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Cardinal Instrument Review


Just want to say I have owned Sam's Mesquite (Madness) prototype for about a month now. None of the pictures of it in this thread do it justice.

Yes, Sam's photos are very good and certainly accurate. However, the camara didn't convey the finest details of color, patterns, wood-working and finishing artistry that I've been admiring since she came to me. The mesquite wood grain, body shape, neck, and headstock are perfect together. The balance and feel of the instrument are excellent. The neck and string action is perhaps the best of all my guitars--and I try to buy the best I can afford/find at the time. (Doh--, don't you?)

When Sam and I exchanged emails about the pending purchase and ongoing creation of MM (Mesquite Madness), there was no formal name for it. From the photos I had been leaning toward a masculine name based on the strong character of the guitar's design and wood character. As I've had time to become more familiar with her, I've realized that MM is a she. But, not a pretty painted doll face she or a Jessica Simpson she, not that there is anything wrong with that!

Sam has captured the American West Native American SHE. The oneness yet similtaneously vastness of nature/spirit I feel when I've been there. She is the answer to Cortez the Killer. She is Neil Young's Powderfinger in my hands. She can sing the soft tones of the infinite desert night sky and the gentle cool morning. She can do her chores effortlessly and without complaint. She can celebrate the noon day sun and step right into the shade when you just can't take the heat anymore. She can get up and go in an instant----from peaceful spirit to fearless screaming warrior as dictated by circumstance. She is both beautiful and hard. She can be anthing in between the extremes---again, like the West. It is the vast range of diversity and possibility that defines the West, not one climate or plant or rock. (says me)

Lest I be percieved of having fallen into the trap of giddy praise blinding me to critical (negative) evaluation, let me share the following observations. I cannot see the fret markers. Period. Even in good light (which I rarely have when I'm jamming) the dots are too small or too similar in color to the wood to stand out. I plan to have markers put on the side of the fretboard to correct this. When in the first position, where the neck becomes the headstock, there is a slight thickening that feels awkward to me. The way I fret strings and position my hand behind the neck means that there has been a need for me to make a slight adjustment when in the first position. I was surprised by this as I have never felt that (premature?) thickening of the neck to accomodate the headstock dimensions in any other guitar I've ever tried. Thankfully, this has become automatic and is now irrelavant to me. But, at first, it was odd and took a little while to become unnoticeable to me. Control placement locations are fine. But, the direction the switch moves seems odd. I tried spinning it around in the cavity as I have in other guitars, my Duo-Jet in particular, yet cannot change the direction of the switch travel. Obviously, not a big deal. Do you see how hard it is to find substanstive flaws with my Cardinal Instrument? O.K., here is an example. You decide if this is a positive or negative observation. The very first moment I attempted to put a guitar strap on it, the strap button screw simply snapped. The button went off somewhere on the floor and I was left wondering, and I quote, "What the Fu_k!!!!!" I had never broken a strap button! I was sure I didn't do anything wrong, or did I? I mean, how many thousand times have I slipped a strap on or off an instrument??? Never saw this before. Trying to get familiar with a new instrument in the seated only position is not for me. When I emailed Sam the news, he promptly, and I mean promptly, replied with supportive remarks. He assured me the screw must have been defective. He offered to pay for shipping both ways to fix it but I said I didn't want to give him one more chance to keep this guitar, 'cause it's that amazing looking. I described the damage that the sheared screw had done to the wood around the hole and the nice 1 inch scratch pointing in the direction of the lost button somewhere across the floor. He overnighted me a new strap button assembly, two drill bits, one screw remover bit, a wood dowel, steel wool, and tung oil. He wrote out step by step directions for removing the buried shaft, for filling the hole with the dowel and glue, for redrilling and installing the new button, and for removing the scratch with steel wool and tung oil. This was my first repair of this kind. Despite my decided lack of handy-man skills, it came out great. The new button covers the old space perfectly and has held strong the last 3-4 weeks. Not only did the scratch come out, I learned how to do two very useful repairs! I have enjoyed looking over my other guitars for similar scratches to repair using Sam's steel wool and tung oil!

I took a chance on Cardinal Instruments. My only experience with them is the thread in TGP. I saw that hunk of wood in one of those photos and was smitten. Buying sight unseen from a small non-local manufacturer via the internet was a big risk for me. I'm here to tell you it is true what they say; "You can't win if you don't play." I'm very, very happy with Sam of Cardinal Instruments and my Mesquite Madness.

Bob E from CT


Sam's guitars do look great ( i want one! ).
I'm a big fan of the woods and materials he uses.
It's nice to see a builder who makes what he wants and not carbon copies of other instruments.

Sam Evans

Compliance Officer
Thanks again, bobe!!

Some of the issues bobe illuminates are responded to on the Cardinal thread in the manufacturers section. Suffice it to say, dots are now larger and black.

I said it before - I miss that guitar, because it was built with my needs/wants in mind. From the dots to neck/headstock transition. Cardinal will always have a soft spot for it, and rightfully so. She's a BEAST!!!



Cardinal guitars are truly unique. I had the pleasure of playing a couple of them. They are reasonably priced and Sam is a pleasure to deal with.


Oh look! This is a thing I can change!
I cant wait for mine. Mesquite and all black hardware/pickups. It should be a nice tele-esque alternative to my Blackmachine :)

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