ebay guitar buying

I’d caught a bug for a D’Angelico 335-style guitar. A customer had brought one for a setup and I was in awe. So I spent hours shopping online making the kind of lowball offers that tend to get nasty replies if any at all.

Then – a bite! Even lower than the “Stupid Deal of the Day” that I’d procrastinated on and missed. And the seller says he’d only played the guitar twice. Sweet!

So I pulled the trigger and waited. And waited. Three days later, the seller sends a semi-nasty email wanting to know when I was going to pay. I’d paid when I clicked the button, of course.

Turns out the seller hadn’t used ebay in years and his ebay email didn’t match his PayPal email, so PayPal was holding the funds for him. It took him another day to sort that out. Then he begged off a couple more days before shipping because he was busy or something.

Finally he said he shipped the guitar – U.S.P.S. Now, the Post Office wasn’t the preferred way to ship guitars even before this DeJoy fellow was put in charge. I asked several times for a tracking number and finally got one. But even a week after it was shipped, it didn’t show the guitar ever leaving the first facility. Fun!

About two weeks later, it did finally arrive, but with a large hole punched through the box and several smaller holes that appeared to have been made by an errant AR-15.

Somehow the D’Angelico managed to stay unharmed, but looked nothing like a “like-new” guitar – dusty and a bit dirty with tarnished pickup covers, corroded strings.

D'Angelico missing jack
Output Jack? What Output Jack?

But that wasn’t the worst of it. I tuned the strings and went to plug the guitar in only to discover that the jack was inside the body. Keep in mind, this is a semi-hollow. There are no cavity covers you can remove to easily access things. You want access? Try putting my big-fat fingers through the F-holes. Nope. That ain’t gonna work. Next option, remove the bridge pickup. B***s***!

Thankfully, as a guitar tech, I’ve been to this rodeo before. I fashioned a bit of a hook at the end of a stiff wire that I keep just for F-hole guitars. I pushed the wire through the jack delicately so as not to knock it the rest of the way into the body and caught the hook on the backside of the jack then carefully pulled the jack out far enough to expose some threads.

Next, I got a washer and nut (No, they were not found in the packaging. I had to use my own inventory.), slid them down the wire and threaded the nut while retaining pressure on the wire. I finished up with my “secret weapon”, a little gadget made for tightening jacks like this.

Finally, ready to play the thing. But I was quickly stopped by an entire hive of bees swarming around me! At least, that’s what it sounded like. A quick check showed that not only was the saddle height way low (0.040″) but the neck had a backbow. Backbows are often the result of a DIY setup by a guy “learning” on YouTube.

“Just tighten the truss rod until everything is right.” Yup! Then, if you don’t strip it out, you can bring it to me for a proper setup!

I put the guitar aside until the next day (today) and did a “proper setup”.

I made sure every fret was level, cleaned and conditioned the fretboard, polished the frets, set neck relief, saddle heights, etc. Installed new D’Addario #9’s, stretched the strings and tuned up.

Then I set intonation which was a mile off – probably that way from the factory – but it adjusted well.

The only other issue I discovered was that the hi-e nut slot is dangerously low. Not low enough to buzz though, so it’s fine for now. Nut slots are a bit like taking photos at the Grand Canyon where the closer to the edge you get, the better the photo, but if you go too farrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr!

As long as the open-e doesn’t buzz it’s great because the lower the slots, the better the intonation – especially in the cowboy frets where I play!

Tonight, I’ll find out if I enjoy playing the D’Angelico better than my Ibanez AS70 and my Firefly 338. I haven’t even decided the contest between the Firefly and the Ibanez yet, but let’s through another into the mix and make it really interesting!

So what’s the problem? The seller wasn’t targeting guitar techs. His ad was open to the public. Now what if some teenager – maybe the child of a single parent, had worked mowing lawns all summer to buy this guitar? What if he wasn’t experienced with PayPal and able to tell the seller how to get his money? What if he lacked the confidence to pressure the seller to finally ship the guitar?

Only the bottom tool worked for this one

What if the buyer didn’t know how to fix the jack problem? And how many guitar players have just the right size Allen wrench to properly adjust the neck relief and fix the backbow? I don’t just mean any old 4mm Allen wrench. Stewmac’s special, tapered tool wouldn’t turn it. A normal Allen wrench is too short on one length and too long on the other. It was a bit like the Three Bears – and I had one that was “Just right!”.

So this story could have been an awful nightmare if I hadn’t been the buyer. And obviously, the seller didn’t give a hoot. He claimed the jack must’ve been shaken loose during shipping and that it was in tight when he packed it – an obvious lie! He would have also known that the guitar was buzzing like crazy, but of course nothing mentioned in the ad.

When someone accepts your lowball offer – sometimes there’s a reason!

My “secret weapon” for hollow body jacks

Next Morning

Well, the guitar played beautifully last night! I like the wide, flatish fretboard and the awesome sound out of those Seymour Duncans, playing clean. (That’s the ONLY way to play 60s country!)