Fretsong Guitars, Custom Build Issues

Ampegasaur

Member
Messages
3,630
I have been a member for a few years now, and never started a thread about a problem with a custom guitar builder before. I have had several custom guitars built through the years It is not my goal to attack this person, but share my personal experience by making it available to others.

I was looking at a Baritone Steinberger type instrument I could take on the road for me. Fretsong Guitars was recommended to me by someone involved with headless forums, and knowledgeable about these instruments as an alternative.

I contacted Paul, the owner of Fretsong Guitars to inquire about a custom build. I originally wanted a Moses graphite neck, and Fretsong to build a custom body, and set it up with hardware and electronics. Paul advised me Moses necks had issues, and he could build a much better neck with Carbon Fiber inserts for stability.

We agreed to a complete custom build with a Black Korina Body, Pau Ferro 1 piece neck, Ebony fretboard, and carbon fiber filets on the neck. 24 frets, with a 16" radius. Jescar medium jumbo frets, and 2 EMG X series pickups. Oil Finsh on the body, and satin finish on the neck. J-Custom Hardtail Bridge, and headpiece.
He advised me 3-4 months on the build time. His prices were very reasonable for a custom guitar, and a web search did not turn up any negative comments regarding his work. I decided to move forward with the build.

I paid half of the guitar cost up front, and also sent the money for the hardware and electronics. He purchased the items at his cost directly from his vendors. Again, very reasonably priced. We discussed the specs along the way for the first few months, and made sure this was understood by both of us. The original contact was in October 2012

After 4 months, my e-mails began to not get a response. Often taking days or weeks to get a reply. Paul has dealt with some health issues apparently over the last few years. When I finally received a response, I was advised he was experiencing health issues. I was advised it would be ready in a few weeks with pictures. Then silence again. Then his internet was down. Then he had a problem with his landlord. Then he had to move. Then more health problems. Then a bug fried his computer. Then more health problems. This went on for over a year. Each time a promise of just a few more weeks with pictures to come. He also relocated from North Carolina to Wyoming during this time.

Finally after, stating I wanted my money back in full, and wanted to cancel my order. I was assured that the guitar would be ready by the end of October 2013. Then, by the end of November. Then finally December 2013 I advised I was done, and either a guitar immediately, or my money back. I finally received a guitar from Paul 12-14-2013. 14 months after the initial order. I sent the remaining portion of the amount owed. He agreed to take a percentage off due to the length of time. I accepted and Paypalled the requested amount.

I checked the guitar out thoroughly to make sure everything was as specified.

* 2 cracks in the body alongside the neck that clearly had finish applied on top of the cracks, they were there prior to finish being applied.
* Polyurethane finish applied, instead of the oil finish agreed upon. Wood absorbed the finish leaving bubbles all over the guitar body.
* Very poorly cut neck pocket leaving a huge gap between the body and back of the neck.
* Horribly routed electronics cavity, and wood maple cavity cover that did not fit or match.
* Every route for the pickups, battery cover, and outlet jack was cut crooked.
* The High E String fretted out above the 7th fret. This could not be corrected with a truss rod adjustment.
* The guitar for some reason had 25 frets

The neck, however was beautiful, with a satin finish and agreed upon woods. Almost looked like a different person made the neck. Except for the fretting out, the neck appeared to be quite nice.

I contacted fretsong via e-mail, and advised I wanted a full refund, the guitar was of poor quality, and after 14 months it should be well made and playable.

I was advised I could install a piezo pickup in the neck pocket, and the gap was not a big deal. He initially said the guitar was fine, and no refund would be given.

I sent pictures of the through body cracks in the body, and he said it must have happened in shipping because of dry wood. The finish was very clearly applied over the cracks. I again asked for a full refund.

He replied he wanted me to send the guitar back to him, and he would make a new body that would be of better quality. I advised after 14 months, numerous broken promises, I was not comfortable with sending him the guitar, unless it was with a full refund. He refused.

I was told all the hardware, electronics were now my property, and he would not take them back. A full refund would not be given, only a rebuild. I took it to my local luthier who has done a lot of work for me, with over 30 years of experience. He confirmed my findings, and recommended a full refund also. I asked my luthier if he could build a body with the neck, if it was good, and he stated he could. Upon initial inspection, the neck looked fine. I again asked for a full refund, and again was refused.

Because I still needed a guitar, and Paul refused ton give me a 100% refund, asked Fretsong for a refund on the body only. My local luthier would build a proper body with the neck and hardware. Initially he refused, so I put a Paypal dispute in for the last payment I made. Paul became angry, and said he would give me the last amount I paid. I dropped the dispute, and he did refund the amount of the body. This all happened around Christmas time, and took a few weeks to get resolved.

I thought this was resolved, and was going to take a loss, and consider it lesson learned. i was wrong. It turns out the neck frets were not laid out properly, and when my luthier began to take measurements for the new body, he found this out. No matter what he did the neck could not be intonated above the 12th fret. 1-12 were fine, but 13-25 impossible to intonate properly. Flat no matter what was done with the bridge. My luthier never removed the neck from the body, or disassembled, other than removing the strings. I contacted Fretsong again, advised of the neck situation, and I wanted to return the guitar, and the rest of my money refunded. He refused, insulted my luthier, and advised I was trying to scam him. I just had buyer's remorse, and I owned the hardware. it was 100% my problem.

This is where I currently am. A guitar that cannot be used, hardware that is specialty, and will be sold at a huge loss. I could have a guitar built by someone else with the hardware, but a longer wait, and of course even more money. I don't what else to do, so here I am. This is my last recourse, and filing charges against him. I advised him I would go the different forums, and pursue charges against him. It really is more about the principal than the money at this point. To wait 14 months, after being lied to consistently, then to receive something of such poor quality, and completely unusable is very frustrating. Pictures will follow, and sorry for the extremely long post.
 
Last edited:

raja

Member
Messages
582
This is really unfortunate, while I didn't look at all the photos, I looked at most and would agree that fretsong should give you back your legal tender, you should not have to eat that.
 

Guitar Josh

Resident Curmudgeon
Gold Supporting Member
Messages
19,151
It's amazing to me how every custom boutique builder suffers from an illness which causes their non responsiveness and total lack of customer service. Must be contagious.
 

Mandrax

Member
Messages
1,602
Just sue him. If you're confident your local luthier is correct about the neck, sue the guy. You have to be sure this latest luthier isn't just trying to get extra cash out of you by saying the neck is all wrong. Tell him you are going to sue the other guy and would like to use his expert opinion as part of the case. If he backs off, he's probably trying to scam you too. Why didn't you use your local guy in the first place by the way?

Chances are, if this Fretsong cowboy receives a letter from a lawyer who is willing to take the case to court, he'll just pay up and save himself having to pay all the associated costs if he loses. Don't *****foot around with these people, go in hard and force him to make a decision, pay up or take his chances in the legal system and risk paying MUCH more.
 
Last edited:

Ampegasaur

Member
Messages
3,630
Just sue him. If you're confident your local luthier is correct about the neck, sue the guy. You have to be sure this latest luthier isn't just trying to get extra cash out of you by saying the neck is all wrong. Tell him you are going to sue the other guy and would like to use his expert opinion as part of the case. If he backs off, he's probably trying to scam you too. Why didn't you use your local guy in the first place by the way?

Chances are, if this Fretsong cowboy receives a letter from a lawyer who is willing to take the case to court, he'll just pay up and save himself having to pay all the associated costs if he loses. Don't *****foot around with these people, go in hard and force him to make a decision, pay up or take his chances in the legal system and risk paying MUCH more.
I am 100% my luthier is not trying to scam me, he is a close friend. Now he makes no money, since he cannot make a body to complete the guitar. I did not use my friend, because Fretsong was supposed to be an expert on headless guitars, that is all he does. The time frame he quoted in the beginning, was a decent turn around. Hindsight is always 20/20 in these situations. I am pursuing criminal charges, civil will be tougher and quite expensive. We are also in different states.
 

Shane Sanders

Member
Messages
1,578
Just saw this info on another forum but didn't realize it was you. Sorry to hear this! Now it makes sense about you looking at a Moses neck.
 

Gclef

Member
Messages
3,117
Damn! Yet another custom build gone south.

When will you guys learn? Go to the Super established guys where there is less chance of a catastrophe.

25 frets seems like he miscalculated his initial measurements and didn't find out until the end and said f - - - it and added the extra fret to "salvage" the neck.
 

Ampegasaur

Member
Messages
3,630
Did you research him before hand? He's had issues in the past.
Yes I did. At the time there was nothing negative. Lots of positives here on TGP. The person who referred me is them head of another forum, and well known in the headless guitar community. He is a prominent member here, but this not on him. This guy just went south.
 

Ampegasaur

Member
Messages
3,630
Damn! Yet another custom build gone south.

When will you guys learn? Go to the Super established guys where there is less chance of a catastrophe.

25 frets seems like he miscalculated his initial measurements and didn't find out until the end and said f - - - it and added the extra fret to "salvage" the neck.
He was well known for these type of guitars, I also own a few Suhrs, and several other custom guitars from different builders. He seemed to check out at the time. This is why this is here, to make others aware.
 

Be.eM

Member
Messages
1,206
When will you guys learn? Go to the Super established guys where there is less chance of a catastrophe.
Within the headless community he WAS an established builder. There's not that much of a choice. Bill Wilkat stopped making instruments some years ago, DeLap is a totally different price range, Rick Canton is still there. Those are the names you'll find e.g. when asking on SteinbergerWorld.

Yes I did. At the time there was nothing negative. Lots of positives here on TGP. The person who referred me is them head of another forum, and well known in the headless guitar community. He is a prominent member here, but this not on him. This guy just went south.
Not the head of a forum. Just of the Steinieland website :)

Bernd
 

Gas-man

Unrepentant Massaganist
Messages
18,611
Yes I did. At the time there was nothing negative. Lots of positives here on TGP. The person who referred me is them head of another forum, and well known in the headless guitar community. He is a prominent member here, but this not on him. This guy just went south.
I suspect we hear about only a fraction of the bad builds that take place.

Many guys are either embarrassed they paid so much for a POS or they need to sell the guitar to another member so they don't say a word.

"Health issues" has been used over and over again by excuse-making builders.
 

Ampegasaur

Member
Messages
3,630
Within the headless community he WAS an established builder. There's not that much of a choice. Bill Wilkat stopped making instruments some years ago, DeLap is a totally different price range, Rick Canton is still there. Those are the names you'll find e.g. when asking on SteinbergerWorld.



Not the head of a forum. Just of the Steinieland website :)

Bernd
No problem with you. Bernd, you never know when someone can go south. There is always Ed Roman (just kidding). On a more serious note, I think peekamoose still does some stuff too. I should have just bought a new Steinberger to begin with.
 

Ampegasaur

Member
Messages
3,630
Received emails from other folks who have had similar problems. Feel free to share your story here. Hopefully people can get some resolution, and save others from the same fate.
 




Trending Topics

Top