Coluber Cable Strat-Style Kit Review

If you’ve been looking for a nice but not too expensive beginner DIY electric guitar kit, you may have come across this Coluber Cable Strat-style kit. It was sold at Amazon under the manufacturer’s name, and you might also have seen it at from a wide range of China-based sellers. I chose this kit because it was pretty generic, without much of a description of any kind. Is this a good beginner kit? Would you take a chance? Here is my experience.

Coluber Cable Strat-style kit

My Coluber Cable Strat-Style Kit Purchase

I ordered my kit through from one of the Chinese vendors. Since they all show exactly the same picture with exactly the same description, I picked the one with the lowest price. Three days later, I received an email from Walmart telling me the order had been cancelled due to seller issues. This isn’t the first time I’ve had that happen. Several times I have had these foreign sellers cancel a product order that I purchased at a very low price because it is unavailable, only to see the exact same item at a higher price still offered. Frankly, I don’t know why Walmart allows this.

The same day I received the cancellation notice, I placed another order for the same kit at the same price from a different Chinese seller. I received a USPS tracking number, but ten days later my kit arrived unannounced by UPS in an Amazon box! It had shipped from an Amazon distribution facility in Texas, and the interior box had the Coluber Cable name on it. I do not know what the relationship is between these sellers and the manufacturer, but… I did have my kit in hand.

The package arrived in good condition, with the manufacturer’s box inside the Amazon box. When I opened the box, it initially looked good – the typical three compartments for the body, the neck, and the rest of the components. There was no packing list and there were no instructions of any kind. When I lifted the body, which was in the standard protective sleeve, out of its compartment, I saw several screws loose inside the box. Later I determined they were for the back cover plate and that the plastic bag for it was torn. I recovered all but one screw.

After separating the remaining component parts and laying them out on a table, it appeared that everything was there except for that one screw. No problem, I have lots of extra pickguard screws around. The quality of these parts seemed at least as good as most other kits. It came with chrome hardware and a 3-ply white loaded pickguard that was not already attached to the body. The neck looked straight, and I didn’t find sharp fret edges along the fingerboard.

Mystery Woods

None of the sellers adequately describe the materials used. The Walmart description was non-existent. According to the Amazon listing, the “Top Material” is engineered wood; the “Body Material” is wood; the “Back Material” is Phoenix Wood; the “Neck Material” is maple; and the “Fretboard Material” is engineered wood. I don’t know why guitars and guitar kits are listed that way on Amazon. The neck is probably maple, and the fingerboard looks like ebony (often “engineered”) though I’m not really sure.

From the description at Amazon, I was guessing that the body of the guitar was Paulownia, which is sometimes called “Phoenix Wood.” I love Paulownia for guitars – it is a very lightweight hardwood with beautiful grain. In the picture, it looked like it could be Paulownia. It wasn’t, at least the one I got wasn’t. The back side of it certainly does not match the picture. This wood is much heavier, and I am guessing it is some type of mahogany. That is OK with me, mahogany is no doubt a better wood for guitars, I like working with it, and this guitar body I received looks great with very good grain matching at the seams.

The manufacturer and sellers only have one picture of this kit, and it shows the body from the back side. Prior to ordering, I had contacted a few of them asking for a picture of the front of the guitar body without the pickguard. I received responses from most, none of which included what I had asked for. Does this have just one swimming pool type pickup routing? Or are there three individual connected pickup cavities? How are they shaped? So – for anyone who has looked at this kit and wondered – here is a picture of the front of the guitar body.

Front view of Coluber Cable Strat-style body

Problems with the Coluber Cable Strat-Style Kit

Simply put, the neck and the body did not fit together. I could not assemble this kit.

The number “23” was written on both the neck heel and the neck cavity. Now, this is supposed to mean that this body has been fitted to match this neck and that, prior to packaging, someone has put them together. But I actually saw another one of these kits, and it was also numbered “23” so… Anyway, it is not possible that the pieces in my kit were test-fitted. The cavity in the body measured 55.1 millimeters wide; the neck measured 56.6 millimeters.

Furthermore, the neck had a standard Stratocaster-type heel, which was what I expected. It had slightly rounded corners and a radiused end. It appeared to be a very nice neck and fingerboard. But the cavity in the body, which was already too narrow, was flat at the end of the neck. This cavity is more like what you would expect to find on a Telecaster-style body. Even if it was wide enough to insert the neck, it would not seat properly.

Coluber kit neck heel and body cavity mismatch

To add insult to injury, this too-narrow and incorrectly shaped neck cavity looked like it was done in middle school shop class – even though the rest of the body routing looked pretty good. I do not have the tools to correct this, to properly widen and center the neck cavity, or to properly radius the end of it. Even if I did, I don’t know that the new location within the pocket would allow for proper intonation with the bridge, which in this design is already fixed in location.

So, this kit was going back where it came from. Fortunately, I purchased it from and it could be returned to my local Walmart store. Alternatively, I might have tried to find a Strat-style body with the correct neck pocket. The price of the kit was low enough to make that a worthwhile consideration.

Initial Conclusion (be sure to check the update)

I wish I could offer a full review of this kit. I am now waiting on a response from the seller, and depending on what that is, I will decide how to proceed next. The neck looks really good. If I am able to secure another body that fits, perhaps I will use this first one to experiment with ways to modify the routings, or to test different finishes. The mahogany itself appears to be a very nice piece.

Important Update:

The first kit went back, then I obtained a second kit from Amazon. I am happy to say this one was much better. It took some work, but I have made this into a very nice Strat-style guitar.

First, the neck and body were still mismatched. And, believe it or not, they were both marked with the number “23.” I wonder if they are all marked with the same number? Clearly, they have not been fitted together before shipping. This neck pocket was also squared off (TL style) and not prepared for a Strat-style neck. After further research, I learned it is possible to intonate a guitar with a Strat-style neck heel in a Tele-style neck pocket, but not the other way around. I decided to give it a try.

I am positive this body is mahogany, actually a very beautiful mahogany, three pieces, and it is matched very well. After a little sanding, the neck fit snuggly in the pocket. When I later got to the point of aligning it and installing the neck screws (read on below), it was very secure.

Finishing and Assembling the Coluber Cable Strat

The color I used is a blend of red and a little black Keda wood dye, which turned a beautiful burgundy color when applied to the mahogany. Adding few coats of Minwax Wipe On Poly provided a nice protective finish. I have to say I am very satisfied with the final look.

For the neck, I sanded it to 400 grit and applied several coats of Minwax Tung Oil Finish. This always produces a very smooth finish and I like it much better than the Tru Oil many people recommend. The frets were all in good shape, so I checked and leveled, then polished them with 0000 steel wool and treated the fingerboard (probably engineered ebony) with Dunlop Fretboard 65 Ultimate Lemon Oil.

After installing the tuning machines, I placed the neck in the neck cavity and ran kite string through the bridge. I put the bridge into position, since there isn’t a lot of wiggle room with the Strat-style body. Then, pulling the strings tight, I aligned the neck so that it was centered with the kite strings, clamped it, and marked the screw locations by pushing a large nail through the mounting holes on the body. After drilling pilot holes in the neck, I installed it while again checking the alignment with the kite strings. Then with the kite strings still in place I aligned and installed the tremolo bridge.

My Custom Pickguard

Custom Pickguard

For this Strat-style kit, I ordered a really unique pickguard from Amazon. This black and white zebra stripped pickguard came with two split humbucker pickups and a center single coil pickup. When installed on the burgundy body, it is simply stunning. I had to do a little trimming around the neck, then it fit right in place. The strings are properly aligned over the pickup poles.

This pickguard also has two pre-wired mini toggle switches that help create amazing sounds. First, the 5-way switch and the volume and two tone controls work just as they would on any standard Strat. But the toggle switches add an additional dimension. One toggle controls the neck humbucker, and the other controls the bridge humbucker.

In the forward position, the split humbucker is in series. So with both switches forward, the configuration is H-S-H. When in the center position, only one of the coils is used – south at the neck and north at the bridge. This gives a regular S-S-S configuration as found on a standard Strat.

But in the rear position of each toggle, the other coil of the humbucker (north at the bridge or south at the neck) is active all the time, regardless of the position of the 5-way switch. That makes it possible to have all three single coils on at the same time, or even just the neck and bridge at the same time depending on the selection with the 5-way switch. And there are many other possible combinations. About the only thing that can’t be done is just the two humbuckers, similar to a Gibson type arrangement.

This is a fantastic pickguard, and I highly recommend it.

Coluber Cable Strat

Final Conclusion

After installing D’Addario EXL-110 strings and doing a quick setup, this Coluber Cable Strat-style DIY guitar plays and sounds great. It is typical of what you could do with just about any of the generic Strat-style kits if you are willing to put in the effort.

Plan on taking your time, doing any necessary wood rework and constantly checking alignment. But with some patience and determination, you can make this Strat-style kit – or just about any DIY electric guitar kit – a nice, playable instrument.

Have you purchased this Coluber Cable kit or another inexpensive Strat-style kit? Tell us about your experiences.

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