Sunday, June 15, 2008

SD assembles his Carvin Bolt-T kit!

I recently sold my beloved Ibanez JEM77FP, mainly because I never played it much; it was one of those guitars that I practically put on an altar in equipment-lust homage, obeying the commandments of some bizarre cultish ritual to which we musicians are occasionally subject. The problem for me is that I'm a player--I've never been good at collecting guitars. I do much better PLAYING good quality guitars that I don't mind putting a ding on every now and then. So I sold the JEM to a really nice guy in PA (who is already worshipping the JEM the way I did) and used the cash to buy two great guitars and modify a third.

First, I bought a used 2006 Fender American Deluxe in Montego Black; it's a great sounding and looking guitar that needed only minor setup. Then, I ordered the gear from Stewart-MacDonald to convert my Fernandes Retrorocket X (with Carvin electronics) into a fretless. And then, I ordered a Carvin Bolt-T kit with a classic tweed case.

Key word is "kit," for it needs assembly and adjustment. So, I figured that this would be harder than it looked. Well, the assembly was a breeze. The adjustment was more difficult, as this was the first time that I ever dared to touch the truss rod in a guitar. But I had no choice; there was a tremendous reverse bow on the neck after I got the strings on, so it had to be done.

I need to say a word about Carvin's increasingly poor customer service. I've been a Carvin customer since the mid-90s, and my main stage amp is a Carvin 200SXD (a powerful twin). When I bought the amp, my first one blew up and they immediately sent me a new one and even paid for return shipping (BTW, my Carvin amp is nearing a decade in age and still blasts heads off regularly).

Well, I just ordered a kit guitar (on 15 April) that required a basic paint job. Again, "kit" means that Carvin did not have to assemble it. It took an amazing 8 WEEKS TO RECEIVE THE GUITAR, even though the fellow on the phone told me 4 to 5 weeks!!! I could understand 8 weeks if I had ordered a fancy neck-through-body guitar with spectacular finish options, but this was a kit with the most basic paint job. I sent an email at 6-weeks asking for a status and received no reply. So I called at week 7 and spoke with someone; he took my number and said he would call the next day with a status, and he NEVER CALLED BACK. I didn't get too mad, as the guitar came in the following week. So be warned: Carvin seems to be having a customer service crisis at the moment.

I should add that the guitar has a few, minor cosmetic flaws, but nothing worth sending it back over. I'm very pleased with the quality of this instrument, especially considering that I plan to beat it to death over the coming decade. In short, I think it was worth the wait, though I think the wait was silly and unnecessary.

Anyway, here's a photo journal of the assembly process (more photos here).

This is what the box looks like when you open it. Instructions right on top!

I had them paint my body for me...matte Classic White! (one small blemish in the finish)

The beautiful neck (one small flaw on the ebony fretboard - side piece facing the bridge).

Pieces and parts! Awesome Wikinson tremelo and Sperzel locking tuners.

Classic tweed case (also made in USA).

Installing Sperzels.

All installed!

Had to make my inscription.

Installing the Dunlop strap locks.

Cavity shielding...reminded me of the material they use on satellites and other space vehicles.

Nerve-racking part: Hammering in the tremelo posts.

Putting on the spring claw.

Installing the neck.

Pre-wired pickguard. No soldering required.

Voila! Now strings and adjustments.

My collection...the Fernandes fretless, Carvin Bolt-t, and Fender American!