Fifteen Dollar Guitar

Dillon continues to play guitar in Mad RED Kat, and continues to develop his skills (though somewhat reluctantly, like any 13 year-old). As he does, he’s expressed an interest in an acoustic guitar. Really, he wanted an electric-acoustic. After cruising Craig’s List, and eBay for possible candidates, I came across this gem:

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Yup, a $15 Buy It Now guitar. I did a little checking to see how that model did and what prices typically are. This particular model is typically around $120 new and $75 used, so this looked like a good deal. Reviews were pretty good with no specific weaknesses. Then I noticed that it was a local pickup only item, and local meant Cumberland, WI. Sure, Cumberland… that’s near Madison, right? I bid and won the thing. Then I looked at where Cumberland actually is… it’s not near Madison… it’s near St. Paul.

Well, fine. I’ll take Dillon, and we’ll have a great time driving to get his guitar… except Dillon is already committed to other stuff (Bar Mitzvah #3). So, what was going to be a quick morning road trip with the boy turned into an all day solo trip to the very top of the state and back. It was a good trip with way too much coffee, and way too much road construction, but eventually I got home with the instrument. Unfortunately, I could see why it was only $15.

There was a big crack in the side panel, the nut was cracked (it actually fell off in two pieces when I took the strings off) the fretboard was mildew-y and gross, the strings were rusted… not good. We ordered up a new nut and bridge as well as new bridge pins (one of those broke off when I was removing it) and got to work cleaning the instrument up. It actually cleaned up easily and well with just a slightly damp towel.

Our parts came in and included a little surprise for Dillon. I’d ordered a pre-amp and piezo pickup (these cost less than the nut and bridge) for his new guitar. We were going to convert this $15 acoustic to a slightly more expensive (only slightly) electric-acoustic. Well, after a few busy weeks, we finally got a few hours on a Sunday to get the work done. Honestly, I think it took all of three hours start to finish before we were tuning it up and testing things out.

So, not including travel time and gas, this $15 guitar really cost about $40. Dillon and I had a lot of fun working on this (too much to take any decent pictures, clearly) and he now has a second instrument. He has a better understanding of how things fit together. He got to play with my (fake) Foredom, and helped figure out solutions to unexpected problems (like you always encounter in projects like this). It was awesome.

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