left are not quite on the same height as the ones on the right side. Luckily, this is merely a small cosmetic issue, which doesn’t affect the finished guitar’s functionality and playability in the slightest.
The kit’s sealed tuners work well.
The fingerboard oil I applied brings out the beauty of the rosewood.
ML-Factory’s LP-style kit has a body that is a tad flatter (by about 3 mm) compared to a real Gibson Les Paul. You notice the difference only when you measure the guitar, especially as my kit guitar has a similarly substantial weight as many Gibson originals.
The bridge and tailpiece are of similar quality as those used on many affordable-to-mid-priced guitars. The Tune-o-Matic-copy here is even a modern version, which doesn’t need the annoyingly rattling retaining wire found on so many other bridges of this type.
The humbuckers supplied with this kit are wax potted to reduce their susceptibility to feedback howling. We found straight-bottomed bezels for this arched top guitar – perhaps not the most stylish and sturdy choice…
The toggle switch came supplied with both the classic knurled thumb wheel (which needs a specialist tool for tightening), as well as a standard nut. I used the nut, because the switch’s thread was rather tight and the switch couldn’t be mounted without resorting to a spanner.
The kit’s controls work well.
Here’s the view from a player’s perspective.
Let’s get this message out of the way first:
No – you cannot get quality akin to a 3.000 € custom shop guitar from a 200 € DIY-kit! The quality of the wood used, as well as the workmanship and the supplied parts (at least, judging from my guitar) are simply of a much more modest standard.
But: If you’re good at woodworking and fret dressing, and if you have some experience in applying sprayed-on lacquer finishes, you can easily get a kit such as this up to the standard of a 600–800 € instrument. And once you get these things sorted, there’s no reason why you shouldn’t be able to customise a kit guitar even further.
I would have liked to have seen cleaner woodwork on this Far-Eastern kit. The router bits and drills used on my kit left the cavities and holes rather messy. Nothing that would have stood in the way of completing the instrument, but not really pretty workmanship either.
I probably will give the frets a little more care later, as they feel a little rough beneath the strings right out of the box. I also had to file the 10th fret down carefully by a fraction of a millimetre beneath the high e-string, as the fret was a little high in this spot, causing sitar-like rattling. Certainly nothing a complete rookie would be able to diagnose or rectify easily.
I might also exchange the top nut some time in the future. There isn’t anything really wrong about the supplied nut; it’s only that I am a rather forceful player, and this nut is cut a whiff too low for my playing style, meaning I get rattling open strings (E, A and D) every once in a while.
The not quite flat finish, as well as the colour smeared onto the bindings are all my own doing, and down to my inexperience in all matters dealing with paints and lacquers.
But in the greater scheme of things, and keeping in mind the extremely affordable price of this kit, there’s really a lot to like about the ML-Factory LP-style guitar kit.
Assembling this guitar was a pleasant experience, and I now have one more working guitar in my arsenal.
The truss rod works well, same goes for the tuners and the bridge. As supplied, the fretwork isn’t top notch, but I had no problems in setting up this kit to my favoured action (low E: 2.4 mm/high e 2.0 mm) using a 10–52 gauge set of strings.
The guitar was easy to intonate and it plays in tune across the whole fretboard.
The neck profile on my guitar is a straight copy off of Gibson’s 60s-neck – a very comfortable, medium-thickness ”D”.
Acoustically, the ML-Factory guitar is in the right ballpark for an LP-type guitar, displaying a fresh, but round-nosed attack, a warm overall character, and bags of sustain.
The pickups supplied with the ML-Factory-kit are surprisingly good. Naturally, nobody should expect Harry Häussel-, Jason Lollar- or Seymour Duncan Antiquity -type clarity, tone and panache – remember: This kit costs less than many high-end pickups.
The pickups on my guitar have a slightly higher-than-vintage output, but still enough clarity and character for my taste. In light of the low price of this kit, the pickups aren’t bad at all.
I’ve recorded three soundbites for you. Each example starts with the three-way toggle set to the neck pickup:
ML-Factory LP-style kit with ash veneer top
price around 200 € (plus packing and postage)
In Finland you can get guitar kits from these two retailers: Millbrook Musiikki and SP-Elektroniikka.