Harley Benton SC Guitar Kit.
This kit was purchased to review the quality, fit and finish of the Thomann HB kits, then to use the kit as a platform for and extreme modification project.
The kit arrived a few months ago, and has now been opened, reviewed and initial assembly completed.
Please keep in mind, this is a ± $92 US, guitar KIT, it is not a finished guitar and likely has a different QC process than does a finished guitar.
A few examples of QC would be attention to the fret ends, the fit of the neck plate, potential electronic wiring issues, and some discrepancies in the parts bags.
NECK & BODY:
In general, the body and neck are very well made for a "semi-raw" wood kit. The body has an initial sealer coating applied, it is a clear coating only to control the wood fibers slightly. It is not a filler, nor level coating, just a sealer of some sort.
The neck is coated with a satin finish, but is far more refined than the body. The neck could be used as delivered on a completed guitar. The body is rather rough, and should be refined through sanding and other sealer and finish methods.
The dual-action truss rod works well.
FRETBOARD & FRETS:
The fretboard and inlays look good and well manufactured, however it appears a final sanding set was skipped. The fretboard has a slight coarseness to the feel, like the final sanding was done with 100 grit material. The frets are reasonably well set, and this is the first HB guitar that I have seen some sort of glue used with the frets. The fret ends should be addressed before doing any assembly work on this kit, as the guitar I received will slice your hands to pieces. The jagged fret ends are everywhere, nearly every fret. The fret wire will also need to be cleaned, and polished. There is some fine gritty coating on the wire, with fretted notes or bends this coating, or film, will be evident.
When the frets are leveled, crowned and polished this issue will be moot.
These are rather low quality items. The only reason I say this is because at least one of the 6 in my kit are bad. In general the others function well, there is some slop in the string post, but otherwise the tuning button shaft works well, except for that 1 tuner. The one bad tuner is bound up and will barely turn. I will be replacing the entire set of tuners.
The pickups are wax potted, and marked N, for neck, and B for bridge.
Both pickups have single, two wire leads which include the plug ends. The Neck pickup has a "white" sheathed lead, and the Bridge has a "black sheathed lead (on my kit). The Electronics have matching coloring - so it should go together intuitively - It should.
The supplied switch has a good positive feel and is prepped with Plug-n-play connectors. Of course the plug-n-play feature fails as the kit can easily be connected incorrectly. So, some shuffling of connectors may be required. This kit is likely intended for someone who may not have soldering equipment, and the presumed "ease" of plugging components together will likely help sales. I expect some purchasers to experience frustration if they connect the switch leads in the wrong pairing - they may get NO sound…
The pots volume and tone all function as they should, and once I swapped a couple connectors all components worked properly.
The wiring feeds easily threw the routed passages in the body. There is ample wire length on each component. In fact, there is almost too much wire included.
BRIDGE & STOP TAIL:
These are typical low cost TOM style bridge components. The quality is average, and some "repair" may be needed on the bridge. My bridge had an issue with the retainer springs that hold the saddle screws in place. 2 of the 4 springs needed to be removed, slightly bent to improve tension, and reassembled. Not a big deal, but the bridge would be a serious issue without this adjustment/repair.
This is not the first HB TOM bridge that I've had to adjust in this way, it seems to be a rather typical issue, but easily resolved.
VARIOUS HARDWARE & COMPONENTS:
As the kit comes, there are a few little bags containing all the bits and pieces. You should do an inventory of all the screws, washers and parts that you receive in the kit before beginning assembly. My kit arrived a couple washers short, but has a few extra trim screws.
Even for a $92 US kit, the biggest flaw I can't overlook is the poor fit of the neck mounting plate. At a glance it looks nice and appears to be contoured to match the cut of the body, but that is NOT the case.
It seems like it is the wrong neck plate for this guitar. The holes all align with the body and neck, the screws all seat properly, but the end of the plate doesn't follow the body shape. The neck plate protrudes beyond the body contour slightly, but obviously wrong.
Perhaps Thomann/Harley Benton changed a template at one time and this was overlooked, or the Mfg just shipped the wrong part, I don't know.
It works, but looks - wrong.
The overall collection of "parts" is pretty good, there are some flaws in the bits and pieces, but this is an affordable/ cheap kit. It is honestly better than any kit I've worked on at slightly higher prices. So, I have to give Thomann and HB credit for a good attempt, it's almost right.
This may not be a great kit for someone with NO tools or troubleshooting ability, but it can be turned into a decent guitar. It will just take some work.