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Opinions Please: What Is Missing From Kits?
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Post
Bill Cory

Total Topics: 158
Total Posts: 3594
I'm looking for opinions: No right or wrong, just opinions:

In your opinion, what is missing from kits?

What should be there, but isn't?

Please indicate what kit you are talking about.


Thanks -- Bill

Apr 17, 07 | 6:03 am
Ken Hundley

Total Topics: 40
Total Posts: 2169
MArtin Kits: Good instructions.

Apr 17, 07 | 6:13 am
Ken Hundley

Total Topics: 40
Total Posts: 2169
LMII Electric Kit: Good instructions. There was a set of plans, more appropriate dimensionally than anything else. There were no instructions.

Apr 17, 07 | 6:14 am
dcbaisden

Total Topics: 25
Total Posts: 58
I pretty new. But I have a martin kit and a set of plans would help me.

Apr 17, 07 | 6:52 am
Dennis Weatherly

Total Topics: 73
Total Posts: 651
Martin kit: plans and instructions. Even if I choose to modify the flow, instructions help me understand the approach that the kit maker intended for assembling the kit. Plans are huge for me, as I often refer to them to help visualize the relationship of components in a finished assembly. That probably comes from decades of model airplane building :-)

Apr 17, 07 | 7:51 am
mishmannah

Total Topics: 16
Total Posts: 67
Stewmac Kit;

More detail about truss rod adjustment, and general setting up. Generally more info about building guitars. I had to rely heavily on Bill Cory's photographic instructions for reference.

Mind you, that's because the visual instruction format was in NTSC video format. Release the instructions onto DVD that is compatible with UK and US systems!!

Apr 17, 07 | 8:18 am
forestcaver

Total Topics: 6
Total Posts: 41
Martin: plans !!!
The pencil layout was pretty poor on the top and back. Without the plans you have to make educated guesses as to where to place braces, etc.
I was not too bothered about the (very) poor instructions as you can find out everything else (i.e. how to build it) from other sources which offer different ideas on construction order, etc.. but without plans you are really in the dark.
Although I am very pleased with the way my guitar came out I probably wont buy another Martin kit without a set of matching plans (from somewhere), as it's too stressful not having any...

Andy

Apr 17, 07 | 9:13 am
davidmor

Total Topics: 34
Total Posts: 567
LMI - Written instructions, a brace template overlay

Stewmac - Better options for their kits like different choices of woods, trims, serviced vs non-serviced etc. Neck block or neck blank with the 1 degree angle built in.

Martin - Instructions, brace template overlay, and plans.

Apr 17, 07 | 12:17 pm
Bill Cory

Total Topics: 158
Total Posts: 3584
Thanks everyone -- Additional input from more people would be great. I've found the same as all above to be true.

Bill

Apr 18, 07 | 6:12 am
Bill Cory

Total Topics: 158
Total Posts: 3584
From Ken Cierpilowski in "Neck Block Short" thread:

I just can't help myself here --- I see this as real problem with guitar kits and guitar construction books, DVD’s and plans in general. The authors DO NOT KNOW the real specifications so many of the most important dimensions are just approximations. So what happens is the builder is in the repair and sculpting mode right from the beginning. Can you imagine building a Lexus or a Rolex like that?? Presently, I my view Kinkead comes the closest to supplying the correct dimensions, angles and contours. And most importantly he explains how to get the parts made correctly. Two cents

Ken

Apr 18, 07 | 6:20 am
jhowell

Total Topics: 37
Total Posts: 676
I think what I miss most is a good set of dimensioned plans. I messed about with some repair and did an lot of internet research and book reading before getting the first kit. Both of my kits have been from John Hall and come with the Martin pamphlet :). John goes outof his way to make himself available as a resource wich is what makes this work with lack of directions.

I also agree that the single most useful book for getting started is Kinkead's. Now that I'm a ways into building number two, Cuompiano is making more sense.


I'm in the right spot now--semi-embarrassing :).

Apr 18, 07 | 2:43 pm
Ken Cierp

Total Topics: 58
Total Posts: 2262
With all do repect for Mr. Compiano -- the section of the book that more or less explains the dimensional envelope of the acoustic guitar is very good and opens the window for those that want to build a truly custom instrument. However, from an Engineering stand point -- I would be hard pressed to come up with a MORE DIFFICULT and error prone method to build a guitar. I guess this is my bucks worth!

Ken

Apr 18, 07 | 6:24 pm
mishmannah

Total Topics: 16
Total Posts: 67
Ken, do you endorse the Cumpiano book as a great guide for building guitars, then? :-)

Apr 18, 07 | 10:37 pm
Freeman

Total Topics: 27
Total Posts: 668
Mishnannah, I'll chime in on that one - IMHO Cumpiano's beautiful book is an inspiration, but gave me very little help on either my steel string or my classical. He doen't use molds or jigs and has backed away from his pinned neck joint (see his web site). His information on setting the Spanish heel was far more helpful, but most people on this forum will not be building classicals.

As far as instructions, I felt the StewMac pdf was adequate (if you want to use the carboard jig, I didn't) and the price is right (free), Kincade's book is better, the Martin book was next to worthless. The LMII dvd that came with the classical kit was perfect (as were the hand drafted plans from Segovia's old Hauser), and Siminoff's book on mandolin construction was as good as it gets. Everyone should have Erlewine's book on finishing. John Hall simply rocks when it comes to answering questions (as did Kovacik and Siminoff).

So, for the four kits I've built

Kovacik's 000 - better plans, I used the StewMac pdfs primarily. Hardware wasn't included.
Hall's OM - better plans (he only sent the Martin book, but answered e-mails and phone calls). Everything needed was included
LMII classical - kudos! Everything needed was there.
Siminoff mandolin - kudos! I had to buy some odds and ends.

It is also interesting that Hall and LMII included everything - all the hardware, tuners, etc, but Kovacik and Siminoff didn't - that way you can pick what you want, but it also adds a couple of hundred bucks to the kit.

Apr 20, 07 | 10:36 am
Ted

Total Topics: 22
Total Posts: 158
All of the kit suppliers problems could be solved if they included in each kit an A3 peice of paper, on which was written - www.kitguitarforum.com No matter how much reading of manuals and instructions, I think I would have stalled mine had I not had the abilitiy to bounce the problems/solutions in here. Thanks Bill, thanks Ken, thanks everyone.

I think that kit suppliers should consider contracting a complete wood working novice to build one of their kits, ask all the questions and then re-write (or write) there instruction manual. I wonder how many of us built a stewmac first because we read on Bill's site that their instructions were the best? I did.

Apr 20, 07 | 5:52 pm
Bill Cory

Total Topics: 158
Total Posts: 3584
Thanks, Ted, for the encouragement. I forwarded your comment to Tom Erlewine (Creative Director at Stewmac, Dan's brother), and he appreciated it, too.

Bill

Apr 21, 07 | 7:34 am
Bill Cory

Total Topics: 158
Total Posts: 3584
Regarding Cumpiano: I have to agree. That book is a classic, and going along with the "classic" definition, it is a jewel from the past but not necessarily as applicable to the present. Though a person could still build a guitar using only that book as a guide, there are other ways and more information now because more brains are involved and communicating via the web (which obviously didn't exist when they wrote that book).

My cent's worth.
Bill

Apr 21, 07 | 7:39 am
forestcaver

Total Topics: 6
Total Posts: 41
At the risk of a "me too" post, I definitely found Kinkead to be superior to Cumpiano (for a first build) and if somebody was to only buy one book to build a kit guitar (or a build from scratch), then I think that would be it. Having said that, there are some really good ideas in Cumpiano (as well as Sloane, etc).

Cheers,
Andy

Apr 21, 07 | 10:28 am
Bill Cory

Total Topics: 158
Total Posts: 3584
Andy -- Me too is okay. I agree with you, too. Kinkead's step-by-step photo instructions are superior to just about everyone else's. I also agree that all of these older books from the first luthiers willing to share their "secrets" are valuable -- we can almost always find an answer or a technique that's useful.

Apr 21, 07 | 12:15 pm
Dennis Weatherly

Total Topics: 73
Total Posts: 651
I had never seen Kinkead's book until yesterday, when I found a copy at a local book store. Now I understand why you folks speak so highly of it. I bought a copy and plan to spend some non-building time reading it. It will be interesting to compare it to Cumpiano's book (which I also have). Right off the bat, Kinkead's approach (and thinner, visually-oriented book) is less intimidating :-)

Apr 21, 07 | 1:14 pm
guitarman1

Total Topics: 12
Total Posts: 21
as Davidmor said, stew mac need to give mor options for the woods used in kits. I know it wont to any good but I may try writing Stew mac about that to TRY to convince them to give an actual choice of woods used in kits.

Apr 23, 07 | 8:58 am
lesterb

Total Topics: 0
Total Posts: 3
Two pence on the LMI classical kit. I've just taken delivery of a kit put together using the Kit Wizard. Very impressive all round except for one thing, which I guess is my fault but is not made very clear.

In the wizard I asked for the sides to be bent and ordered with it a set of Hauser plans. I just assumed the sides would be bent to the Hauser dimensions, but in the catalogue that came with the order there are pictures of bending machines which LMI say they use to bend all their sides. Apparently, all their classical sides are bent to a Ramirez profile. Sure enough Ramirez is the only profile shown on side bending services on their website.

Well, the bent sides are definitely not Hauser, so I guess I'll have to modify them as best I can. As I say, my fault, but perhaps LMI should have picked up on it. So something to be aware of when using the bending service in the wizard - make sure the sides and plans match.

Les

Apr 23, 07 | 1:55 pm
gawlicd

Total Topics: 12
Total Posts: 44
My two cents also.
Aside from the Martin kit lack of better instructions as noted above I have a problem with not knowing if the parts in the kit are actually the correct parts for the kit as purchased. Without a print or at least dimensions it could be way late finding out that your neck block, body panels,braces, fret board , bridge size etc. are for a different model. Not that these are devastating but do add to dissapointment and frustration.
The books and videos mentioned above are all good for what they were intended for, but I am certain they were not intended for a Martin kit and sometimes too much info especially wrong info can mislead and do more harm than good for us beginners.
If you ever tried to write a manual or work instructions you will find out that it is a very diffacult task. What may be obvious and self explanatory to yourself can be quite confusing and not so obvious to another. Everybody has different skill levels and adequate instructions for some can be boring or wastefull to others.
IMHO as of today the best Martin kit instructions are from John Hall (the seller) and the experienced builders found on this forum. I am glad this site is here.
Thanks
Dave G

Apr 23, 07 | 6:04 pm
gawlicd

Total Topics: 12
Total Posts: 44
Sorry to ramble on but it would be nice if the members of this forum could collectively rewrite the Martin manual. It would be quite a project and I bet it could include a bunch of what not to do's from us beginners and the what to do's from the pro's. Maybe include specs and facts. (Wouldn't that be somthing different) We all have seen great pics and different construction methods here. Aside from the legal crap that will crop up, it would be beneficial to all new kitbuilders. Call it Project Martin. (Don't laugh)
Heck, I would have bought it if it existed and I bet many others would also.
Dave G

Apr 23, 07 | 6:40 pm
Bill Cory

Total Topics: 158
Total Posts: 3584
Dave --
In fact, I am in the process of writing just such a manual for Martin kits. Also, it's already been done in a cursory way, on the Martin pages on www.KitGuitarBuilder.com, if you look at them in detail. The Martin Kit Instructions there offer a step-by-step photographic guide to a complete build of one kind of Martin kit (Jumbo). As Mishmannah said above, he relied heavily on those pages to build his Martin kit. I've since purchased an additional Martin kit, and am currently working on one of John Hall's kits (basically a Martin configuration), and am writing the manual based on those three kits.

But, beyond that ...
About your idea for a "group project," though ... I learned years ago writing software documentation for a law firm and a real estate company, that any kind of instructional material written by a group, even if the group meets daily in person, is practically impossible to get done and often results in many scarred emotions, hard feelings, etc. Agreement is rare on what is the "right" way to do something and exactly how to explain it to the reader. And that's in computer software, where there's usually only one "right" way to do something. Look at any thread in this forum where someone asks for suggestions, and take note that there are mutliple responses with differing solutions. That's great, in a forum, but it's a recipe for disaster when writing a manual; it just confuses the reader and becomes so long that it's unusable.

We already have errors made from misreading of manuals, and misunderstandings of the procedures found in manuals. I would not like to see someone make a major mistake on his or her guitar after reading instructions composed here by a group, and the argument that could follow.

For that reason, I would not want to see such a group project attempted here.

Bill

Can we get the thread back to the original question?

What is missing from kits, and from what kit specifically?


Apr 24, 07 | 8:29 am
davidmor

Total Topics: 34
Total Posts: 567
Frosty cold beverages.

My Blog


Apr 24, 07 | 11:06 am
blues creek guitars Authorized Martin Repair Ctr

Total Topics: 52
Total Posts: 1011
Kits are just that. parts in a box. To help this along May I ask a few questions.

What would you like to improve instructions?

How far along do you think the parts need to be and should a kit be rated as to a beginner intermediate or pro.

How important is building support in a kit

john hall

Apr 25, 07 | 8:44 am
Bill Cory

Total Topics: 158
Total Posts: 3584
John -- Here are my personal views ...

"What would you like to improve instructions?"
Instructions must be written for the customer, from the customer's point of view. The problem with many of them (especially Dikc Boak's) is that they appear to give enough instruction to build the kit, but they really don't. They fool the kit buyer into thinking he/she won't need to find information anywhere else, but we know it doesn't happen that way. (If Martin wanted to be really aboveboard about it, they would post on their catalog page the first paragraph of their booklet, which says that the booklet isn't a complete manual. And then they should leave the booklet out of the kit entirely. And, they should not show a full-size plan in their catalog, when they don't include one in their kits. I've bought two of their kits and neither had a plan in it.)

I talked to the Stewmac people when they were revising their instructions, and they had a hard time getting it done because the buy who was building the kits (and revising the instructions) knew too much. He had built over 30 of their kits, and he had forgotten what he didn't know when he built his first one. He didn't even use the instructions. I think instructions should be written by someone who remembers what he didn't know when he built is first kit: Most people who have built kits for years do not qualify for the job because of that. It's all so simple to them that they don't remember what needs to be taught.

"How far along do you think the parts need to be and should a kit be rated as to a beginner intermediate or pro."
I think they are all fine in this regard, and they should be rated except to mention that they aren't just "glue and play," but require some woodworking and some additional tools.

"How important is building support in a kit"
If the instructions were clear, support wouldn't be important at all to me personally, but it is extremely important to a lot of people. Some people learn by reading, some by seeing, some by hearing. But the instructions have to be written so that everyone can understand them; most of them are not. The company shouldn't do a half-azzed job on the manual and then figure people will call when they get confused.

On my first kit, from Stewmac, I only called Stewmac one time to clarify something. Farther along in the manual, they had a glaring error about placing the bridge a certain distance from the neck end of the body, and I let them know (after i made the mistake). They changed the manual.

Stewmac seems to be the only company that really "gets it" on instructions. LMI doesn't provide a manual, and their plan isn't accurate. They don't tell the builder what isn't done in the kits, so some people (on this forum and others who have emailed me) end up gluing the untrimmed sides to the blocks and making other mistakes. Martin's booklet shouldn't even be included in their kits; it is misleading and not instructional.

-------
Of course, this is only my opinion.
--------
Bill

Apr 25, 07 | 9:05 am
davidmor

Total Topics: 34
Total Posts: 567
I have built kits from 3 different suppliers. Stewmac, Grizzly (if you can call it a kit!) and LMI (one serviced, one un-serviced). Of the three, Stewmac has it right. Their instructions are very detailed, their plans have all important information on them, and the video follows the instruction manual perfectly. When I built it (it was my first acoustic) I never had a question that wasn't answered either in the video or manual.

The grizzly electric kit I did had very good instructions for what the kit was. Again, I had no questions that weren't answers.

LMI has the DVD as instructions. It is a good DVD with a lot of good information in it, but it doesn't do a good job of explaining the details. The biggest problem I had with it though is that he is building an unserviced kit while most first time builders will get a serviced kit. There are a huge amount of different techniques involved in these two kinds of build and the DVD would only serve to confuse a new builder. As an example, he does the bulk of the neck work with the neck attached to the guitar because "he mostly builds classicals and that is just how he does it". Then he goes on to say that you can also do the neck without it being attached (like stewmac) but gives absolutely no instructions of how to do this. My second build was a LMI serviced kit, and I finally gave up on the DVD and used the Stewmac manual about half way through the build. The only thing I used the DVD for was measurement info. I have to say the DVD has been a bit more helpful though now that I am doing a scratch build. Also, a written manual would be a huge addition to their already great kits. It says something that a lot of Martin and LMI first time builders are going over to Stewmac's website to download their manual to use.

I guess kit makers need to realize that most people buying a kit are new builders and as such, the need a lot of hand holding. The manuals need to be written with this in mind.

As far as how far along a kit should be, I think LMI has it right. They give you 3 options based on how much work you want them to do. Some people just want to build one guitar and that's it. It makes no sense for them to have to build or buy a bender just to make one guitar. It is nice that LMI gives you the option to have them do all the bending as well as neck shaping, rosette routing, thickness sanding, etc. When I bought my scratch build materials for the build I am doing now, it was really nice to ask them to thickness sand the top back and sides since I don't have a drum sander. It was also nice though knowing that is ALL they did for me. I think rating a kit is a good idea. I would rate Stewmac as intermediate, Grizzly as beginner, and LMI serviced as intermediate and unserviced as Pro as it is basically a scratch build.

For me, building support is not a big deal. I am hard headed and wouldn't ever make the call if I needed help! But that is just me. I prefer to figure things out myself, and search online for answers. I have found that searching for an answer online is much more valuable because I usually get several different methods and opinions to help get me past my problem. If I had to call, I would only get one way to do it. I learn more this way. I know a lot of people base their buying decisions in large part based on support after the sale so take my opinion on this for what it's worth.... not much!

My Blog

Apr 25, 07 | 9:11 am
Bill Cory

Total Topics: 158
Total Posts: 3584
David -- it appears you and I share the same opinions. Also, I've built a Grizzly acoustic and I could have said the same things you did about your electric. Not really a kit ...

Quoting You:
"I guess kit makers need to realize that most people buying a kit are new builders and as such, the need a lot of hand holding. The manuals need to be written with this in mind."

My point as well.

Bill

Apr 25, 07 | 9:19 am
Buddy

Total Topics: 1
Total Posts: 19
For what it's worth, the LMI 'kits' aren't really designed to be 'kit guitars' in the traditional sense of what I think of them and aren't really designed for 'new builders' IMO.

They are mainly meant to be a 'one stop gather all the materials for a build' sort of thing with the option of having some of the work serviced. I think LMI expects the builder to have the documentation and ability already.

LMI certainly provides the most 'options' in regards to materials.

Apr 25, 07 | 10:32 am
Freeman

Total Topics: 27
Total Posts: 668
I'm going to chime in once again about John's question on "how far along do I think the parts need to be..."

I believe that a kit builder should not have to buy specialized tools or have to do something that you can really screw up. My very first kit was a dulcimer - I cut the fret slots with a razor saw and got some of them slightly wrong. It never has played well. I think the following should be done - all plates thicknessed, neck rough shaped and truss rod channel routed, sides bent, soundhole cut out and rosette channel routed, and fretboard mitered. Each of these requires tools or techniques not normally available to a home builder in his garage.

I think it is interesting to compare my LMI "serviced" classical with my Hall and Kovacik kits. LMI included a couple of hunks of spruce and mahogany for the braces which I had to cut (fortunately I have access to a band saw). The Hall and Kovacik kits had precut and shaped braces. The LMI kit had the beautiful wood rosette installed (altho they sell classical rosettes separately), on the Kovacik kit both the pearl and the plastic were installed, on John's only the plastic. I would have prefered to do it myself on all of them (which, I believe, is what StewMac does). On the LMI kit the fretboard was mitered, but not the correct thickness - I had to take it to a wood shop to be sanded and I had to plane the relief into the board (ebony chips badly when hand planing), the K fretboard was correctly sized and had the both top and side markers installed, the H kit required me to install the side dots. On the LMI and Kovacik the tuner holes were predrilled, I had to make a jig for spacing them on the Hall kit (and I had to seek out the spacing on a forum because no information was included).

LMI include all the hardware (nice tuners), a really nice set of plans and the dvd. Hall included all the hardware (two sets of good tuners for a 12 string) and the Martin book (somewhat less than worthless). Kovacik included no tuners (which let me select the ones I wanted, but added a hundred bucks) and no instructions (I bought the StewMac plans, downloaded their pdf, and bought Kincade's book).

For all the kits I needed a router and drill motor. For the LMI I also needed a band saw and a thickness sander. I used a band saw to make body molds and cauls for all of them but I believe I could have gotten along without it on both the Hall and Kovacik. So, in summary, this would be a nearly perfect kit if it had the plans and instructions



and here is the LMI, with better instruction, but requiring more work



Don't ask about a mandolin <g>

Apr 25, 07 | 11:36 am
Bill Cory

Total Topics: 158
Total Posts: 3584
I think that if you want to look at it that way, you have have a definition of what a Kit Guitar is expected to be.

I would use this: "Kit Guitar: A self-contained package of components including parts, wood and documentation, that can be assembled into a playable instrument."

There's no qualitative aspect to that: A bad or good kit fits it; even Grizzly and LMI Industry Standard (i.e. "unserviced") kits fit it. With some variation, that definition all of the kit guitars we've ever dealt with here, including LMI, Stewmac, Martin, Blues Creek, Steve Kovacik (minus docs), and Grizzly.

If you want them to add "advanced" or "intermediate," or "beginner," you cut their market down a lot, and it isn't that big to begin with.

I don't see any good reason to separate LMI from the others. Their kit guitars are no different in any real sense from the others; just a few more details have to be done by the builder, and they aren't difficult. LMI markets their kits to new builders as well as experienced builders, and building an LMI kit is not really any more difficult than the others. And, their materials aren't any better than the others if you go with their standard woods.

No disagreement here on LMI's options: They have all the others beat there.


Apr 25, 07 | 11:40 am
davidmor

Total Topics: 34
Total Posts: 567
I think the only downfall of LMI, is how they define their kits on their site. Unless you do a bit of site searching on two seperate pages, it can be very confusing what you will actually be recieving when you order a kit. It would really help things if they would change the name of either their 'Standard Kit' and 'Industry standard kit' The names are way too similar for kits that are so dramatically different.

They have their Standard kit which is basically a scratch build kit. All they do is supply the raw wood and material to build a guitar. Top and back need to be joined, rosette needs to be routed, soundhole needs cut, neck needs glued up and carved, braces need cut and carved, sides need bent, fingerboard needs thicknessed, radiused, and slotted, etc. Basically all they do is package all the wood together so you don't have to go to different suppliers.



Here is an unserviced kit.

Then they have their serviced kits. These come in two varieties - Industry standard and LMI professional.

Their industry standard is essentially the same as a stewmac or martin kit. Things like bending, neck carving, figerboard building are all done for you. They do have you cut and shape the braces yourself which is different than Stewmac but after having built both a stewmac and LMI serviced kit, they are essentially the same thing.

Their LMI professional is the same as the Insustry standard except they also add tuners, use better wood, and have different fingerboard/peghead options.



This is an LMI serviced industry standard (with some upgrades to the wood) kit.

Hopefully that clears up what LMI sells. I know it took me a few times reading their site before I actually understood what options they had. I think they should re-write the section of their site explaining the kit differences. It would have definately helped me!

My Blog

Apr 25, 07 | 2:31 pm



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