Ilove going to the flea market. There’s a pretty decent one
about 15 minutes from my
house and when I’m not out of
town touring, I’m down there
most weekends looking for
interesting buys. I frequently see
cheap guitars there and about
six months ago this Arbor Strat
copy caught my eye. It was
around 6: 30 a.m. and still dark,
so I didn’t get a good look at
the guitar, only what I could see
with a flashlight. It didn’t have
strings on it (usually a bad sign),
so I had no way to tell about the
action and neck alignment. The
sellers wanted $20, but I talked
them down to $15 on principle.
I’m a bottom feeder.
When I got it home and
examined the guitar, I discovered that the body had a nice,
highly quilted maple pattern
underneath a transparent cherry
finish. Big deal. Probably a
“foto flame” treatment that
manufacturers frequently apply
to Chinese guitars to make
them look more expensive.
Unfortunately I also noticed a
huge gouge on the back, like a
dog had chewed on it. Whoa!
I figured I would just clean it
up a little, slap on some strings,
and sell it for a profit.
So I restrung it and made
some minor adjustments on
the bridge. Ready to go. But a
funny thing happened when I
started playing this guitar—I
couldn’t put it down! After
about an hour, I said to myself,
“Will, what are you thinking?
You can’t sell this. This thing
I mean, it had a nice, super-
lightweight body, killer comfort-
able rosewood neck with meaty
frets, and gold-plated hardware.
“Well,” I reasoned, “it’ll prob-
ably sound terrible through an
amp.” But after plugging into
several amps, it sounded every
bit as good as it played. In fact,
if I had to compare this to one
of my Fenders, the closest one
would be my old ’ 62 Strat,
which was refinished wine red
and refretted with jumbo wire.
So after a weekend of playing it,
I decided the Arbor had to stay
and I made space for it in my
guitar room, next to my G&Ls
There is one downside to
this guitar: The ball ends from
most guitar strings get stuck in
the trem block when you want
to remove them and install a
new set. But I keep a really
long-shafted screwdriver on
hand to poke out any stubborn
ball ends whenever I restring
So is it a keeper? Yep, chew
marks and all. And for $15 it
simply can’t be beat.
1. Gold-plated tuners! 2. How about a triple-pickup guitar for about the cost of lunch? 3. Yup—that’s a big
gouge. It looks like someone’s dog decided to take out its frustrations on this poor guitar. 4. The quilted maple
“foto flame” isn’t what jazzes me about this guitar—it’s the sound and playability.
WILL RAY is a found-
ing member of the
trio. He also does guitar
clinics promoting his
namesake G&L signature
model 6-string, and pro-
duces artists and bands at his studio in
Asheville, North Carolina. You can contact
Will on Facebook and at willray.biz.