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Report: #191658

Complaint Review: GMW Guitarworks - Glendora California

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  • GMW Guitarworks 220 N. Glendora Ave Glendora , CA 91741 Glendora, California U.S.A.

GMW Guitarworks butchered custom guitar fretbaord Glendora California

*Author of original report: The full story.

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I ordered a custom guitar in 2002, which arrived playing very badly. After much frustration I discovered that in fixing an error on his part in the build process, the vendor veneered a thin fretboard over the original one, which still had it's fret slots intact. This is not a good thing.

This is the biggest issue with this guitar, for the whole story see here:


CLICK here to see why Rip-off Report, as a matter of policy, deleted either a phone number, link or e-mail address from this Report.

This report was posted on Ripoff Report on 05/15/2006 06:25 PM and is a permanent record located here: The posting time indicated is Arizona local time. Arizona does not observe daylight savings so the post time may be Mountain or Pacific depending on the time of year. Ripoff Report has an exclusive license to this report. It may not be copied without the written permission of Ripoff Report. READ: Foreign websites steal our content

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#1 Author of original report

The full story.

AUTHOR: Vic - (Australia)

POSTED: Monday, May 15, 2006

This is the tale of a custom guitar, built by GMW Guitarworks in Glendora, CA.

I'll try to make this short, but there is a lot to tell unfortunately.

I have a few guitars in my collection, and they are mostly Charvels and Jacksons, and in 2002 I was looking to get a new guitar, and I was thinking a USA Jackson of some kind, maybe a Warrior, as you don't get much of those in Australia.

I heard good things about the Warriors but as I couldn't play a US model before I ordered, I kept looking for the guitar I was going to get. I wanted something with a graphic as I didn't have much of that, and the Ghost Flames were my favourite kind. I had now decided to stick with the strat/dinky style body I now preferred to play and my attention was turned towards GMW Guitarworks. I had heard endlessly about the quality of their work from other members of the Jackson/Charvel forum.

In 2002 GMW was an authorized Jackson Custom Shop Dealer, plus they made their own custom guitars, being famous in Charvel/Jackson circles for reproducing early 80's Charvel style guitars. It was the place to go to get a ?new? old school Charvel, so I made some inquiries and initially ordered a guitar the same as this one below, but with a Red Ghost Flames graphic, to be painted by Dan Lawrence.

It was to be a 24 fret strathead, all maple neck with R2 nut, with one humbucker and all gold hardware with a non-recessed Floyd Rose. In 2002 GMW was making Strat headstock guitars like the one above, but they no longer do this.

Being a Jackson Custom Shop dealer, I had the opportunity to order this guitar from Jackson, but they couldn't do the headstock I was after at the time and I had heard sooooo much about GMW guitars themselves I figured I had to try one. I already had USA Jacksons and Charvels, it was time to try a GMW for myself, and what better way than in my own custom creation.

During emails back and forth it became known that GMW would not make me a 24 Strat headstock neck that had the truss rod adjustment at the headstock, like the one above. This irked me enough to change the neck completely for something different. I was hooked on the idea of a graphic GMW guitar so I changed the neck to a reverse Jackson style neck, for which I could get the truss adjustment where I wanted it. This change in looks meant more changes, so I added ebony sharkfins (a must for a custom Jackson style guitar if you can get them) and black neck and headstock binding, to finish the look. I also asked for a sharkfin at the 24th fret and an R2 nut again. I was told they would try to do the 24th fret inlay, but no go once again on the R2 nut. Jackson style necks came with R3 nuts only from GMW, so I settled for this and let things proceed.

After speccing out the guitar with the first neck I paid for the guitar in full, about US$1550, which included the guitar in it's original form, and a form fitted G&G case. As I'd paid more than the half required to start work it was agreed I would pay the balance upon delivery, as the new neck meant additional costs.

During the build process we talked back and forth in emails, mainly me asking how it's going every now and then, much like other expectant guitar owners. In May of 2004 I mentioned the ebony sharkfins on the neck, to which Lee replied that the neck he had made did not have sharkfins, it had dots. He had made a mistake and forgotten to change the inlays to sharkfins. I was told that I hadn't ordered sharkfins, and that GMW had not to date made a neck with black sharkfins. I was told they don't normally offer ebony sharkfins and would have refused the request.

I gave Lee some of our previous emails where the Sharkfins were mentioned and he told me:

?Let me get a hold of Neal and see if the neck has the sharkfins before we deal with a change over. If the board has those inlays, then we're fine.

Fortunately, because those necks are two piece, we'd simply install a new fingerboard with the correct inlays and then fret it up again.?

Lee came back to me with this bit of news:

It has dots, so we'll pull the board and replace with a new piece of birdseye and install the ebony sharkfins. Sorry about that. But at least you're getting the last ebony sharkfin inlay we're ever going to do again.

I've told several people we no longer offer that inlay. Anyway, I'll start next week and try to get it done ASAP. Fortunately, the headstock is done and won't have to be redone.

This inlay error and quotes are very important later on.

Also during the build process I had to make sure that as the Floyd Rose was non-recessed, it still floated above the body and allowed a certain degree of pulling up, like every other Charvel and Jackson made with a non-recessed Floyd previously.

In August of 2004 the guitar was ready to send to me but there was a slight snag which put a downer on things before I had even received it yet. The form fit case was not going to happen. Lee discovered at this late stage that the form fit cases he uses for guitars of this shape was not suited to a guitar with a reverse headstock. Wanting to get the guitar out the door and go on vacation, I was told the guitar would be sent in a non fitted G&G case and that's all there pretty much was to it. Waiting the 6-8 weeks for the correct case was not an option. Oh well, let's just get the guitar here then hey? I rang a friend to tell him about the turn of events and it was apparent that some of the excitement at finally getting the guitar was gone, as it wasn't quite the package I had waited so long to get. I paid the remainder of my account owing, and with exchange rates at the time, the guitar owed me over AU$4000 once it was in my hands.

The guitar arrived on August 25 and indeed did look pretty nice. This is how I found it.

A lot of people at work oohed and ahhed, this wasn't the first guitar they'd seen delivered to me, but they did think it looked pretty good.

Something didn't seem quite right visually but I couldn't put my finger on it. However, the problem with playing it was easy to notice. The action was nice and low like I'd heard about with GMW guitars, but it was really, really buzzy in spots all over the fretboard. I found this strange, as I'd had guitars shipped from the US before and none were this bad, but I figured these things can happen and I'll get it looked into.

Later when I got it home and had a good look at it and it was near one of my Jacksons, I noticed what looked a little off. The sharkfins themselves were not as impressive as I'd thought they'd be, and looking at them they were a bit undersized and slightly irregular. Here's a pic of the first fret:

Looking at them closley, they were not very well done. They didn't uniformly decrease in size as they went down the neck. There is a comparison chart I made up in the pictures section.

So I took it to my guitar luthier, and he adjusted the truss rod to fix the buzz in one area, but it would just reappear in different parts of the board. Taking out his rule, he found there were quite a few raised frets in the fretboard, and it needed a fretjob to level them all out again. This was disheartening news, but being so far from California, I figured I'd just get it done and move on. The hassle and exorbitant cost of shipping it back being a large factor in this.

As it was not playable, I took off the strings and noticed glue seeping out from under most of them. Hmmmm, not cool. I am most annoyed I didn't take pictures of this.

I traveled interstate to have the guitar fixed up by some guys I had heard lots about, as my local guy was quite busy and I just wanted to be playing the guitar asap. I had booked it in for a fret level and dropped it off and went looking around. Not too long after I got a call to say it needed more than just a regular fret level as he'd found the frets were seated very badly so it would cost more and take longer. He also noted the glue.

When I went to pick it up it was explained that the fret slots were not done well at all, so the frets were badly glued in. I explained that this couldn't be, as GMW had a reputation for awesome fretwork, a big factor in ordering from them. He said it looked like an apprentice had done the work, and he'd re-seated, re-glued and leveled the frets for me, all with no glue showing this time. I'd now spent an extra $300 on this guitar plus my time interstate.

The bad news did not end here unfortunately. While he had the guitar he noticed some things and pointed them out to me, the first being that the neck pocket of the guitar was shimmed rather clumsily, with a hunk of plastic at one end and a big air gap. This is after I specifically wanted a non-recessed but floating trem, the neck pocket was not cut to accommodate this, and was badly shimmed to make it happen instead.

Also the nut was brought to my attention, as it was slightly off to one side, and this is why:

It was suprising to be able to see that much of the truss rod, with no covering platform for the nut, and it was plain to see that the way the neck was made, one of the screws was too far into the truss cavity, and when tightened, it shifted. This was not quality work in my book.

This was all very annoying, but what really took the cake was when the guitar was once again unplayable, as the frets had shifted and I was back at square one. The guys interstate said they would do the work again, as they stand by what they do, but I figured this wasn't right, something else was going on, I just didn't know what.

Coupled with the case, the neck pocked, the nut, the sharkfins and the constantly shifting frets I felt it was time to get in touch with Lee at GMW as I felt I had enough issues to warrant the large task of returning the guitar to be fixed.

I sent Lee a long email detailing the issues and problems I had with the guitar. His response suprised and amazed me. He did not want to know about the frets and the glue and the nut problem, but he would correct the neck shim problem by recessing the Floyd and fixing the graphic to match, and get the case form fitted for me.

He did not see the sharkfins as an issue, but I figured at the least I required a new neck, to fix the badly seated frets and the problems at the nut area, and with a new neck the sharkfins could at least be done better. I even offered to purchase better inlays from another company for him to install in this new neck. He was not having a bar of it, there would be no new neck, he'd get the frets levelled and he would just use some bigger screws to clamp the nut down better. He would return ship the guitar to me when he was finished, but I had to make arrangements to return it to him first.

This wasn't entirely acceptable to me but it was a start and I made arrangements to send the guitar over. Upon hearing what was now going on, the interstate Luthiers offered to take the guitar back for me as they were going to the NAMM convention in California a few weeks later, so I sent it to them and they hand delivered it back to Lee. He met them at his smaller workshop, after missing one appointment, grabbed the guitar, put it away and left. The Australians were interested in having a chat about guitar building and seeing his workshop but Lee wasn't interested in talking. They had rung and spoken to him while still in Australia to make the first appointment, but he never showed and said he didn't remember the call, he must get a lot of international calls like that.

While the guitar was back in Lee's hands I tried very hard to argue my case for a new neck. My local Luthier could build me a new neck but it wouldn't have the matching graphic, and it was Lee's responsibility as far as I was concerned.

By this stage however, Lee was mega po'd with me and the guitar. Being so Jackson like, he now did not care for the guitar or it's Jackson styling and was wondering why I ever ordered it from him. This was a far cry from how things were in 2002, when doing Charvel and Jackson style guitars was not a problem. Being a Charvel/Jackson enthusiast, things like 12th fret dot spacing and sharkfin size matter a great deal. If you're not into these guitars you probably won't get it, but nobody wants a Charvel or Jackson with wide spaced dots at the 12th fret, and sharkfins are important too. If I knew they weren't going to be up to spec that would have been a deal breaker right there, or I may have stuck to dots.

I thought Lee had gone as far as he could have, but he did a couple of things which amazed me further. One was to threaten to sell my guitar on ebay for whatever it goes for, deduct 10% and to give me the remainder and call it a done deal. All because I was trying to not take the guitar back until it was fixed to my satisfaction. What else could I do but take it back in the condition he would give it to me in. The other thing he did was to tell someone something untrue on a Randy Rhoads forum. The link is here. For some reason he thought it was cool to be tough and tell this person that he had had enough of me and told me ?to go pound sand?, something he never did. I guess it sounds tough though.

He also mentions that I whined and complained about the guitar and never mention the work he did do, like the trem recess, on the Jackson Board. Well, I did, and I'll do it again. When the guitar was returned the case was cool finally and the work done on the trem recess was top notch, like it had always been that way. I knew he could do it, GMW are well known for doing killer restorations like that. This good work is negated by the fact that I had to take the guitar back without a new neck. The nut had been bodged back on and the frets simply got filed down again.

Fair enough more fretwork was done, and the guitar was even played by a couple of guys from the Jackson board, who went down to check it out for me, and they said it played fine up and down the neck. Well, what do you think I got when the guitar arrived back again in May of 2005? Yep, the frets had moved again as they had done before and I had a badly playing guitar once again. This was the final straw. I instructed my local Luthier to install a new fretboard, maple with proper ebony sharkfins, to fix up the nut area, and so to save the neck and headstock graphic.

It is interesting to note that along with not offering ebony sharkfins on maple anymore, GMW also stopped offering 24 fret bolt-on guitars. Only 22 fretters from now on. Some custom shop, can't get how many frets you want, can't get the inlays you want, can't even get the nut size you want, let alone doing something properly custom and changing where the truss rod is accessed. Obviously their trained ?technicians? can't go outside their fixed processes. Look what happens when you order what I did, they totally mess it up.

We are almost getting to the end now, and to the REALLY juicy good bit, trust me. You need to understand that it was blowing my mind all this time that I had ordered a GMW for the quality in workmanship and awesome fretwork they have given others, and mine was the biggest dog in the universe. If it was a dog you'd put it down and out of it's misery. The other issues notwithstanding, I couldn't help thinking to myself about what the neck was like when it had the dots on the fretboard, before it was ?fixed?. I made bets with myself that that neck played great, but it didn't help me solve the mystery of why this one didn't, and let me tell you, after all the fretwork that neck received, for what was still essentially a new and unplayed guitar, the frets themselves were looking decidedly second hand. They were worn down man, they were no longer Jumbo 6100 in size, they had been filed down a LOT, and all for nothing.

Anyway, it finally came time to remove the old board and begin to fix this mess of a neck. I watched as Russ began removing the old board, it was quite exciting to finally see some good work being done. During the procedure some of the binding was getting in the way so it was removed up to a point, leaving ends of the fretboard exposed. This is when I noticed something truly terrible about this neck. Look at these pictures.

The old fretboard still existed underneath the top one. It had never been removed properly, the frets did not have a good enough base, they were steeped in glue. The old fret slots were still there and they didn't even line up with the new frets above! Seeing this, all of my problems with the frets finally made sense. Here I had given up and was ready to fix the guitar myself, and the problem all along was that Lee had never removed the old fretboard like he said he would.

I quickly also came to realise that the whole time I was having issues with the frets and asking for a new neck that Lee knew what was hiding underneath that fretboard veneer, yet still refused to fix it properly for me. Every Luthier who has been told about this has been appalled at the work that was done, and as much as something like this would never leave their shop, if it did, they would definitely make it right. Neal Moser said it best when he told me he's cut necks in half he wasn't happy with.

Of course I contacted Lee again and of course he responded in the usual manner. This is what he had to say.

It played simply great when it left the shop,. Just ask the two JCF members who thoroughly checked out the guitar before it left. One is Jon Shoemaker and the other is Alex Johnson. As such, I am not going to do anything further with this guitar. You and I are done. So sell it and buy a Jackson. Besides, why you are still messing with the neck is beyond me. And it did get a new board. I've gone waaaaaaaay out of my way to rectify every issue you requested all at my own expense, including installing a Floyd recess, performing a full refin, disassembly, reassembly and return UPS. And not one word from you of thanks.

The two JCF members who thoroughly examined this guitar will make posts testifying to the effect that the guitar left the shop in perfect visual and playing condition, since they both played it. Given that nothing makes you happy, feel free to complain and whine all you want on the forums. But I will immediately delete any further communications from you. So do not contact me again. The neck is fine and I stand behind the work. A new board was installed, hence the small gaps. They have zero effect on the playability of the neck, which or course, you will never believe. So I'm not going to waste further time "discussing" this issue with you. Again, do not contact me again. If you don't like the guitar, sell it and buy a Jackson.

Isn't it funny how he keeps bringing up ALL the work he did on the guitar, and how I never say thanks. Wow, under warranty he disassembled and reassembled the guitar, big whoop, that's expected isn't it? Though I don't know where he gets the idea that I'm ungrateful. I've said it before on the Jackson board and I'll say it again. The work on the trem recess and case form fitting that he graciously undertook for me was great. I don't know anybody here who could have fixed up the recess like that, to enable the neck shim to go away, so sending it back for that and getting the case repaired was worth it. Thank you Lee.

While this was being discussed on the Jackson board, a member emailed Lee to inquire about his side of the story and received a reply which switched the time frame of when things were ordered and done to the guitar, to make it seem like I asked for sharkfins at the last minute, rather than before work had started, to make me seem like an unreasonable customer. He also said this: ?he isn't paying me enough for this guitar to be complaining?. Somebody else picked up on that and wondered at which point is a GMW customer allowed to have valid concerns. Still, when a guy will defend to the death one of the worst fretboard jobs in guitar history, what can you expect. That is an attitude like no other.

Here is some more of Lee's reply to that Jackson board member. ?......we simply pulled the frets, milled down the maple and installed a lam top which can't be seen under the black neck binding. This is a perfectly acceptable practice and I can tell you that Jackson has done this many times to correct fretboard "issues". The fact there's a few small gaps on the sides, and the guitar played great when it left (again, fully verified by three other JCF members), I still find his complaints to be without merit.?

So there you have it. A guitar builder without shame, who feels free to implement bad ideas on customers guitars. Please note, under NO circumstances does Jackson perform this kind of procedure on their guitars, this is just Lee trying to defend the undefendable.

After all this time I am left wondering how this happened, as at the time when their inlay error was discovered, I was just another customer, eagerly awaiting his custom guitar. It wasn't until later that Lee's attitude soured towards me. The only explanation I can think of is one of being lazy, but I'm not sure if that fits either, as doing a proper job wouldn't have been much more work than the shoddy veneer they put on. What was the point? GMW have made a lot of great guitars for happy people, this one could easily have been the same.

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