Rondo SX Furrian VWH Review

Well, I did it again. I bought another guitar.

For those of you keeping score at home, 2011 has been the year of the guitar for me. I have purchased a Fender Standard Jazz Bass, an Agile AL-2000, and Jaime got a Squier Vintage Modified Jaguar Short Scale Bass.

The newest addition is a vintage white SX Furrian from Rondomusic.com. Rondo originally was selling these guitars for $109.99. Then they dropped them to $99.99. I finally bought one when they lowered the price to $79.99. It fills three gaps in my collection: 1. It is white. 2. It has a maple neck. 3. It is a Tele-style guitar.

SX Furrian VWH

Here is my review.

Body. The body is nicely done, with smooth cuts. There are no major dings, but the back does have an area where it appears that the sanding was overly aggressive. The color is nice, but the paint job is not so nice. If you look into glare on the guitar, you can see a series of lines in the finish that run parallel with the grain of wood. The clear coat seems soft or thin, and is easily scratched. This guitar should age quickly, which is fine by me. The neck pocket has a hairline crack in the paint (same as my American Standard Strat), and there also was a paint buildup sticking out near the neck that I had to remove and smooth. The biggest issue that still isn’t a big issue is that there are several random black dots embedded in the finish, one right on the upper bout, the rest on the back or sides. They’re small enough that you can’t see them from about 5 feet away. If this was an expensive guitar, it would be completely unacceptable. But for $80, meh.

Hardware. The body hardware is a mixed bag. The pickguard is dual layer black-and-white and has a softer matte finish than most budget instruments, which is a nice touch. It had the rippled edges that you would expect on a budget instrument, and that was easily fixed with some sandpaper. The screws are straight, but cheap. The bridge and string saddles are of adequate quality. One of the screws for the bridge plate is installed at an angle, but secure. The six holes that hold the six screws that attach the string saddles to the bridge plate seem rough and slightly undersized. There is a bit of a gap between the head of the screw and the bridge plate. Some cleanup with a Dremel should fix this. The control plate is adequate. The knobs are surprisingly nice. The switch tip looked like they popped it off a mold for a model airplane, and required some shaving. The jack mount is of the football variety, and seems to be similar to every other football jack I’ve seen. The neck plate is thin, and the neck screws are cheap. The strap buttons are cheap.

Electronics. The electronics are just ok. The switch feels cheap, the pots are cheap, and the pickups leave much to be desired. The bridge pickup in my guitar was ridiculously microphonic. When removed from the guitar and hooked directly up to an amp, you could speak into the pickup and hear your voice. When it was in the guitar, you could hear the strap moving as you played. Kurt sent me out a new pickup that solved the problem. Still, the pickups are cheap ceramics with plastic bobbins, and will be replaced. The jack is of the cheap variety, but adequate. The soldering was done fairly well, with only a couple of cold joints that looked like they could use a reflow. I did shield the guitar because single coils do not play well with my noisy house power.

Neck. Overall, the neck is pretty nice. It comes covered with odd this orange tint that I quickly removed with paint stripper, revealing the maple below. Unfortunately, it also revealed a few areas where the neck was sanded after the sealer was applied, and so now I am left with bare wood in spots. My plan is to do a full refinish with Formby’s Tung Oil.

Frets. The fretwork is pretty good. There are a couple of frets that are a tad bit higher than the rest. It doesn’t make the instrument unplayable, and it seems like a perfect guitar for learning how to do fretwork.

Nut. The nut is actually of better quality than I expected, and was well cut but sloppy. I did a bit of cleanup while I had it out while stripping the neck, and I do not plan on changing it

Tuners. The tuners are junk. They move up and down as you turn them, and they seem to have dead spots. They are stable once set, but they need to be replaced to increase tuning accuracy. The string tees are also not very good. They had sharp edges and were causing the strings to bind when tuning or bending. Some sandpaper smoothed them out, and the result was greatly improved tuning stability.

Setup. The setup was mixed. The neck relief was set correctly, but not for the light strings that were on the guitar. My thicker strings pulled it to within 0.001″ of where I like it to be. The pickup height seemed random. The biggest setup issue, though, was the action. The low E string was at 9/64″, where it should be 4/64″. All the strings were between 4/64″ and 6/64″ too high. The E strings had the string saddles installed at severe angles, leaning in towards the other strings. It was very odd, and I can’t imagine that anyone could think it was correct. The intonation was dead on for most stings, with minor adjustments needed on two strings. This will all need to be changed, though, after I clean up where the string saddle screws set against the bridge plate.

Overall. This is a decent little guitar. It is more than I expected for the money. I would not recommend it to a beginner. The little issues here and there could be enough to prevent a beginner from sticking with it. I also wouldn’t recommend it to someone who is uncomfortable working on their own guitar. It doesn’t make sense to pay someone to fix any issues you find on an $80 guitar. If you can’t do the work, don’t get the guitar.

BUT… if you are comfortable doing some work, and appropriately adjust your expectations before buying, you will be extremely satisfied. If you look past the fit and finish issues, and the low quality hardware and pickups, you will see that you are getting a very nice body and a very nice neck for very little money.

This guitar seems like a great platform for improvement and customization. I plan on replacing the strap buttons, the tuners, and the string tees as soon as possible, and eventually the pickups. I’m going to use it to learn how to refinish necks, and to learn how to do fretwork. It is such an inexpensive instrument that it doesn’t bother me if it picks up some scratches. I would buy another one in an instant.

If there are any areas I missed, let me know!

That is all.

And now, a bit of politics.

I can’t resist.

The Washington Post has published an article that explains how the CIA and DNI plan on hosting a scaled back “year-end” party this year. The article describes the fancy food and served booze that our tax dollars provided last year.

It then goes on to cite Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, who apparently needs to direct a little more of his agency’s product to his own office, who said:

Scaling back our holiday celebrations is just another small example of our commitment to making sure that we continue to make wise fiscal decisions across the board.

Seriously? Our Director of National Intelligence considers it to be a “wise financial decision” for an organization to throw a party when that organization’s parent entity (the federal government) is currently carrying FIVE TIMES annual income as debt?

Here is the equivalent. You’re driving a school bus loaded with kids. You’re going 65 MPH downhill, quickly approaching a cliff that can only be avoided by making a sharp turn. In an attempt to slow your bus and avoid near-certain death, you stomp on the brakes fly your hand out the window to increase air resistance. Sure, you still plummet over the cliff, and you and a bus load of kids still die, but at least you did your part to slow the bus.

Here’s a thought: CANCEL THE PARTY.

Here’s another thought: Have the party at a public restaurant, pay for a single bland chicken entree that everyone gets, and allow your employees to participate in a cash bar if they so choose.

Here’s a final thought: C A N C E L T H E P A R T Y .

That is all.

Thanksgiving Fun

Well, not quite fun.

We did have an excellent Thanksgiving, even though one of our guests was stranded up north due to weather. That, however, is not the subject of this post. The subject of this post is home repairs, and how they almost always occur at the absolute worst time.

About six hours ago, at 1:00AM, the trouble began. Our guest noted a gurgling sound coming from the kitchen. I went in to check it out, and confirmed what I had suspected– the drain was definitely slow. Not good. Last time we had that sound, I had to tear out my downstairs bathroom to the studs and the floor joists and rebuild it from scratch.

I cleared the sink (who would have thought that I could mess four full loads of dishes in less than 36 hours), and inspected. The water was slowly draining, so I was hopeful. I employed the double plunger method, as suggested by our guest, in an attempt to force out the blockage. It seemed like I had made some progress. Water was draining fast. A quick flush of the toilet and a flooded bathroom indicated otherwise.

I went outside and opened one of the cleanouts. All the backed up material came flooding out. Not good. I went under the house, and opened the other cleanout. There was water to the top of the 4″ pipe. Again, not good.

As I was now covered in some pretty nasty stuff and couldn’t use the water, there was no way I could go to bed. I decided to stay up until Home Depot opened at 6:00AM, and I researched my options.

The plan was to first try a bladder. This is a rubber balloon-like device that you attach to your garden hose, and insert into the pipe. The pressure from the hose causes the bladder to expand, sealing the system upstream, and subsequently sprays water into the pipe. In theory, the hydraulic effect pushes out the blockage.

The secondary option was to rent a drain rooter. This is the big snake device that plumbers often use to clear drains. Almost certain to work, and with my luck, almost certain to cause immense amounts of expensive damage in the process.

The third option was to call a plumber and proceed to fill his (or her) crack with cash (sorry plumbers, you must get sick of those jokes, until you get paid, that is!).

I was at Home Depot when the opened, and was back home by 6:05AM. I rigged the bladder up to the hose, and climbed under the house as daylight was just barely visible. I wasn’t comfortable being under the house near electrical wiring while spraying water at high pressure, so I rigged up a valve that I could control while standing outside. I went to stuff the bladder into the nearly overflowing pipe and realized… it was empty. That was good, I thought– it’s not a full blockage.

I put in the bladder, crawled out from under the house, and slowly applied the water. I could hear water spraying in the pipe, so I knew it was filling. After about five minutes of increasing pressure, the spraying noise had stopped. It sounded like water was flowing. Success!

I shut off the water, ready to close things up and hit the shower. Alas, it was wishful thinking. All of the water that I had just pumped into the pipe began flowing out of the cleanout. I quickly turned the water back on in hopes that the bladder would re-expand and re-seal the pipe. It did.

I let it flow with my ear on the sewer pipe (good times) until it sounded like it did before– silence. I then added slightly more pressure. With that, I heard a huge ‘woooosh’ sound that lasted about five seconds and then transitioned to the spraying sound of the bladder in an empty pipe.

I turned off the water, and removed the bladder. No back flow. I went inside and turned on the kitchen and bathroom sinks, and crawled under the house. Between the both of them, there was less than 1/4″ of water in the pipe.

SUCCESS!

I started at 6:05, and finished at 6:50. Nice. I woke up Jaime and told her everything was fixed (as she asked), and hit the shower. Now I’m enjoying a nice cup of coffee and having a nice, quiet morning.

In the grand scheme of home repairs, I rate this to be relatively simple, very cost effective, excessively inconvenient, and extremely disgusting.

That is all.