Today with the increased popularity of building CBGs, there has been a boom in online sales. Especially on Ebay. Here are a few suggestions that I hope will lead to a group discussion about how to insure a quality purchase.

 

1. View samples of past builds.

2. Look for audio samples or better yet video demonstrations.

3. Inquire about a builder in a dicsussion group or on a website like

www.cigarboxnation.com or www.handmademusicclubhouse.com 

I am not a builder, but a long time player who has been fortunate to have a friend who is a high end professional guitar builder. He has taught me many things to looks for, that leads to an instrument that plays easy with superior action, intonation, volume, sustain, and tone. Furthermore, you want an instrument that last for years.

I have also been fortunate over the years, to have some fine builders supply me with instruments to play. To be perfectly honest, most of the instruments I have received have been of very good quility. I have always offered private commentary as how to improve some existing problems. I have no finacial buisness arrangements with any of these builder. Nor do I endorse one builder over another. They are there simply for your comparison and consideration. Additionally, there are many other "good looking" builders, who I have not had the opportunity to play one of their builds. So, definitely shop around.

     

I am posting this, because on visual inspection I have seen many instruments for sale that are highly questionable. It my hope as a community we can help aspiring students to get good quality functional CBGs into their hands and help them avoid the sorrow of a bad buy.

Thank you for your time. I hope to hear your thoughts.              

 

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An informed buyer is a happy buyer (I don't sell anything I build).  I don't know how many builders out there are unscrupulous and push a known bad product, but there are all levels of skill trying to make a good product and make a buck.  Some more successful than others.  Some think they can support the hobby with a few sales and rush into making a product and some are pros with guitars making up most or all of their income.

Buyers are the same way.  Some will spend time and patiently research what they buy. Others will latch onto a cool name, cool look or low price and never consider how they will actually play the thing - and if they are unlucky in their purchase, they won't be happy.

I can't feel too sorry for buyers who end up with a bad instrument because they were overcome by an impulse.  I really appreciate they were swept up in an emotion when seeing and hearing the instruments for the first time, but when it comes to pulling cash out of your wallet, you have to slow down.  Do some looking around and, most importantly, talk to some people.  Not just online.  Go to a cigar shop and ask the owner if he knows anyone making guitars. Every one I've ever stepped into knows at least one other guitar builder.  Don't ask at Guitar Center.

I would like to say crud looks can be deceiving!

 

And I mention no names, but there are many sub par guitar makers that I use to think the same way as this posting....but I have changed my opinion, they have a viable place too, now I seek those instruments out for recording....some of those "ruff around the edges" or what some would call shotty guitars on ebay have the most raunchiest, snarly dirty and coolest tone!

 

 

I say don't expect much from a guitar made of an old cigar box, ....make the ranchy terrible instrument work for you!

 

 

 

visual inspection  ?!?!?! In other words, you mean: judging a book by its cover

I'll weigh in here as someone who plays way more than builds, yet has built a couple, and has orders for a couple more. I look for unusual builds, that appear to have good "quality". Every commercial git I've purchased over the last 35 years has, just like the women I've been interested in, had a "look" that attracted me. That look is what causes me to pick it up, and spend some time getting to know it. That's easy when there's a shop where you can be physically present with it. Over the Internet is both easier and harder: easier, because you can make an impulse buy with a coupla clicks, harder because you can't try it out first, unless you happen to be lucky enough to attend a CBG fest of some sort (back to the in-person). I first came to CBGs through John McNair's advertising; he wasn't building any more then, so referred me to Daddy Mojo., IIRC. Something, maybe the price, and maybe some bad press, warned me off of those, but sent me here. I spent a lot of time here lurking, learning who Ted Crocker was, who Shane Speal was, who Keni Lee was. I got introduced to Dan Sleep here. I spent a lot of time looking at pics of crappy builds, and incredibly elegant builds. I began to interact online with builders, seeing what passion they put into their offerings, and how other buyers reacted to their purchases. I began to purchase gits from some builders here: Wichita Sam (#268 was a lucky buy from someone who'd custom designed it, with specs I liked, then didn't want it), Harrison Withers (I proudly own 2 of his gits, one of which I have recorded most of my songs on, and we have designed a mando-zouki that awaits him getting healthy - I'm patient when it comes to instruments), the anonymous pick (the bobby pin fretted custom Enchantress Swamp Witch - my other main recording CBG), Shane Speal (a beautiful-sounding antique cedar fretless 3-banger I keep in the States), and most recently, Dan Sleep ( a beauty 6-string Las Cabrillas). I have bought parts from C.B. Gitty, and Randy Bretz, for my own quirky builds. In every case, I have developed a long-distance, personal relationship with the builder, based on trust, prompt payment, honest discussion of problems / playability issues (that partly comes from 35 years of playing, knowing what a playable vs unplayable commercial git is like), and making sure to give them honest good press when warranted, and yet, like BeetleJuice McNair, recognizing that CBGs are homemade, quirky instruments that constantly amaze with how well they can be played, given their rather severe limitations. Every single one of my purchased CBGs has cosmetic and design imperfections and playability issues; in each case, I have developed a different, personal relationship with each git, and work around, or even make a virtue out of, these imperfections as I play them. Different ones are right for different songs, and have different songs in them; the same is true of my commercial gits. My advice? Much like Keni's, or Eric's: get to know the builder. Research the heck out of his builds. Listen to audio and video examples. Talk online to satisfied customers, and even unsatisfied ones, but be specific about ascertaining why they are un or satisfied. There are waayyy more talented builders here and at Handmade Music Clubhouse, than my wife, my house and my wallet have patience, space or time for; learn to pick and choose one or two that fit your playing style, personality, and practical limitations. Eventually, I will, over time, purchase a custom-made, bespoke-and-agreed-between-us git from a couple more or three of you. You know who you are. Rest assured that I will use them to continue making homemade recordings, further develop my playing style and techniques, and generally enjoy the hell out of them. CBGs have made musicmaking fun again for me, and have resparked my songwriting and playing in ways that commercial gits, paradoxically, had ceased to for quite some time.

The enjoyment of this hobby for me is half in the building and half in the playing.  Making something out of found objects and being able to play music with it is one of the great joys of my life.  So I would encourage people to give building a shot first.  It's inexpensive and a simple slider can be done in a weekend with a modest assortment of tools.  If nothing else, a first time player will learn some things about construction and setup to look for when making a purchase.  And you just might surprise yourself. 

For someone who isn't in a position to build one, I would say it's like buying any other instrument. Don't try to save money and buy the cheapest one out there.  Also, don't get tempted by a beauty with all the bells and whistles, especially if just starting out. I'm lucky enough to work near Elderly Instruments where you can walk right in and play vintage Martins that are worth more than a new car, but you know what, I sound pretty much the same as I do with my cheap Alvarez. Wait until you can play a little, decide if you like it enough to pursue playing, then upgrade later. You will have learned what you like and don't like in terms of size, action, etc. I don't think I'd buy one that wasn't demoed in a video, ideally by the builder themselves.  For some reason, I'd like my builder to be able to play at least a little bit, but that's just me.  I'm sure there are some nice guitars being built by folks who can't play a lick.

IMHO the first thing you should be asking yourself is why am i not building my own?
You get a connection with an instrument you built that you cannot buy, not even from Paul reed smith or CF Martin for three grand

I guarantee all my builds for return if not satisfied...ten or so builds in and so far not one has been returned ! I bought one CBG, a Lowebow which cost a lot after import duties and postage but i love it...when i can learn more songs for it i will love it even more!  but few make much profit from building and selling, i do it for the love of building and making instruments that sound good and play well.

I think a seller's hard earned reputation is important, you get what you pay for! (-:

Huh!   Right on and correct, Kenny.   Lots of stuff, especially on ebay is pretty, but on close inspection, would not play well.

 

Reminds me of the first factory guitar I bought.  I had no clue what to look for and picked a pretty piece of crap. 

 

I don't know a solution.   Get a player to help you, I suppose.   Hear a video.  But as for videos, a good player can often make a piece of crap sound good. 

 

Kind of the opposite, Maddog sold a guitar recently and the buyer was going to hang it on a wall.  When we sell or give away a good player, WE WANT IT PLAYED!

 

How is the album coming?

Thank you CBG friends for sharing. A lot of good points. Of course, playing before purchasing would be optimal. Although, this is not always possible. Of course this makes the selection larger, but the risk greater. Not everyone aspires to build CBG, but this should not limit anyone's enjoyment of playing one. I am sure many builders have given CBGs as gifts to family and friends. My intention is to shine light on the builders with good track records who purchasers were pleased with their builds. I am not interested in berating anyone's work. Quality can vary greatly just due to price point. I am just helping my friends and students in their search for a good functional CBG. Countless horror stories fuels my interest to shed light on the situation.

Uncle John - new CDs is about 3/4 done. Slight delays due to the complications of daily life. LOL    

I have to say I have had a few and the quality does vary, I have been trying to get my builds up to sell able quality too.

I actually find it fun to play almost anything and believe almost anything can be made to play. I have a bug bear of poor tuners that dont keep tune and Intonation that is out, as it should be fairly easy to crack. But yes there are a few questionable items out there for a fast buck that I have seen too and even purchased. But isn't that the spirit of a CBG made from waste as it was originally designed, I sometimes think we get hung up about what we are doing. Are we buiding a high quality guitar or a cigarbox guitar?

If you want one to play well then you do need to check where it comes from, or get word of mouth.

I have played from the very best to the very worst and they vary vastly but then so does the price too.

But you can still have a lot of fun with a stick in a box...or even just a stick a string and a pickup....

Determine what your criteria is first, then ask around.....but note we don't have the same quality control, only word of mouth.

or try before you buy if you can....and good luck.

I am very very impressed with John Maws Roadkill CBG guitar quality and Diglydog builds, for good value a Rockhill Shane Wagstaff works for me and plays well too, you can get him to build you almost anything!!.

(which is great fun to mess with!)

I havent had the pleasure to play any of the CBG from america, but I am sure there are some stunning playable guitars there too.. but I do accept all freebies LOL

I hope to one day to be on this list too...but I am working in it..!

Thank you for this post Keni.

Jim

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