On the 19th of January 2011, I placed an order my first custom built guitar. After doing a heap of research online and checking out many forum posts and YouTube videos, I decided to buy my guitar from Brian Smiles Estes aka Big B Smiles of RnB Custom Guitars.
Initially I contacted Brian several times, asking if I could get an S-style guitar built, and what the quality of the guitar would be like compared to a Fender, because, at the time I had my eye on a Fender Custom Shop Stratocaster, he assured me that the guitar I would receive from him would be equal, if not better that a Fender Custom Shop guitar, Yippee I thought. A one of a kind, custom made guitar, built just for me, and it is going to cost less that a Fender Custom Shop.
After a long, 9 month wait, yes I waited nine months for my order, I finally received my guitar. Below are some pics of the guitar I received. I will leave it up to you to decide whether or not it is as good as a Fender Custom shop, as I was originally promised by Brian.
First up, lets have a look at the neck joint.
The String Tree.
Next, I would like you to have a look at the placement of the string tree, this is amazing. The first pics are taken with the strings under the guides of the string tree.
Now, we’ll look at the placement of the string tree when the strings run from the nut, straight through to the tuners
A close-up look at the positioning of the tuning pegs…
The Guitar was Shipped with the Tremolo Arm Screwed into the Bridge
The big arc you can see in the next pic was caused by the tremolo arm. The guitar was shipped in a soft Fender gig bag, inside of a Fender Squire cardboard box with the tremolo arm screwed into the bridge. Which I am assuming why the tremolo arm was bent on arrival, so when I tried unscrewing the arm, because it was bent, the angle caused it to be pressed hard up against the body, causing the paint to be indented, bruised or however you would describe the damage.
The trem block was also damaged, the thread inside of the hole for the tremolo arm was elongated, rendering the tremolo unusable.
The String Spacing
If you haven’t picked up on it already from the pics of the string tree above, have a close look at how the strings sit on the nut.
I got a bit technical with the next photos, using a set of digital verniers to measure the inside spacing between strings. I know that having an exact string space between six strings would be impossible and not entirely practical, but I will leave it up to you to decide whether or not the variations in string spacings here is “Custom Shop Quality” or not. The measurements you see are in inches.
So there you have it, my custom built guitar by Brian Smiles Estes of www.rnbcustomguitars.com.
I did contact Big B Smiles after receiving the guitar, asking for a refund, but he rejected that idea. He did however offer to build me a new guitar on the condition I send this one back, but, I would have to pay all of the freight costs involved, which would of set me back at least another $500.00 to ship this one back to the U.S. and have a new one shipped to Australia, I rejected that offer.
I have since repainted the body, replaced the different sized screws that were used for screwing on the pick guard, for screws that are all of the same size and appearance, as well as replaced the pick up height adjustment screws, so they are also all of the same size.
Here are some pics of the original screws used to screw on the pick guard.
I also had to replace the bridge, a friend has very kindly given me a Callaham bridge. Thanks Bert, your a very generous friend, I appreciate your friendship and generosity a lot.
In all fairness to Brian, the parts used were of a good quality, the Klein pick-ups sound amazing, the Kluson deluxe tuners are very cool and he did do a great job of wiring up the guitar, but it’s obvious that the Allparts neck that was used on this guitar was second hand, I kinda figured that from the fret ware on the second and third frets. I did take a photo, but you can’t see it from the image.