The Rogue product line is the ‘house brand’ of a large nation-wide guitar outlet chain. These guitars are designed in S. Korea and built in China, intended to be a low-price entry-level guitar.
This particular guitar, a dreadnaught RD80, was a scratch-n-dent guitar, previously owned for a short time by a local school’s music program. It was returned under warranty because one of the tuning machines had shelled out. To the credit of the local store manager, he honored the warranty AND marked the guitar down further for me. I happily purchased it, intending to refurbish it for one of my students.
There were a couple of challenges in refurbishing this guitar, as we will see below. I was not sure that the guitar would be worth the effort, but on the other hand, my student loved the guitar and wanted badly to play it.
The OEM tuners are junk. However, I thought I could take them apart, shuffle in some parts from other tuners, and make them work. Perhaps a little trombone slide grease and judicious filing and fitting would be in order.
Here you can see that the plastic OEM saddle had already begun to experience some serious cheese-slicing from the tension of the strings. This saddle will be discarded and a synthetic bone compensated bridge will be put on order. It is a standard size and so will require a minimum of gun-smithing to make the new saddle fit. While removing the string pegs, I reached inside the guitar to push them out from the inside. Apparently the holes for the pegs are bored after the bridge is installed, because I could feel chips where the soundboard had broken out during the drilling process. This is not unexpected from a mass-produced item, but it may be an issue in the future. Stay Tuned!
Here you can see the stripped brass gear. At least brass is recyclable.
After doing some gun-smithing, I re-installed them. You can see that I left off the covers. This would allow me to ride herd on the lubrication and keep things in alignment.
What to do about the paint pen? A little Ax Wax on a rag and some elbow-grease lifted the paint and left the original poly finish in fine shape. You can see no trace of the paint pen at all. Thanks for the tip, Pete!
Here we have restrung to tension and checked the neck. Surprisingly, this inexpensive guitar has a truss rod.
A set of Gotoh tuners were secured via eBay. These tuners are gold plated, which I thought would look less tacky than the chrome OEM tuners on the black finish of this guitar. In this pic, I’m reaming out the headstock for the larger 10mm tuners.
The mounting screws on the Gotoh tuners are in a different position than the OEM tuners, so the original screw holes would be filled with this dowel rod, sanded down to about 3/32 inch. A dab of black nail polish (it’s polyurethane too, remember?) would secure the dowel and finish over the repair, part of which would be underneath the tuners anyway.
The dowels were trimmed flush with the back of the headstock. Then, black fingernail polish was used to touch up the repair. A couple of coats were adequate to seal the wood and leave a nice glossy dot where the repair had been made.
Here are the gold Gotoh tuners installed in the guitar. The hole filling repair is almost invisible. And they look nice! A vendor on eBay has some stock branded “Tacoma” Guitars. Tacoma was a US-based builder for a while, then were purchased by Fender and apparently phased out. Look for their hardware on eBay if you want some nice stuff at clearance prices!
Another view of the tuners, with a set of Ernie Ball 80/20 strings that Pete recommended. Wow, this guitar really sings with the different strings. Nothing against the Martin set that was on it before, but the Ernie Ball strings really made this guitar come alive!
The Bad :
The soundboard is plywood spruce, and the fretboard is not first-quality wood as there is a funny grain irregularity. The fretboard workmanship was a little rough and some of the fret wire ends could snag a cleaning rag (or your finger.) The carnage underneath the bridge, the result of boring the string peg holes after the guitar was assembled, was almost unbearable. A small handful of wood chips were removed from the interior of the guitar. The cheap tuning machines and cheap saddle was on par for a low-priced instrument.
The fret wires were easily refinished and polished and the ends filed smooth. The funny grain irregularity in the fret board almost disappears if the fretboard is kept oiled. Replacing the tuners was a no-brainer. The new strings and saddle made a huge improvement in the sound of this guitar. After modifications, this guitar has a great voice.
My original student changed jobs and couldn’t keep the guitar, so I now use it daily. I enjoy playing this guitar as much as ANY guitar I’ve owned. The Martin resonance of the body and the almost-Fender chimey sound prevent me from putting this guitar back on the stand. I play it until my hands ache. It is an incredibly fun guitar to play. I wouldn’t hesitate to perform live with this guitar. Maybe it’s because I’ve whipped this scratch-n-dent guitar into shape, but I think maybe it’s more; The exceptional sound just draws me back to this box. Take off your gear-snob hat and do not cast aside these Chinese guitars. While you may look at a Chinese for a beach guitar, you may find a diamond in the rough.
UPDATE 23 February 2014 – This guitar, bag, strap and strap locks, electronic tuner, and a couple of sets of strings were lifted out of my office at work. I never expect to see this guitar again, but stranger things have happened! So, after all, it’s a good enough guitar for someone to walk past more expensive guitars and take this one. Rock and Roll!