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A visit to a Vietnamese Guitar factory


Etienne Rambert
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I won't be back in VN until early September. I've had Schallers, Grovers & Planet Waves tuners installed on Binh's guitars without any problem. But I don't know what size holes they drill. You can probably spec that.

 

Be very specific with Mr. Binh about saddle height & action.

If you want special designs, give him a picture.

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My conversation with mr Binh thru email

 

Me: I wanna order a custom made guitar

 

His response: please tell me a specific specs. What kind of wood u want... pickups ... Normall our good custom made guitar is about 3-5 millions VND (200-300 USD, just a rough estimation, use google to find exact price. )

 

Me: I want a guitar around 300 USD like this

Body shape Dreadnought (pictures)

Soundboard "A" ho?c "AA" Grade Solid Sitka Spruce

Rosette Pictures (martin headstock)

Back Cambodian Rosewood or Indian Rosewood

Sides Cambodian rosewood or Indian Rosewood

Neck Select Queensland Maple

Headstock Pictures

Fingerboard Rosewood (Inlay, what options do i have)

Bridge Rosewood

Finish Non-glossy, look at pictures.

Finish (neck) No glossy

Pickup No pickups

Pick Guard pictures

 

His repsonse: Yep, the price is 5 mil, takes around 6 weeks.

 

 

Pictures attached. I'll give him action and saddle height. What scale length does he use, marc? and nut width ?

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Me: I wanna order a custom made guitar


His response: please tell me a specific specs. What kind of wood u want... pickups ... Normall our good custom made guitar is about 3-5 millions VND (200-300 USD, just a rough estimation, use google to find exact price. )


Me: I want a guitar around 300 USD like this

Body shape Dreadnought (pictures)

Soundboard "A" ho?c "AA" Grade Solid Sitka Spruce

Rosette Pictures (martin headstock)

Back Cambodian Rosewood or Indian Rosewood

Sides Cambodian rosewood or Indian Rosewood

Neck Select Queensland Maple

Headstock Pictures

Fingerboard Rosewood (Inlay, what options do i have)

Bridge Rosewood

Finish Non-glossy, look at pictures.

Finish (neck) No glossy

Pickup No pickups

Pick Guard pictures


His repsonse: Yep, the price is 5 mil, takes around 6 weeks.



Pictures attached. I'll give him action and saddle height. What scale length does he use, marc? and nut width ?



Just wondering...
Did he quote you freight charges? Any warranty?
What kind of finish would you have? I wonder if he can do a French polish?

I would love to have a J45 clone.

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I haven't seen Binh in a few weeks.

I know an HCEG forum member just swung

by to pick up a guitar he'd spec'd.


Everybody should remember:


You're not ordering from Musicians' Friend here.

You're not ordering from a large manufacturer.

So there is a need to be realistic.


1. Count on the guitar needing a set-up.


2. Count on changing the tuners.


3. Count on high-shipping costs.


4. Make sure you specify action & saddle height.


---


If you do those things & IF the guitar isn't damaged in shipping,

you'll have a great instrument.



That would be ME! :D

Thanks oodles to Marc for introducing me to Mr. Binh back in April. While we were in Mr. Binh's shop I fiddled with a dreadnaught that I really liked. I would have bought it on the spot, except for a few points:

1. It was satin finish - head to butt. I love the satin on the body, but I didn't like it on the neck. Maybe it keeps your hands from sticking to the neck in the Vietnam humidity, but I just didn't like the way it felt. I wanted a gloss neck.

2. I liked the look of the rosewood body and maple soundboard, but I kept salivating over the cool abalone inlaid dragons 'n stuff on the classicals. I wanted that cool art on a dreadnaught.

I told Mr. Binh what I wanted, and asked if he could build me one by August. He happily agreed, I gave him a modest deposit, and headed out for a nice lunch with Marc and our entourage.

Long story short, I returned to Saigon on August 16th to pick up my guitar. Mr. Binh apologized because the guitar (which he'd already told me was finished) had been sent back to the factory to have a rough spot polished out. He asked if I could come back the next day (no easy feat in Saigon traffic), but my fiancee asked if he couldn't just bring it to our hotel when it was ready. Mr. Binh agreed. Later that afternoon he called and said he'd be at our hotel with the guitar at 6:00pm. He showed up on his motorbike exactly on time, and THIS is what he brought me:

vnguitar-01.jpg
The case was included. The airline managed to beat the hell out of the case, but the guitar survived the trip home without incident. The case is still perfectly functional, but with numerous dings and scrapes from brutal baggage handlers. If you decide to get one of these guitars, you might want to bring a hardshell flight case to shuttle it home, and let Mr. Binh keep his case.

vnguitar-02.jpg

vnguitar-03.jpg

vnguitar-04.jpg

vnguitar-05.jpg

vnguitar-06.jpg

vnguitar-07.jpg
Note that I've Photoshopped out the name on the head, since it's my own last name! I want to maintain some semblance of anonymity on the internetz! :cop:

vnguitar-08.jpg

Body is Indian rosewood, with a maple soundboard. The neck is rosewood, with an ebony fretboard. The bridge block is also ebony. Finish on the body is satin, while finish on the neck is gloss. The keys on the machines have been replaced with ebony keys.

The guitar plays exceptionally well. The neck is straight and smooth, and perfectly intonated. The action is surprisingly light and low, even with 11's. No fret buzz anywhere on the fretboard.

Total cost: $500

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That would be ME! .....


The guitar plays exceptionally well. The neck is straight and smooth, and perfectly intonated. The action is surprisingly light and low, even with 11's. No fret buzz anywhere on the fretboard.


Total cost: $500



So how much is a round trip ticket to Saigon? Just wondering. I would consider a trip there in the future.

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So how much is a round trip ticket to Saigon? Just wondering. I would consider a trip there in the future.



Depends on the airline, and when you book. Right now, there are some pretty good deals. You can get round trip tickets, including the required visa, for between $800 and $900 if you book in advance. I recommend either dealing direct with the airline, or using a reputable travel agent that specializes in Vietnam travel. An agent managed to get me economy seats with only 2 weeks notice in December, when the airline's website said the seats were sold out.

Be prepared - it's a looong flight. I usually fly either China Airlines or EVA. They stopover in Taipei. It's 13 to 14 hours to Taipei, and another 3 1/2 hours to Saigon (Ho Chi Minh City).

Hotels and food in Saigon are dirt cheap, by US standards. A room in a decent 3 star will go for about $35 a night. A good 4 star will start around $80 a night. I wouldn't stay in anything less than 3 stars, unless you like bugs 'n stuff.

I wouldn't make a special trip there just for a guitar. The travel expenses will more than offset everything you save on the guitar. However, Vietnam is a great destination for a budget vacation. They have great beaches, some very cool landmarks to see, and the people are warm and friendly.

Unless you like crowded dirty cities, I'd go outside Saigon for tourist stuff. Vietnam is also very hot and humid in the summer. If you want to go somewhere with cool temperatures and beautiful scenery, try Da Lat - it's a nice little mountain resort town with beautiful gardens, a bustling shopping district, and a great golf course! :thu:

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$35 a night? You can get a palace for that. Saigon is the triumph of

Milton Friedman capitalism. It's the cheapest place I've ever lived.

Even New Orleans & Houston are more expensive than Saigon.

 

The competition is so intense for hotels, I think

$12-25 a night is all anyone should pay for a hotel.

 

That has a Maple top?

 

I fly EVA air. It's a lousy airline, but they have a cheap

Biz Class ticket. ($1800 R/T to Houston).

 

Economy class is like Amp Surgeon says, $800-1100.

 

I've lived in Manhattan. I've been to South China & a lot of other places.

Every place I've been seems like it's moving in slow motion

compared to Saigon.

 

Enjoy!

 

u5g30tezYq4

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@C70man: My hometown is Vietnam so i will be there in summer or at least my parents will be there :p I can get my teacher to test it out :D Cant really use the warranty anyway since its gonna be in Australia. If something broke i'd just have it fixed here. But it seems mr Binh's guitars are very solid. As you can see, the finish i want is on the picture of the Maton CW80 (definitely not glossy, satin ???). Email him at binhguitar@yahoo.com for your "French polish" . Dont forget to mention Marc haha.

 

@amp_surgeon: Holy cow, that guitar is a beauty. Its expensive because it has the Vietnamese style inlay. For some reasons (might be being a young Vietnamese), those inlays dont suit my taste. :thu:

Hows the neck feel? Would any of the Western brands(Martin, Taylor...) necks over this one :p ?

sound clip please :D:D

 

Going around and eat and accomodation are very cheap in Vietnam. One piece of advice though: dont go to big,western-looking restaurant for Vietnamese food (Yes, im talking about Pho24 or Pho 2000 :thu::thu:).

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I fly EVA air. It's a lousy airline, but they have a cheap

Biz Class ticket. ($1800 R/T to Houston).



Yeah, but lots better than China Airlines. At least you get an LCD entertainment console at each seat in economy on EVA. China Airlines hasn't updated their 747's since the 1980's. They still show movies on a single projection screen in the front of the cabin from VHS tapes. Neither one of them have power outlets at the seats for laptops, though. You need a business class ticket for that.

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I play electric more than acoustic, so it would be difficult for me to give a serious appraisal versus other acoustic brands. The neck is not wide, like many other dreadnaughts I've played, and it has a nice shallow radius - not flat. I felt instantly comfortable with it when I first picked up one of Mr. Binh's dreadnaughts in his shop - kind of like one of my old Italian Eko's. The neck feels good to someone who usually plays electric.

I originally wanted the guitar not so much as a player guitar, but as a piece of musical art. Vietnamese wood crafts can be excellent, and I thought it would make a nice addition to my studio decor. I really wasn't expecting to want to play it, but this guitar is very well made, both from an aesthetic as well as functional viewpoint. Finding someone in Vietnam who is both a skilled wood craftsman AND luthier is uncommon.

I've already had a few friends check it out. One of them is a fairly accomplished classical and fusion guitarist. He thought this guitar would easily sell for 3 or 4 times as much in the US. My boss at my "day job" is also a player (he was a district rep for Gibson some years ago). He was so impressed that he's going to custom order a shallow body classical from Mr. Binh.

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He just sent me some photos of a guitar hes working on.

-------------
AAA sitka , Cambodia rose wood back&side.
Fretboard & bridge (Ebony)
Scale 65cm, nut width 4,8cm.
6,000,000 VND
-------------

Doesnt look like cambodian rosewood to me ? Still, very gud :D

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That would be ME!
:D

vnguitar-01.jpg
The case was included. The airline managed to beat the hell out of the case, but the guitar survived the trip home without incident. The case is still perfectly functional, but with numerous dings and scrapes from brutal baggage handlers. If you decide to get one of these guitars, you might want to bring a hardshell flight case to shuttle it home, and let Mr. Binh keep his case.




That hardcase is almost identical to the one I ordered for my LP while I was in Saigon earlier this year. I can't remember the name of the shop I bought it from but it was on a street amongs many other guitar shops and I wouldn't be surprised if it was Mr Binh's!

dsc00905copy.jpg

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Organized chaos.

One thing you can be sure of.... the average number of miles traveled per gallon of fuel consumed has got to be 10x greater than any other developed country in the world.

It was like for every 100 motor bikes, there was one 4-wheeled vehicle.

But, it's all relative. What we see as chaos, they see as just another day.

Thanks, Marcellis. It's always a treat to be treated to your world.

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Organized chaos.


One thing you can be sure of.... the average number of miles traveled per gallon of fuel consumed has got to be 10x greater than any other developed country in the world.


It was like for every 100 motor bikes, there was one 4-wheeled vehicle.


But, it's all relative. What we see as chaos, they see as just another day.


Thanks, Marcellis. It's always a treat to be treated to your world.



You're correct on the motor bikes vs. cars... even the cars are tinny whinny compared to the U.S. But on the other hand, cities in developing countries are very very inefficient due to poor infrastructures. Traffic can get extremely bad, even during non-rush hours. For example, driving 10 miles in Houston would take me 15 minutes. Driving 10 miles in Jakarta in an early afternoon took me 2 hours+. This severely hurts the miles per gallon of fuel consumed.

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Lol that corner isnt that close to Guitar street but u get the idea how the traffic is like. To me i think its normal hahaha. Are you gonna buy any new guitar Marc?

 

Well, I couldn't find a video of the traffic circle at Nguyen Thi Minh Khai,

1/2 block from the beginning of Guitar Street. It's just as bad - if not worse.

 

I have too many guitars now. I just took delivery on a 1989 Guild D-60

in the US. Plus I have 3 of Binh's guitars back there. I have three of them

here in Saigon.

 

I maybe see myself buying one more eventually. It will be an oval hole arch top like this:

 

a_killer_book-matched_maple_inspired_by_

 

He designed this after playing my Guild F-65ce which also has an oval hole and arched back (not top).

 

crocodile_skin_strap.JPG

 

He's making some nice ones. It's deeper than the F-65ce so it has more volume. He almost nailed the

Guild tone too. The neck isn't quite in the same league. But it's a faster neck than a Godin Kingpin or 5th Avenue.

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yeah the streets of Bangkok look like a zoo as well...you know drivers here are pretty bad but nothing compared to other Asians cities so I shouldn`t complain...shouldn`t...but I still do...taxi drivers are the worst in this city though by no means the only dangerous ones.

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