Harley Benton Telecaster KIT build, upgrade and set up part 1


** Warning – long unedited video ahead. Not intended for entertainment so ensure you know where the ‘back’ button on your browser is **

This video shows me putting together and setting up a Harley Benton T-style DIY kit electric guitar from online music retailer Thomann.de. I’ve bought from these people since about 2006 (!) and they’re totally credible and dependable in my experience. I’ve bought a couple of HB guitars in the past and for a long time had my eye on one of their kits because they were so cheap and because of the masses of positive feedback about them on their site.

I bought this one because I was interested in whether it was a viable ‘platform’ for upgrading, setting up the ‘Reloved’ way and selling on. And at £57 + about £8 postage there’s really nothing to lose – especially considering you get a playable Tele at the end of it.

The kit is impressive when it arrives: very confidence-inspiring. Everything is there, well packed and all the routing and finish of the body & neck look and feel great. The neck joint is very snug. You notice immediately the light weight of the body…

I cut the headstock to a Tele template and put on one of my own logos and followed up with some vintage amber lacquer and clear gloss (all nitrocellulose). Meanwhile, I sanded the body and added some water-based stains (the first time I’d used these and tbh they didn’t seem to take that well to basswood). I ended up with a reddy-brown finish that was more ‘flat’ than ‘showing off the grain’ but, hey – it’s £57 remember.

I’d ordered some Tone Rider hot pickups for this and fitted them off-camera (because they needed small but time-consuming modification to fit).

I then put the guitar together which was an absolute doddle thanks to its simplicity and the snap-together solderless connections (although I had to solder them on to the Tone Riders).

Even though I planned to give this a full Reloved fret levelling & set up, I held back from doing that because I first wanted to see how the guitar would play ‘put together straight out of the box’. I strung it up, dropped the saddles a couple of mm and the decent quality of the neck allowed me to get playing straight away. That, plus the experience of building it, would be a great outcome for a newcomer or a youngster – worth every penny and more.

The video shows me going on to do a precision fret-levelling (as usual) and full set up. Off camera I’d had to return the first set of Tone Rider p/ups because the bridge one was unacceptably microphonic.

The end result? The guitar sounds great and plays beautifully thanks to that extra precision on top of what was an unusually good neck for the price. However, there are two major issues for me (and I accept that I’m maybe not their usual buyer): first thanks to the light body, the guitar is headstock heavy. I hate this in a guitar – you’d be amazed how much energy you end up putting into holding the guitar up while playing. In a gig it can sap you before you know it. Second, the pickup selector switch is annoyingly and unnecessarily stiff.

I like the feel and sound of the guitar so much that I’ve just ordered a sheet of lead which I’m going to fold up and attached to the bottom edge of the guitar where the strap button is. That is the only way I’d sell this guitar because without it, a buyer wouldn’t be able to enjoy it’s great qualities.

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