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A visit to a Vietnamese Guitar factory


Etienne Rambert
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Hi All.

Update. Unfortunately, my VN guitar didn't take the change in humidity well. After a few weeks back in the states, the wood had begun to warp a little. The back of the body has developed some ripples. You can't see them, but you can feel them when you pass your hand over the inlays.

The worst part is that the neck now has a sharp angle at the 14th fret, right where it joins the body. The angle is towards the back of the guitar, so all of the strings bottom out at the 14th fret. It's too much to be corrected with the truss rod, and this isn't the kind of bow a truss rod was intended to fix anyway. The guitar is unplayable in it's current condition.

Mind you, the guitar still looks great (other than when you sight down the fretboard). I've talked to a luthier here about it. He recommended I wait a little while and make sure the wood is finally settled before attempting to do anything about.

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Hi All.


Update. Unfortunately, my VN guitar didn't take the change in humidity well. After a few weeks back in the states, the wood had begun to warp a little. The back of the body has developed some ripples. You can't see them, but you can feel them when you pass your hand over the inlays.


The worst part is that the neck now has a sharp angle at the 14th fret, right where it joins the body. The angle is towards the back of the guitar, so all of the strings bottom out at the 14th fret. It's too much to be corrected with the truss rod, and this isn't the kind of bow a truss rod was intended to fix anyway. The guitar is unplayable in it's current condition.


Mind you, the guitar still looks great (other than when you sight down the fretboard). I've talked to a luthier here about it. He recommended I wait a little while and make sure the wood is finally settled before attempting to do anything about.



What kind of wood is the neck made of?

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What kind of wood is the neck made of?



I don't know. It may be the same rosewood as the body. I can't tell because the neck has a gloss finish and the body is satin, which is how I ordered it. The color of the wood does look a lot like the Italian rosewood neck on my old Eko, though the grain looks tighter. If it had a bolt-on neck like my Eko, I doubt this would have happened to it.

I should have been more clear - the angle is at the point where the neck joins the body. The neck itself does not appear to be warped. It just looks like it's attached at an angle now. There is a very thin but visible line in the fretboard directly behind the 14th fret (looking at either side of the fretboard), which is exactly where the neck meets the body. The grain along the side of the fretboard looks continuous through the line, so I don't think the fretboard was made in two pieces - I think the line is a crack. For all I know, the body warped and pulled the heel of the neck backwards.

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They do get into wrecks, and they can be pretty gory. Traffic accidents are often followed by a lot of angry yelling, and sometimes even fights.
:eek:

People mostly ignore lanes in Vietnam, and just drive more or less on the proper side of the road, and they expect chaos so they react casually to it. It also helps that motorbikes are infinitely more maneuverable than cars, so handling one is more natural - more like walking than operating a machine. Traffic is also much slower, so there's more time to respond. There are 4 wheel vehicles, but 95% or more are taxis. I'm much less impressed by the lack of two wheel accidents than I am by the fact that the taxis can get through that river of humans without slaughtering people en masse. My first ride in a taxi from Tan Son Nhat airport at "rush hour" was so frightening that I had to stop looking through the windshield, and just watch the shops go by through the side window.


What is far more frightening is walking through that mass of steel and flesh while they're in motion. You can't wait for a break in the traffic - you'll be standing there until 3am. The key is pick a good time to start across, and then proceed at a steady pace until you get across. The drivers will time their maneuvers according to your pace, and easily dodge you, but if you hesitate or stop - you're dead!
:facepalm:



I learnt a lot about life by crossing roads in Saigon: decide where you want to go, fix your eyes on that point and keep heading towards it regardless of what is going on around you. One thing I clearly didn't learn though was to do my research beforehand - I've been twice, both times found I needed a guitar, both times bought a Yamaha for 6 million dong. :facepalm:

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Resurrecting this old thread just to say...

I brought my guitar back to Vietnam in December, and dropped it at Mr. Binh's shop. Just to remind you, it's this one:

vnguitar-01.jpg

Mr. Binh repaired the angled neck. I'm not sure what he did. The guitar looks exactly the same as before he worked on it, except the neck is now dead straight. I didn't want to post an update until I'd had it back in the US for at least a month, just to make sure that the change in humidity didn't cause a repeat of the same problem. It's been over a month since I got back to the US with the guitar, and it's remained straight, and plays very well.

Mr. Binh did the repairs for free. :D

I'm not sure what advice I could offer to help people ensure they don't have the same problem if they decide to bring a guitar to the US from Vietnam. I'm neither a wood craftsman nor a luthier. I was told by one person that it may be possible to cure the wood in Vietnam in a way that the humidity change wouldn't affect it, or would affect it much less. I don't know if Mr. Binh is equipped to do this in his shop, but it be worth asking him about.

Oh, yeah... In addition to bringing my beautiful guitar back, I also brought my beautiful Vietnamese fiancee back with me. We were married a week later! :love:

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yeah I wish more people would hate Yamaha...way too many after them these days, so please, tell everyone you know about how bad Yamahas are. Thank you.

 

Back to reality for a moment...my wife just started teaching a Viet Namese guy Japanese, he wants to go to university here in Japan and he`s from Ho Chi Mihn city...is that where you are?

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yeah I wish more people would hate Yamaha...way too many after them these days, so please, tell everyone you know about how bad Yamahas are. Thank you.


Back to reality for a moment...my wife just started teaching a Viet Namese guy Japanese, he wants to go to university here in Japan and he`s from Ho Chi Mihn city...is that where you are?

 

Yup. That's where I'm at.

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just want to thank all of you for posting this great info. just picked up an archtop from binh.

 

Nice. Tell us about it. Mahogany/Spruce or Maple/Spruce?

 

Size? How deep is it? How far across on the lower bout?

 

I haven't seen a big arch-top in his shop since I bought mine.

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just want to thank all of you for posting this great info. just picked up an archtop from binh.

 

FWIW, Binh's shop didn't remember making or selling that guitar.

I'm not sure where Caesaraka bought it. Maybe at a different shop on Luthier Street.

 

The binding is the same that my arch-top has.The tailpiece looks exactly like

one of Binh's also. So it might have been by Binh.

 

But he doesn't remember making or selling that guitar.

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HOLY MAKAZOLI!!! (spelling..?)

I just discovered this thread and read all nine pages straight!

Those are some unbelievably beautiful guitars...if apparently the sound is there too....and cheap....Geeze......!!

Great photos...reminded me of when I was travelling around Asia...

and I LOVE the fact that these people are turning out such good guitars the way they do....it gives back the real sense of hand-made....


It REALLY cracks me up to hear people moaning about conditions and lack of humidity control etc...

Firstly if you install lots of expensive equipement...well then you need to upscale, so buy machines to produce more, and basically end up losing not only the quality but also the SATISFACTION of making something of quality....(not to mention getting heavily in debt to do so, have intense pressure to sell etc....)

Secondly the photos seem to show people who have their destiny in their own hands, who work for themselves, and who are making a damn good job of it. (a LOT of people in industrialised countries are unable to say the same thing..!).

Thanks for this wonderful thread...and I'm SERIOUSLY thinking of swinging by VM the next time I fly home.....
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It REALLY cracks me up to hear people moaning about conditions and lack of humidity control etc...

 

When a guitar is made in a shop with no humidity control, as long as it stays in the neighborhood, it should be ok. As soon as it ships outside it's zone, the chances it will warp, crack, fall to pieces are worth placing money bets on.

 

So I'm not sure what you think is funny about building conditions.

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When a guitar is made in a shop with no humidity control, as long as it stays in the neighborhood, it should be ok. As soon as it ships outside it's zone, the chances it will warp, crack, fall to pieces are worth placing money bets on.


So I'm not sure what you think is funny about building conditions.

 

 

Let's see, I have bought a total of 9 now in 5 years. (3 for clients in different

parts of the US & 6 for me. 5 of those 9 have been shipped to the US.)

Thus far, 0 of those 9 have cracked, warped or fallen to pieces.

 

YMMV.

 

I do advise people to keep them humidified.

 

Based on my experience, the short-comings of these instruments

are not the ones you cite. In fact, the tops for these guitars almost

all come from cold climates like the US or Canada, anyway.

 

In tone & wood variety*, these blow away most of what the big manufacturers

are producing. But because everything is done by hand, the level of precision

can't compete with the big manufacturers.

 

For instance, in this thread you can see every neck is set -- by hand. So a

fret job or a neck reset is a more likely outcome, than cracking, warping or

falling apart. Likewise, the most up-to-date features like multiple choices in

finishes, won't be available on these instruments.

 

Basically, you have two choices on these finishes - shiny or flat. (My names

for the finishes.) I always advise people to buy the flat finishes.

 

I've only bought 9 of these things. I do know an instrument importer from dry

Australia though. He buys a lot of these instruments. He tells me he has a

10% return rate.

 

I first met him when I bought my arch-top. I'd already put a deposit on it.

He was a little miffed that I'd beat him to it. So he ordered six.

 

A Japanese gent told me the F-holes in my arch-top were too big,

as I was putting a deposit on it. I suspect he wanted to buy it too.

 

BTW, I bought this guitar.

cedar_top_cambodian_rosewood_cutaway.JPG

cedar_top_cambodian_rosewood_back.JPG

 

cedar_top_cambodian_rosewood_sides.JPG

 

I sold it to a very lucky dude from New Jersey. It is one of the most-amazing sounding

guitars I've ever heard in my life. The tone is just magic. But I'd brought my 1988 Guild D60

over here. And I've limited myself to 4 guitars in any one place**. The Guild did not sound nearly

as nice as this one. But it was a lot more expensive.

 

 

*The Maple/Spruce guitars over here sound fabulous. The Rosewood Cedar guitars also have

a sound I've never heard anywhere else.

 

**(I've limited myself to a small flat-top (F65ce), big-flat-top (D60), classical & arch-top.)

In the US, I have the same line-up. One Guild F65ce, a big J200 size Cedar/IR jumbo cutaway

made by Mr. Binh (Probably the best-sounding guitar I own.), a small dread cutaway made by

Mr. Binh & I don't yet have an arch-top back in the US.

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My friend, you may have mistaken my post as a thud on this Vietnamese factory. It's only a thud on the previous poster's quote. But it goes to figure, that if an instrument is built in 80-90% humidity and moves to oh, let's say New Mexico, it will fall apart very soon if it's not humidified to the extreme.

 

An instrument built by Martin or Collings, or Bourgeios in an environment that is roughly 50% humidity, where the wood has been dried accordingly, will last a lifetime with us in the north or the west having to keep a bit of humidity in the air. An instrument built in 80-90% humidity? Thanks, no.

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I've seen plenty of big-name guitar brands, crack, warp or fall apart.

 

People should factor in a neck reset down-the-road. It makes sense.

They should keep the guitar humidified. If they do, there should be

no problems with cracking, warping or falling apart. Not one of the nine

I've bought have done that.

 

Chances are, these guitars will sound better. I'm not joking.

My arch-top kills other arch-tops*.

 

The acoustic clips are all recorded with old strings & one mic, (RODE NT-1).

If I'd used 2 mic's, they'd sound even better.

 

Archtop Sound Clip#1

 

#2

 

Amplified (Apologies to Scottie Moore)

 

Cambodian Rosewood/Red Cedar Clip

 

I recorded all these dry, with old strings, BTW, except for the electric clip on the arch-top.

That clip has old strings but with a touch of reverb.

 

(I play this arch-top with .10's. This sound clip has very dead .10's on it. But in volume & tone,

it kills anything on the market today. They string Godins with .12's. My arch-top is louder w/.10's

than the Godin with .12's. You can hear it has a natural reverb. I recorded it flat & dry.)

*It's a lot bigger than any name-brand I've seen on the market. 18 inch lower bout & 5 1/2 inches deep, with large F-holes.

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Wow I loved going through this thread. Pardon my ignorance but what kind of climate does vietnam actually have? Is it temperate or maritime of what? In the uk the humidity level is generally quite good in my experience (not to dry on the whole anyway)

Phil

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I've seen plenty of big-name guitar brands, crack, warp or fall apart.


People should factor in a neck reset down-the-road. It makes sense.

They should keep the guitar humidified. If they do, there should be

no problems with cracking, warping or falling apart. Not one of the nine

I've bought have done that.


Chances are, these guitars will sound better. I'm not joking.

My arch-top kills other arch-tops*.


 

Well, I have not seen big-name guitars implode, nor have I heard stories of them doing so on this big ol' broadcaster called the internet. I have, however heard plenty of stories of Asian, particularly a certain Vietnamese maker's guitars and ukes doing so.

 

And I don't believe it's all because of shoddy workmanship, mostly climate and building the damn things in an uncontrolled environment. It's the huge swings that will do it. Going from a build rh of 80% to a final destination of 40% for instance. Build a guitar in a swamp, as an example, and ship it to Arizona for it's final destination is probably asking for trouble.

 

But I'm glad your guitars have given you no trouble, that's a good thing.

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Well, I have not seen big-name guitars implode, nor have I heard stories of them doing so on this big ol' broadcaster called the internet. I have, however heard plenty of stories of Asian, particularly a certain Vietnamese maker's guitars and ukes doing so.


And I don't believe it's all because of shoddy workmanship, mostly climate and building the damn things in an uncontrolled environment. It's the huge swings that will do it. Going from a build rh of 80% to a final destination of 40% for instance. Build a guitar in a swamp, as an example, and ship it to Arizona for it's final destination is probably asking for trouble.


But I'm glad your guitars have given you no trouble, that's a good thing.

 

I don't sell guitars. But I am here. I have selected each one I've bought, in person -

not from a photo on EBay. And every one of them has been a winner.

 

There's another forumite here who buys instruments & parts from here.

Runn3r. He is an Aussie & builds some beautiful instruments.

 

It makes a lot of sense to buy here - if you are already here,

or flying through. If you're adding in shipping costs, it's more risky & expensive.

You're not dealing with MF.

 

That beautiful guitar (above), cost me $300.

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