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Author Topic:  Kits and/or parts?
Gino Iorfida

Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA
Post Posted 18 Dec 2002 2:23 am     Reply with quote

If you look at the 6 string market, there are TONS of companies selling 'aftermarket' parts from bridges,tuning gears, bodies and necks.
-- I can understand that with the proprietary nature of a lot of steels out there, that it may not be completely possible, but I'm surprised a few people aren't doing so for some of the more 'popular' brands (i.e. Emmons, ShoBud, MSA etc).

Even some mfr's sell the parts (Fender for one and better yet is Carvin, you can buy a completed guitar from them, or get the 'kit' form, and do your own finishing) I would like to see some of the guys out there offer such a service. I think it would increase some sales for the company, as well as cut a MAJOR portion of the cost from the purchase -- we all know how many hours go into the actual assembly etc. The way it is now, if I wanted to say try a Carter instead of my MSA, I would either have to save money from gigs for a LONG time, then buy one, and sell the MSA etc, and if it's not what i am looking for, sell it, lose a good bitand try a Zum or whatever. If these guys would sell the kit however, You could be able to try something different much sooner, and if you weren't satisfied, as long as it was done right, you could sell it and not lose much at all (in fact, you may even be able to break even)

For the steels hat are 'handmade' down to each individual roller etc, I'm sure the cost of a 'kit' woudn be about half of the 'completed' steel, however, take one with more 'mass produced' parts, and now you would be MUCH better as far as pricing...

anyone else ever thought about this?
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Ed Naylor

portsmouth.ohio usa, R.I.P.
Post Posted 18 Dec 2002 6:03 am     Reply with quote

I have had "Kits" for sale for years.Starting back around 1972 with my PedesonicFiberglass Guitar.Kits are available for Lap or Pedal Steel. Ironically I was in Athens Ohio yesterday and passed the building I rented to "Kix" Stewart in 1964 which got him into business and later to become Stewart_McDonald.I have lots of photos of Guitars that "DO it yourselfers" have Built. Just because parts are available don't assume you can build the world's best guitar. Ed Naylor Steel Guitar Works.
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Jim Smith

Valley Ranch (north Irving), TX, USA
Post Posted 18 Dec 2002 6:53 am     Reply with quote

I agree with Ed. Assembly of a pedal steel guitar is the easiest part, making and finishing the parts prior to assembly is what costs all the time and money.

At Dekley, we made approximately 75% of the parts in our shop, the rest were either standard parts, like legs and tuning keys or custom parts like stampings for the changer that we didn't have the machinery and/or manpower to make. It took us roughly four man days to make the parts and only one man day to assemble, tune and adjust, and ship one.

I believe Carter has all their parts made elsewhere so they just assemble and ship. That saves them a lot of floor space and money, which is one of the reasons their price is lower than other builders' guitars, IMHO.
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Bob Blair

Edmonton, Alberta, Canada
Post Posted 18 Dec 2002 8:52 am     Reply with quote

I remember reading that JayDee assembled at least one of his own Emmons P/P's. I don't imagine most players would be able to do that efficiently or effectively. Unskilled assembly can no doubt lead to all sorts of problems, and as Jim says the actual assembly is not the lion's share of the cost. What would take Jim Smith a day would take someone like me many frustrating days I'm sure. And there is always a possibility of damaging expensive parts in the process (I remember some of my less successful car repair ventures as being financial disasters). I think that for most of us the portion of the cost that goes to assembly of the instrument is a bargain. For someone with a lot of aptitude, it could be fun though, even if it didn't save a lot of money.

[This message was edited by Bob Blair on 18 December 2002 at 08:52 AM.]

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Gino Iorfida

Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA
Post Posted 18 Dec 2002 9:08 am     Reply with quote

more kits available would also mean less wait involved.

And I do agree with Ed, that buying a kit owuld not gurantee the perfect guitar, since basic mechanical and woodworking skills would dictae results etc. just as it is with the 'kit 6-strings' on the market. I have seen some that have been put together, and look worse than a jr. high shop project, and I've seen others, done by someone with some experience and knowhow, that came out looking, and playing, and sounding better than some $3,000 custom deal

You would think carter would be one of the first to jump on the bandwagon with a complete kit, since they do have the parts outsourced. TO put the parts in a box, and maybe silkscreen a different name, (or no name at all would be better-- keep someone form trying to pass off a poorly done kit as the real deal etc) and ship that at a fraction of what their premade steels are.

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Michael Johnstone

Sylmar,Ca. USA
Post Posted 18 Dec 2002 10:14 am     Reply with quote

Lots of people build replicas of antique steam engines,harpsichords,full size grandfather clocks,home-built airplanes,sailboats,cars and a whole lot of other seemingly difficult kit projects - sometimes with nothing more than a set of plans and have to make their own parts from scratch.So why the hell not a pedal steel? It's not for everybody mind you,but lots of guys I know could do it - and HAVE done it. -MJ-
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Rainer Hackstaette

Bohmte, Germany
Post Posted 18 Dec 2002 10:15 am     Reply with quote

I donīt think the argument "a kit is less expensive than an assembled guitar" holds much water. The kits for standard 6 string guitars on the market are rarely any better than a Squire made in China. They are okay for absolute beginners, but useless for a serious musician let alone a pro.

If you buy quality replacement parts from e.g. Fender, Gibson or ESP the sum of the parts is a lot more than the cost for a factory-assembled Strat or Tele.

In the late seventies a company named Market-Rite sold pedal steel kits. The models were called Mark I, Mark II, Mark III. Their cheapest student model S-10 3&1, the "Mark I Thinline", sold for $ 149.00 as a kit. It had the simplest either-raise-or-lower changer. It got me started on pedal steel, but trust me, you wouldnīt want to play one on stage! The 70īs Emmons P/P I got after that was a MAJOR mechanical improvement!!

In order to build a professional steel guitar from parts you would have to know exactly what you are doing. And how many of us have ever even taken their own steel apart - down to the last screw - and re-assembled it? Just the thought makes me shudder ...

Now if all steels came with the maximum pre-installed cross shafts so that upgrading the guitar with more pedals/knee levers were easier: that would make me very happy!


Remington D 10 8+7, Sierra Crown D 10 gearless 8+8, Sierra Session S 14 gearless 8+5, Peavey Session 400 LTD

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Michael T. Hermsmeyer

Branson, Missouri, USA
Post Posted 18 Dec 2002 12:15 pm     Reply with quote

It's hard to put a price on expertise.
Michael T.

'85 DOBRO 60DS, '95 DOBRO F60S,

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Donny Hinson

Glen Burnie, Md. U.S.A.
Post Posted 18 Dec 2002 12:35 pm     Reply with quote

I agree with Michael and Rainer, the customers who would most likely buy a kit probably wouldn't have the skills to put it together properly. The instruction manual alone would probably be between 50 and 100 pages! At least all steels that are custom or factory built are playable, and some of the "do it yourselfers" wouldn't be. That wouldn't be a very good advertisement for the manufacturer, now, would it?

[This message was edited by Donny Hinson on 18 December 2002 at 12:36 PM.]

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Walter Jones

Athens, Ohio USA
Post Posted 18 Dec 2002 12:43 pm     Reply with quote

I find this topic very interesting as well as most topics on the Forum. I suppose we could apply the same thinking to our automobiles but I doubt if there would be many takers.

Years ago you could buy a complete house from Sears & Robuck and take delivery at the nearest railhead, some of those homes still exist today and are on a scheduled tour in Marietta, Ohio.

I have been in Ham radio for 23 years and Heathkit has long since disappeared. The price of the kits, instructions and shipping exceeded the cost of a new radio ready to plug and play and came with a warrenty. In the end the only reward was the satisfaction of saying , "I built it myself."

On the lighter side I can't help but think of the song by Johnny Cash,"One Piece At A Time". I can only imagine how some steels would look and play as the assembly is completed by persons of different skill levels. Anyway fellow Forum members it is not my intent to offend anyone, have a very happy Holiday Season.

It's a 49,50,51,52,53,54 ,etc you get the idea.

[This message was edited by Walter Jones on 18 December 2002 at 12:45 PM.]

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Steven Black

Gahanna, Ohio, USA
Post Posted 18 Dec 2002 1:56 pm     Reply with quote

building a steel guitar is one thing,
getting it to play is a lot tougher if you
want it to sound good, best to leave it to the builders, it`s all in the Machining.
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Jack Anderson

Scarborough, ME
Post Posted 18 Dec 2002 3:42 pm     Reply with quote

As a musician who has built some pedal steel guitars almost from scratch, a ham operator who has built radios from kits and from scratch, a fisherman who makes plugs and ties flies, a shooter who messes with guns and reloads "improved" cartridges, and as a general dyed-in-the-wool, compulsive "do it yourselfer" who has also built things from houses to model airplanes, I have to be among the first to admit that the only value I can usually find in doing these things myself is that personal "I did it" feeling -- and it's only personal, because I don't always want to take the credit (blame) for my own work publicly! It is seldom better than what can be bought, and seldom cheaper. I built my first steel as a student in the early '70's because I didn't have the cash to buy a Sho-Bud or a Fender, but in retrospect I probably could have gotten a part time job and, in the time it took me to machine all the parts, etc., earned enough to buy something better than what I built. Even after I machined up a "kit" of the parts, just finishing and fitting them -- not to mention just figuring out how to make the damn thing work -- took a lot of time and effort. Now, even though I still think my first steel sounds sweet, I realize that there was no meaningful economic benefit to making it, or many of the other things that I have made. In fact, most of the guys who can really do well the things I have just dabbled in STILL don't make a lot of money at it. It's for something else -- love, I guess, or madness (or both). If you are motivated that way, go for it -- just don't kid yourself that you are going to save a lot of money, or come up with a better instrument. Maybe that's why Winnie went from his "The Steel" to a Kline. For my part, although I finally can afford to own the Sho-Bud AND the Fender that I wished I could buy back then, I still like to roll my own. They may be crummy efforts, but they're MY crummy efforts!

[This message was edited by Jack Anderson on 18 December 2002 at 03:43 PM.]

[This message was edited by Jack Anderson on 18 December 2002 at 03:44 PM.]

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James Quackenbush

Pomona, New York, USA
Post Posted 18 Dec 2002 3:49 pm     Reply with quote

I think that having the option of a kit would be a great idea..I also think that having parts available is a great option..If the person buying the kit thinks that they have the experience, and the desire, and the time to put their own steel together, more power to them...If they screw it up, they have themselves to blame.. I would love to have complete hardware to do a pedal steel sent to me, with a blueprint for a body !!.. I would experiment with different woods, and inlays, and be able to make steels that are not part of the norm... A personalized steel if you would ..It would be nice if there were kits offered with QUALITY parts..You could choose whatever parts you wanted, and not be restricted to what everybody else has..My first body would be a nicely figured Koa body with tons of green abalone inlay.. Variety is the spice of life !! If everything stayed the same, we wouldn't have an MSA Millenium, or a Williams crossover, or D-10 steels that weigh less than an S-10 did just 25 yrs ago !!..
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Gino Iorfida

Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA
Post Posted 18 Dec 2002 6:32 pm     Reply with quote

Exactly. Whey do I build my own tube amps? well in the case of the amps I want to build, I can't afford the real deal due to collectors value etc, and to be honest, most of the new tube amps out there are junk, but is it cheaper? Well put it shis way, I can build a Marshall Plexi type amp for about the same in parts as a new reissue would cost me, esp. if you add in my time... but mine will have MY tolex choice, MY tube choice, MY choice of jewel light, MY favorite output transformer etc.;... now if you consider I can get a colse enough, more modern sound from say a Peavey etc, for half the coxst then well why not...

I do agree, when you say 'quality' kits. You have had the Saga kits for years and other 'low end' kits for guitars, but the carvin kits are the same woods, hardware etc. as their high end models.. what is the difference? YOU are bolting it together, YOU are finishing it (and yes, folks ther IS a difference between spraying a coat or 2 of Polyurethane, vs. a multi-coat, sanding between coats glass like Laquer finish-- and this is where the skill shows etc). The end result with the carvin, the parts are so good, that if you can follow directions, you will ahve a good PLAYING guitar, and sound as good as any they produce, however it's the 'pretty' factor that will vary.

The best thing about the 'kit factor' would be -- the steel makers could sell more, it really woudnt cost them much more than jotting notes along the way as what they are doing etc., and as said before, if you mess up the kit, then it's your issue, not theirs.
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Ed Naylor

portsmouth.ohio usa, R.I.P.
Post Posted 19 Dec 2002 5:09 am     Reply with quote

Most people have no idea how many parts and variety of sources needed to actually build a Steel. I probably use some 200 suppliers in order to keep my business running. On many items the minimun order could be hundreds of dollars on item that maybe sells for pennies,but you have to have it.I have done this since 1970 and I still have difficulties on some items. Also almost daily I discover a new source. But a'int it fun???ED
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Karlis Abolins

(near) Seattle, WA, USA
Post Posted 19 Dec 2002 5:30 am     Reply with quote

I want to weigh in on the topic. This Summer I took apart a steel I had that I wanted to experiment with. I built a new body and put all of the pieces back on. It's my opinion that the list of parts that could be offered as a kit are:
End castings
Pedal bar
Pedal rods
Pedal crank (including knee lever) assemblies
Cross rods
Bell crank assemblies
All-pull changer unit including springs
integrated tuner-nut-headstock unit
Nylon tuning nuts

The parts that would not be included would be body, neck, and pull rods

If the parts were of the high quality Old-style MSA parts had, there would be no complaint about the mechanical side of the finished steel.

Having said all that,I have to addthe following observations. A dear friend of mine who has built several successful businesses once told me that "Business is business. You don't do it for love." This applies to the steel guitar business as well. If people want it, they will pay for it. If it is priced too high, they will not buy it and will look for something else. The problem with the steel guitar business is that there is little demand for a very cost-intensive product. The steel guitar is priced too high. You make money by selling units, whether it is finished products or parts.


[This message was edited by Karlis Abolins on 19 December 2002 at 06:13 AM.]

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Ed Naylor

portsmouth.ohio usa, R.I.P.
Post Posted 19 Dec 2002 9:32 am     Reply with quote

Lets look at reality. If Steels were more " Standardised" it would be simple. People want "Wide Bodies-Small light weight singles, 14 Pedals, 97 knee levers,Narrow pedals, Machined parts, Exotic fretboards, and on and on. Every Piano I know of has Middle C in the same place. I get hundreds of phone calls and E-Mails asking"What does that Knee thing do? Or I need the pedals in the middle,or like one E-mail- DO YOU HAVE THE THING THAT HOOKS IN THE HOOTER??.Never a boring minute. Ed
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Gino Iorfida

Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA
Post Posted 19 Dec 2002 9:38 am     Reply with quote

That is true about the 'standardized' part. Thank goodness so many things ARE adjustable on a steel.

I can imagine the types of calls you get, Ed, I worked for quite a few years doing tech supprot for a technical company, and the types of questions were unheard of (like trying to explain the difference between a 'male' and a 'female' cable connector to a person-- who of all things was a medical doctor!) *laugh*

btw, what IS the proper term for those little brass barrel thingamajobs that connect the pull rods to the bell cranks on the old MSA's?
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Ed Naylor

portsmouth.ohio usa, R.I.P.
Post Posted 19 Dec 2002 11:55 am     Reply with quote

The things connecting the rod to the bellcrank-are rod connectors.Most likely they have a 1/8 in hole and the rod has a 6-32 thread. Ed
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Joerg Hennig

Bavaria, Germany
Post Posted 19 Dec 2002 1:15 pm     Reply with quote

This may have been said before, but...
I think, rather than putting together a "kit" PSG, Iīd take a used older steel that needs some work, clean it up, replace broken parts etc, all in all, make it play really well and look good too, in doing so the personal satisfaction for me would be just as much, if not bigger, than assembling one from parts - even more so if itīs a "classic" like ShoBud or Emmons.
Iīve also assembled standard guitars from parts and while they play and sound reasonably well, itīs still something different - "Nice guitar, but I still wish I had the real thing." Just my point of view, of course.

Regards, Joe H.
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