A couple of weeks ago a friend told me about a store I had never heard of called Solo Guitars. He said they sold kits that were really inexpensive and after my experience with the cheap Van Halen guitar I decided to check it out. I’ve always wanted an Explorer so I ordered one of their kits. It was only $270 (15% off during Boxing Week) and it arrived a few days later.
Part of the reason I ordered it was that I really want to come up with my own design similar to how Eddi Van Halen had his look that he did on most of his guitars. So this was perfect! I would finally have an Explorer, plus I got to build it, something I love to do, and I get to paint it however I want!
Unfortunately I am definitely NOT a graphic designer so it will take me a while to come up with a design I like so in the meantime I decided to build the guitar. It didn’t take very long, about 3 hours, and everything went together fairly easily. Here’s a quick tour of that process.
Following the instructions I started with the tuners.
Next I inserted the posts for the bridge and tail piece. It really helps a lot to have a piece of wood to use while hammering them in. You have to take the ground wire that is already soldered to the volume pot and stick it through a hole so it is in contact with one of the pots so the electronics end up hanging from the back while you’re doing this. I taped them to the back to keep them controlled.
Next comes the wiring. You need to have a soldering iron ready for this. You have to unsolder the pickup selector switch and run the wires through the holes in the body and then resolder them.
The next minor problem was the wires that were presoldered to the pots. The wiring diagram I got from their website said it should be wired differently so I went with that, assuming that they have a standard wiring harness they supply with all guitars and you have to change it yourself to match the model you ordered. Again, not a big problem and after I soldered the pickup wires onto the pots everything worked perfectly.
The next problem was not specific to this guitar, it’s something I’ve seen in all guitars so I decided to do something about it. The problem is that all the wires running through the pickup cavities tend to get in the way of the pickups themselves and it makes it very difficult to position them properly and have them free to easily adjust the height. The solution was fairly simple. I chiseled some wood out where the holes come into the cavities so that the wires could be down at the bottom before they entered the cavity. That gets them out of the way and made it much easier to put the pickups in and align the holes.
Next I screwed up the pick guard.
Then it was time to add the neck. It fit snuggly and I had no issues at all with it.
Next came the bridge and the tailpiece. Very simple!
Then the knobs for the volume and tone controls. They went on easily but are snug so they wont come off.
Then it was time to put strings on it.
Tune it up!
Adjust the intonation
Check the neck. It was fine right out of the box!
Then… try it out!
It seemed ok so I took it into the studio and plugged it in.
And I don’t know what to say. To me, it’s perfect. It feels great to play, has loads of sustain, and a nice enough sound for me. I might try some different pickups later on but for now it’s ok. Keep in mind I’m not playing in front of a loud amp so I don’t know if they would feedback in weird ways or anything like that. They do have a very high output if you like that kind of thing.
So for $270 I have an Explorer that I am perfectly happy with. I’ve paid a lot more money for other guitars (thousands) and for a while I understood why a good Les Paul HP was so expensive. It seemed like the quality was significantly higher so it was worth it. But now I have this one and the Van Halen guitar from Alixpress that was only $370 and I am perfectly happy with both of them. We’ll see how they hold up over the coming years and I’ll reserve overall judgement for a while but for now I am absolutely shocked at how good these lower priced guitars can be! You might have to put a little work into them but that is it’s own reward anyway.
If you’re interested in building your own I do recommend this store: https://www.solomusicgear.com/