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Last Updated on January 21, 2024 by Teemu Suomala

It was just another day at the office. I was playing the guitar and also trying to write an article (multitasking all the way!) when I suddenly had to stop. The Bossman Teemu sent me an email (this can’t be good I thought). I never could have guessed where this would lead…

Author: DL Shepherd

Darren has been playing guitar for over 23 years. He fronted the metal band Suddenly Silence in the early 2000’s, and also achieved recognition as an award-winning bluegrass guitarist.

A native of southwestern Virginia, and has shared the stage with many big-name acts from various genres. When he is not playing one of his many guitars, he can be found riding his Harley through the mountains of Virginia.

photo reveals owner of guitaristnextdoor.com

Editing & Research: Teemu Suomala

I first grabbed the guitar in 2009. I started this website in January 2020 because I couldn’t do window installation anymore due to my health problems. I love guitars and have played dozens and dozens of different guitars through different amps and pedals over the years, and also, building a website interested me, so I decided to just go for it! I got lucky and managed to get awesome people to help me with my website.

I also got lucky because I have you visiting my website right now. Thank you. I do all this for you guys. If you have any recommendations, tips, or feedback, just leave a comment, I would love to chat with you. I have also been fortunate to produce content for several large guitar websites, such as SongsterrMusicnotesGuitarGuitar, and Ultimate Guitar.

I spend my spare time exercising and hanging out with my wife and crazy dog (I guess that went the right way…).

He told me to check out a Los Angeles-based guitar manufacturer called Johnny Foreigner Guitars. Their claim to fame was custom-made guitars, and you could order one completely online. I was slightly intrigued. 

“It’s probably one of those sites where they have a bunch of prebuilt models that you get to choose and they call it a ‘custom’,” I thought. 

But I have never been more wrong in my life…

displays Cartoon style image of guitarist and writer DL Shepherd (Darren)
So I had to put my guitar down and “really” start working…

I checked out the website and did some research – completely forgetting that I was also knee-deep in an article already. That would have to wait. I was on a mission to see what this company was all about. 

I finally went on their website and read everything. I watched some videos that they had posted showcasing how these guitars sounded. “Wow, now I’m impressed!” I said to myself.  (Btw, if you find this article interesting or at least entertaining, consider sharing it, it really helps).

Not my guitar, but one of JF’s great custom axes.

I then navigated to their ordering screen. I clicked “Personalize and Add to Cart” and WOOSH! I was instantly transported to what I call Guitar Geek Land. And I was in control. Imagine, if you will, being thrown in a car and dropped off at a guitar custom shop. You have free reign over the materials – everything from hardware and electronics to what type of wood you want for the neck and fretboard. 

  • You can even pick the type of frets that you want.
  • You want a kill switch in the volume pot? Done.
  • You want a translucent purple finish? No problem.
  • How about some black pickup rings? They’ve got them. 

I’ve dreamed of this moment at least 65,308 times in my 25 years as a guitar player. I only thought it would come true if I became a big rock star. 

Not so. I’m definitely not a rock star (although I play one on weekends), and I am definitely not rich. I mean, I write for a living, after all. (I have already received the guitar btw. Full review coming soon, stay tuned!)

You Can Play With The JF Guitars Custom Guitar Creator Here.

Editor’s Note: After getting in contact with JF Guitars, they wanted to gives us 1 guitar to review for free. Althrough I would love to have custom build guitar, I decided to pass this opportunity to Darren. He has helped me with GND so long that he definitely deserve this and more. So Darren got this guitar for free. Since this agreement, we have moved to completely non-sponsored way of operating, so we do not accept free stuff anymore.

Editor – Teemu

Step 1: Logging on

I went to the website at www.johnnyforeignerguitars.com and clicked on “Get Started”. This took me to another page that displayed the two models that they currently offer: The Six and The Intro. 

The Six is their current flagship model and is designed with professional players in mind. The Intro was designed with the beginner player in mind. Both are made using the same attention to detail, but The Intro is a little less expensive than The Six.

I wanted to go with The Six, so I clicked on “Customize The Six”. 

This takes you to a page that tells you a little more about The Six. After reading the information, I was convinced that this was the guitar that I wanted to build. I clicked on “Personalize and Add To Cart”. 

Now, you’re ready to customize your guitar!

Step 2: Build

Handedness

Here comes the fun part: Building your custom axe! I was absolutely giddy with excitement. To the right-hand side of the screen, you will see a series of tabs. The “Handedness” tab will be selected. To the left is a picture of the guitar in its default form. 

You can get different views of the guitar by clicking the arrows beside the picture. This will come in handy later. 

On the right-hand side, you can select either right-handed or left-handed configurations. Leftys can rejoice in the fact that there is no additional charge for a left-handed guitar! I’m right-handed, so I selected the right-handed option. You can click “Next Tab” to move to start working under the Pickup tab. 

Pickups

This tab offers several customization options. Please be aware that every guitar comes equipped with its own custom-made pickups so you cannot choose from a different type of pickup. 

However, you can choose between humbuckers, P90s, or single-coils. They offer 5 different pickup layouts to choose from (none of which cost extra). I chose to go with 2 humbuckers. 

As of this article, the 3-way toggle switch will automatically be chosen. They do not offer a 5-way switch at this time. You’ll find out why when we get to the “Electronics” tab. 

You will then have the option to choose the style of pickup you want. This will vary depending on the type of pickup you selected. Tele-style pickups will not have this option. You’ll also note that chrome and gold pickup covers cost a few extra dollars. That’s not really a big deal. I decided to go with black bobbins for my humbuckers. 

The last option you are given is how the pickups are mounted. You can have them direct mounted or have them mounted with pickup rings for a few extra dollars. I liked the look of the black pickup rings so I chose that option. 

Once you are finished, you can click “Next Tab” to move on to the “Wood Choices” tab. 

Wood Choices

This tab allows you to customize the types of wood used for the body, top, neck, and fretboard. You can also change some other visual appointments to give your axe a custom look. You will want to use the arrows next to the picture to see how different woods affect the appearance of certain parts.

First, you’ll have to choose whether you want a 6-inline or 3×3 headstock layout. I thought that the 3×3 looked better, so I went with this option.

The next option is whether or not you want their signature jack cutout. It’s a cool feature that helps set them apart from other makers, and it gives the guitar a more modern look. I’m old-school though, and I didn’t want that option. No offense to Johnny Foreigner, of course. 

Next, you will have the option to choose what type of base wood you want. This is going to make up the main part of the guitar’s body. You can choose between:

  • African mahogany
  • Alder
  • Ash
  • Black Limba
  • Zebrawood

Please note that prices will vary depending on your choice of wood. I wanted an African mahogany body so I chose that option. 

You will then choose the type of wood that will be used for the top. Your choices will vary in price, and you can choose between:

  • Standard curly maple
  • Premium curly maple
  • Standard quilted maple
  • Premium quilted maple
  • Black Limba
  • Zebrawood

I went with Standard quilted maple because I’m cool like that. 

The neck is next. You can choose to have the neck made from one of the following:

  • African mahogany
  • Alder
  • Hard maple
  • Ash
  • Zebrawood
  • Black Limba

I didn’t want to stray very far from what has been known to work so I went with a hard maple neck. I would seriously recommend that you do some research on these woods before picking one for a neck wood. Some are much better than others, but that is an entirely different article. 

Now it’s time to choose your fingerboard wood. The choices are:

  • Rosewood
  • Ebony
  • Maple
  • Leopardwood

I am a sucker for an ebony fingerboard so I went with that choice. 

That’s it for the woods. You can now click “Next Tab” to move on to “Hardware Options”. 

Hardware Options

This tab is going to allow you to customize the look of the hardware as well as choose the type of bridge you want. 

First, you’ll choose what color you want your hardware. You can choose between chrome, gold, and black. I opted for gold because it will go well with the overall color scheme that I have in mind. 

You’ll then have a choice of Hipshot bridges. You can choose between a hardtail bridge or a tremolo bridge. I prefer a hardtail bridge so I went with that. 

The next step allows you to choose what type of frets you want. I have always wanted a guitar with stainless frets simply because they last longer. Lastly, you can choose what string gauge you prefer. I play in drop C so I went with a heavy gauge string. 

Click “Next Tab” to customize the tuners even further.

Tuners

I love the fact that you can customize the tuners so much! The first option gives you a choice between Hipshot open-gear tuners or Hipshot locking tuners. I went with open-gear tuners. Next, you can choose what type of tuner buttons you want on your guitar. I decided to go with butterbean tuner buttons for a modern, understated look. 

The tuners will be whatever color you choose in the “Hardware Options” tab. 

Click “Next Tab” to move on to “Electronics”.

Electronics

This tab is going to allow you to customize your controls. You can choose anything from simple controls to complex push-pull operations. It is important to read up on all of the options before you decide. They have posted an explanation of each option.

How transform into a Party Jukebox everyone Admires in 5 days?

Below the explanation, you can choose between one, two, or three knobs.

You’ll then be able to lay the controls out the way that you want. If you want the first knob to operate volume, choose it from the dropdown menu under “Control 1”. Do this for each knob. You can add push-pull options to each one as well if you wish. I went with a single volume, single tone, coil split on the neck pickup (pull up on volume knob), and a mute switch on the tone knob. 

Below that, you can choose the style of knobs that you want on your guitar. I went with a nice gold “speed knob” style since I use them on all of my Gibsons. 

Click “Next Tab” to go to “Finish – Top & Headstock”. 

Finish – Top & Headstock

This tab is going to allow you to pick the finish on the top of the guitar as well as the headstock.

You can choose everything from a solid color to modern translucent gradients. If you have chosen an attractive top wood for your guitar, you’ll want to keep the top translucent and perhaps add a burst option to it to make it pop. I chose to go with an edge burst to showcase my standard quilted maple top. 

Next, you’ll choose your color. I love the options here! I have always wanted a purple guitar so I went with “Raining Purple”. 

You’ll then be able to choose a second color. If you have chosen a burst option, this will be the color around the edges. I went with black on this one. 

Click “Next Tab” to begin finishing the neck and base.

Finish – Neck and Base

This can get a little tricky if you don’t pay attention to what you’re doing. You need to use the arrows next to the picture to find a view that shows the back of the neck and body.

The first option allows you to choose either a solid or translucent finish on the back of the body. You will then choose a color. It will then ask you to do the same thing for the back of the neck. If you want them both to have the same finish, simply choose the same options for both. 

Click “Next Tab” to move on to “Headstock Logo”.

That’s right – you can even choose what you want on the headstock! This is a pretty awesome option that most custom shops won’t allow. 

If you want the standard logo, it is free. Otherwise, it will cost you a little for a custom design. If you upload a custom design, it must be a single-color image with transparency! 

I opted for the Johnny Foreigner logo since I didn’t have a custom logo prepared. I chose to get it in gold to match my guitar’s hardware. 

Click “Next Tab” to move on to the “Extras & Payment Options” tab.

Extras and Payment Options

This tab allows you to choose add-ons as well as a one-time payment or a payment plan. 

The first option allows you to choose an extra set of Stringjoy Strings to be added to your order. I opted for this since I am already a Stringjoy fan. The next option allows you to choose whether or not you want a set of Rombo EcoBlack picks. Although I have never used them, I am curious about them so I added them on. 

The next option asks if you want an Extra Molded EVA Case. I would have loved one, but I was already close to my budget. I passed on this even though I didn’t want to.

You can then pay in full or put down a deposit. You can then click “Add to Cart” to be taken to the checkout page. 

Finish Up

That’s it! You have successfully built your custom guitar! Keep in mind that you can always go back and change any option you wish before the final payment. 

The final page lists all of the options you chose during your build and requests all of your personal information. Once you’ve paid for your guitar, you will have to wait about 6-7 weeks for the guitar to come to you. I know, that seems like a long time, but these things are built one at a time! I’m hoping the guitar will be worth the wait, and we’ll find that out in the next article.

What We Liked

  • The process was easy to follow and allowed us to fully customize the guitar of our choice.
  • The guitar comes with a padded case by default with the option to add a second hardshell case. 
  • The hardware is made by Hipshot so you know it’s premium.
  • You have the option to remove the cutaway jack if you don’t like it. 
  • You can choose your style of tuner buttons.
  • There is no charge for many features that other companies charge a premium for, such as gold or black hardware. 

What We Would Like To See In The Future

  • More body styles 
  • Body and neck binding options – plastic, Pearloid, wood, and abalone.
  • Side marker options – glow-in-the-dark, black, white, etc. 
  • Fingerboard inlay options (although their standard inlays are quite good)
  • A better standard logo – we feel the standard logo is simply too plain and not memorable.
  • A selection of pickup options from different manufacturers, or at least an active/passive option. 

You Can Play With The JF Guitars Custom Guitar Creator Here.

DL Shepherd

Darren has been playing guitar for over 25 years and teaching guitar since High-School. He fronted the metal band Suddenly Silence in the early 2000’s, and also achieved recognition as an award-winning bluegrass guitarist. A native of southwestern Virginia, and has shared the stage with many big-name acts from various genres. When he is not playing one of his many guitars, he can be found riding his Harley through the mountains of Virginia. Expertise: teaching guitars, electric guitars, acoustic guitars, guitar amplifiers, guide pedals, flatpicking, bluegrass, metal, rock, and blues.
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Roger

Nice!
Well written & really interesting article. I’ve already shared it with a friend who may be tempted.

Teemu Suomala

Hi! Awesome that you like this and thanks 1000 times for sharing.
I wish you all the best from the bottom of my heart!