Before Xmas last year, we put in a order for no less than twelve guitar kits from Aiersi - a guitar manufacturer in China. Independent reviewers rate them quite highly and there are plenty of Youtube videos where non-experts all say they're very happy with them.
We put in a custom order, requiring the fingerboards to be supplied separate from the necks (so they can be amended before fitting with our guitar lights pcbs) so had a mimimum order of six per design. Having a few people express an interest in our guitar lights already, and wanting to try out a couple of colours, we ordered six red and six white stratocasters (Personally, I'd have liked a Les Paul style and a Flying V but, to begin with, the old Stratocaster seemed like a safe bet to make sure everything worked as it should)
Having already bought an (unfinished) guitar kit from on online supplier, we weren't expecting much. The order actually arrived late (it was supposed to be with us on the 20th Jan, but when we inquired at the time, it still had yet to be shipped) but the factory did take the extra time to double-check a few details with us, so we were prepared to allow an extra few days.
This morning, one large box (of three being shipped) arrived at Nerd Towers. It contained four stratocaster guitar kits. Each kit was well packed
And contained a guitar body, already wired and fitted with a scratchplate. The finish on the body is very good - far better than we managed to get with tins of car spray paint and lacquer! Ok, the choice of colour was limited (we didn't have a massive budget for this as we're still not sure of demand) but the finish is very, very good
The necks are finished with a very light lacquer. The neck is nice and slim, and the finish is not too glossy or "sticky" as some cheaper guitars tend to be. It's actually feels very nice - a thousand times better than the neck that came with our earlier kit.
The quality of the fingerboard is far, far better than we could have expected. The online kit we bought last time had a very pale, brown fingerboard.
We were expecting a similar quality wood but the fingerboards supplied in our kits are a lovely dark - almost black - colour, completely blemish free (of the ones we've inspected) with a nice, tight grain running through them.
The neck sits nice and snugly in the pocket (unlike our earlier cheap online kit which had massive gaps around it) and - somewhat surprisingly, albeit a pleasant surprise - our fingerboards are not the cheaper 21-fret jobs, but have 22-frets
This means the fingerboard has a slight overhang from the neck. But that's not unusual. Almost all 22-fret necks have the same design. Here's one on Amazon :
It also means that - once again, unlike our, frankly-by-now rather shonky looking earlier guitar kit - there's no chance of the fingerboard being just that slightly bit too short, revealing the badly fitted neck-and-pocket underneath (that's the badly fitted pocket on the earlier kit, not these Aiersi guitars!)
All of the hardware looks bright and shiny, the tuning pegs are lubricated without being greasy or sticky. The bits of barbed wire that have been supplied as strings don't look to be anything like Ernie Ball Slinky No. 9s but they'll do, just to get it set up and playable! There's even a guitar lead (although, compared to the quality of the rest of the guitar, isn't, let's say, of the best quality).
At first we were a little disappointed that the bridge hadn't been pre-drilled. But after reading up online, it seems that ensuring the bridge is square and the correct distance from the nut is quite critical. And there are plenty of examples of poorly drilled guitar bodies online - so StewMac (the ultimate online guitar kit/building resource) recommends drilling the bridge yourself, wherever possible). So we're only too happy to put a little bit of extra effort - if the bridge is poorly aligned, we'll only have ourselves to blame!
Something we hadn't been aware of, until comparing these (far superior quality) kits to the earlier one we bought, was the grain on the guitar neck. In a factory using cheap or low quality wood, the grain doesn't always follow the direction of the neck. On our earlier kit, the grain runs at an angle, giving a "diagonal stripe" effect to the grain. On these Aiersi kits, the grain runs perfectly along the neck.
With the fingerboard in place, and the tuning pegs fitted, the guitar looks pretty nice! (no prizes for spotting that we placed the phono jack upside down in this photo!)
We double-checked the hardware against the screws provided and were pleased to see that everything matched up. There's no need for anything more, other than a drill and a screwdriver, to fit all the hardware to the instrument.
Now we'd been told that our twelve guitars were being shipped in three parcels, each with four guitars in. So the question was, do we have four red ones (since the first one we'd opened was red) or was this the box with a mix of red and white?
The second guitar we took out of the box looked just as awesome.
So there we have it. Aeirsi Guitars. Make great guitars. And great-looking kits.
It'll probably be a couple of days before we get time to fully build one and set it up, to give a proper review of the actual guitar. But so far, our expectations have been well and truly exceeded!