The final results of the Great Guitar Build-Off 2020 have been announced by Crimson Guitars. It’s fair to say the results are causing some controversy, though, with the standard of entries in the inaugural competition, it was always going to be close.
All in all though, the competition has raised a whopping £30,000+ for the various charities put forward by each competitor. That alone is an incredible achievement,
So, here’s the countdown. Before we start though, a little background There were 8 entries across YouTube, all with varying skills and backgrounds. They each had one of the Crimson Guitar kits of their choosing as a starting point. The scoring was a combination of the money raised auctioning the guitars on eBay, the number of votes received on the official greatguitarbuildoff.com website via charity donations, and the number of votes received on Instagram. There was also a slightly complicated handicap system, designed to take into account the different number of followers each channel has. If you’re interested, you can view the rules here.
There’s also a brief summary of the process at the start of the video we posted from Crimson Guitars here.
Anyway, here’s the final results.
8th Place – Jimmy Diresta
One thing that definitely wasn’t controversial was the last-place finish of Jimmy Diresta. With a channel boasting 1.8 million subscribers, it’s fair to say that everyone was expecting more. However, Diresta showed almost distain for the competition and produced a guitar so awful that it was just plain insulting.
Not only that, but the quite-blatantly rushed video did not even contain any mention of his chosen charity, nor anything about the aims of the competition. He did, however, manage to insert an advert for his over-priced jeans range in the middle.
I hate haters, and I don’t want to be that guy, but Diresta just made a complete mockery of the competition and everything it stands for. His guitar went for $730 in the end, which in my opinion is about $700 too much. Add the measly $250 or so donated via the site, he was the only competitor that raised less than £1000 for his charity. I wonder how many jeans he sold though?
As for the guitar – dreadful. The burnt-finish was cumbersome, the machine heads were put on upside-down, he cut the nut like a child with play-doh – the list goes on. Even the demo was awful, with the guitar unable to remain in tune for longer than a minute.
It’s fair to say that the only thing Jimmy Diresta has achieved in this competition is to make sure that thousands of people never buy anything with ‘Diresta’ stamped on it. And some poor schmuck has paid $730 for an unplayable guitar. And, you know what? I’m not even going to post the link to the video. He doesn’t deserve it.
Anyway, the good news is that is all the negativity in this competition out of the way. From now on, it’s all magnificent…
7th Place – Tamar Hannah
And now, to the controversy. Tamar Hannah, or 3x3Custom to the YouTube world, made possibly one of the most beautiful guitars in the competition, yet placed only 7th. One look at the comments on the results video show that a lot of people were surprised by this.
Tamar did her own take on a ‘sunburst’ guitar, by creating a beautiful burst effect via the use of different veneers. Her attention to detail is astonishing. After sticking all the veneers, she noticed that the pattern wasn’t exact, as a couple of them were in the wrong order. Despite the fact that she was probably the only person in the world to notice, she meticulously routed out the offending pieces and re-did the area again. Thousands would have left it. The result, however, is stunning.
There’s no doubt that with over 300,000 subscribers, she was hit by the handicap system (and in fact, Ben Crowe of Crimson has stated that without it, she was 5th), but still, for me, this finished lower than it should. Saying that the standard of the competition (Diresta aside) was such that it’s very much subjective. For me though, I would have this in the top three for sure.
Still, 3x3Custom has another subscriber, and I’m sure I’m not the only one. And the guitar went for a cool $2750 too.
6th Place – Dan Thompson
Now, Dan went a little bit off the beaten track with his entry, and he’s certainly not the only one. But to be fair, he is himself a bass player. So why wouldn’t he buck the trend and make a beautiful bass?
He certainly likes to do things differently, with his ‘workshop’ consisting of various American national parks. He lives and operates out of a mobile home, producing his YouTube channel Guns and Guitars. I will be honest, like a lot of people not from that strange gun-toting side of the pond, I was put off by the title. But Dan is an incredibly likeable character, and his craftsmanship is superb.
So, making a bass meant he had to dispose of his kit neck and use a bass one, which some may consider pushing the rules a little, but the result is beautiful. His chosen charity was Lifewater, and he crafted a fine breaking wave design into the body of the guitar.
The most striking design aspect for me though is the headstock. In order to make tuning more ergonomic, Dan mounted the machine heads sideways, which sounds odd but actually makes a lot of sense. The result is a different, functional but highly attractive headstock. There are some clever electronics in there too, as well as hand-wound home-made pickups produced by fellow travelling YouTuber DylanTalksTone.
The final bass is a piece of art and went for nearly $4000 in the end. I think the mid-table finish is about right, but this could have easily finished higher.
5th Place – Phil McKnight
Now, for me, this was a surprise. I thought this guitar would be higher up. But I think there were two things that went against Phil McKnight.
Firstly, Phil is a skilled luthier but doesn’t seem to do a huge amount of ‘start to finish’ guitar building on his channel. I admit I haven’t watched a huge amount of his videos, so I may be wrong, but that does seem to be the case. Also known as Know Your Gear, it’s really more about gear and set up. The videos I have watched though show that he has seemingly endless knowledge on the subject. What this ultimately means is that a lot of the work was outsourced – in particular, the finish, which to be fair, is stunning. He did, however, make his own pickups, which sound spectacular.
Secondly, unfortunately, his original eBay auction was hijacked by some low-life scum who had no intention of buying the guitar. For some reason, they just kept outbidding everyone. So the auction had to be re-run.
However, I think that this is probably the ‘best’ guitar in the competition. By that, I don’t necessarily mean that it should have won, but because of his supreme knowledge, this guitar is likely to have to best hardware and pickups of the lot. And he would also have set it up superbly, including some sublime fretwork. It is, of course, a fairly ‘standard’ build in terms of general design, which I suspect may have worked against him in this competition, but watch the sound demo below, and you’ll see what I’m talking about.
That finish though. Wow. It’s a one-off too – the company that produced it made it specifically for this guitar, so this is a beautifully unique instrument. So by best, what I mean is that I suspect this plays and sounds like a dream. Somebody out there is very lucky indeed.
4th Place – Ben Crowe
I suspect that Ben Crowe of Crimson Guitars was a lot of people’s favourite before the competition began. Ben is, of course, a prolific YouTuber and a luthier of extreme skill. It is his company, Crimson Guitars, that has sponsored the competition and supplied all the high-quality kits.
For me, being a Dorset-local and only 30 minutes away from the Crimson factory, I admit I did have a slight bias. However, 4th place is probably a fair result I think. Not that Ben didn’t produce something amazing and exciting, as is his hallmark.
‘The Slice’ is certainly different. The first thing he did, was to slice his kit up into pieces, as was predicted by some of his competitors. He then hollowed it out and painted the whole thing in Crimson’s own rearguard shielding paint. Coupled with the burnt textured finish he applied to the interior with a Dremel, it certainly has a very interesting finish.
As with most of Ben’s builds, at you wonder what on earth he is doing. Then, you wonder how earth he’s going to produce something interesting and beautiful with the mess he’s created. And then he does exactly that. The result is a unique guitar that sold for an impressive £3200 on eBay. As a player personally who prefers a light guitar, I imagine it feels lovely to play too.
As brilliant as the final result is, I get the impression that the project was a little rushed. Previously on the Crimson Guitars channel through lockdown, Ben has been working on a Cyberpunk 2077 themed guitar (a steampunky dystopian video game). This was an incredibly interesting series but overran massively. Ideally, I think he would have liked to spend a lot more time on this build, but the result is still everything Ben Crowe. Quality, different and somewhat extreme! If this was a competition judged purely on uniqueness, then this was a clear winner. Whether it’s the ‘best’ though is clearly subjective. For me, 4th is about right.
3rd Place – Brad Angove
Of all the entrants, it’s probably fair to say that Brad Angove embraced the idea and community behind the competition the most. He gave us some top smack talk, though being Canadian he obviously always had to apologise for it almost immediately.
Brad’s channel is very much a DIY help channel, so he doesn’t boast the huge workshops of some of the other competitors, but the quality of guitars he produces are top-notch. And this is no exception.
The two most striking things about this build are the shape of the body, and the unique aluminium scratchplate he built to sit in it. With the addition of a very beautiful wooden plate on the headstock, the result is a very fine-looking machine that’s almost as nice to look at as Brad’s hair.
Persistence as always is the key. Not happy with the initial finish, Brad stripped it all off and started again. If you were being picky, you could argue that the burnt effect isn’t ‘perfect’ – there’s a couple of areas where it looks like the flame wasn’t applied consistently – but I quite like that, and think the result is stunning. It’s definitely one of the more unique guitars in the list and sold for over $3000 (US) in the end.
Third place is well deserved I think. Brad, along with Tamar, Derek and Ben, probably stuck closest to the initial idea of modifying a kit. His videos too are a highly entertaining watch, as well as being inspiring for wannabe builders too. He brought a great deal to the competition in terms of community and fun. For that, he deserves a great deal of credit too.
2nd Place – Derek Lenard
Now for me, this was a surprise. In saying that, I’m absolutely not taking anything away from Derek of Big D Guitars. This is a top-quality build, with an absolutely beautiful book-matched maple finish. And one lucky soul has got it for around $2,500.
It’s more that this was very much a ‘standard’ build, which I thought may have worked against him. Again, that’s not to say a huge amount of work and skill went into making it. Derek hollowed out the original kit, leaving basically a frame, and then applied the book-matched top and bottom to it.
The finish as well is exquisite. This is another one that took two attempts, with Derek not happy with the initial yellow, but the tiger-stripe result is quite something. The quality of the workmanship in terms of setup too is great, and the custom neck plate on the back is a nice touch.
The more I’m writing actually, the more I’m beginning to regret my opening paragraph. Again, everything 7th-up in this competition is highly subjective. I think all I’m saying is that I thought more people would vote for ‘different’ over standard. But actually, this is a stunning guitar, built by a true craftsman, so it’s difficult to argue against its placing. I would kill for a guitar of this quality!
And the winner is…. TEXAS TOAST GUITARS!
You can’t take it away from our cousins across the pond. When it comes to wow-factor, nobody can beat them. Matt and Chris from Texas Toast Guitars are no exception. Who saw the triple-necked green monster coming? Anyone?!
As soon as they revealed ‘The Hater Maker’ at the very end of one of their live streams, I think most of us knew it was the winner. Yes, there are arguments against. There’s those that say it’s not really modifying a kit. There’s those that say that although it has 3 necks, it is still a ‘standard’ build. But what you cannot argue with is first, the aforementioned wow-factor, and secondly, the supreme craftsmanship that went into making this one-off guitar.
The guys fully admit themselves that there’s no need for this guitar. It is extreme in it’s exaggeration, there’s no doubt. But the beautiful pin-striping, the incredibly-finished necks (some with fabric, yes, fabric!) and the attention to detail on such a large guitar is truly astounding.
They also fully embraced the competition. Their video output was among the highest and most in-depth (though they did manage to hid the triple neck until the very end). Matt and Chris are also incredibly likeable characters, who have an almost husband and wife type relationship at times, but who’s passion and knowledge transfer across seamlessly in their videos.
The guitar sold for a whopping $7000, with all the money going to pay the medical bills of a good friend of theirs. Although for those of us who live in civilised societies, this is somewhat alien, it is never-the-less a fantastic and noble cause. I for one am glad they managed to raise so much to help. Deserving winners.
This was the first-ever Great Guitar Build-Off, and there’s already a great deal of talk about continuing and making it an annual event. The level of entries (bar one) has been astonishing, and the way it’s invigorated the industry at a time of extreme pressure has to be applauded.
The top 7 are all outstanding, amazing builds. The result is therefore highly subjective, but for me, I think I would keep Texas Toast and Brad in the top 3 but add Tamar. But man, I LOVED Phil McKnight’s Atlantis. I don’t know! Really, there’s not much to choose between them at all.
It’s not over yet either. As well as the main competition, there is an ‘unofficial’ competition still on-going, which was open to any guitar builder. You can find more information on that here. There are already some truly stunning results appearing, so well worth a look.
I for one cannot wait for the Great Guitar Build Off 2021.