Image 1 — Will Ray spotted this guitar on eBay, contacted the buyer for more information, and then waited … which is a good passive strategy for negotiating a price drop.

It’s no secret that I like Cozart guitars. (If you need proof, check out my love affair with this Rickencopy and blanket-covered T-style.) They make some interesting instruments that are always in Bottom Feeder territory, but you have to be careful. Some of these China-made guitars are built great, while others can be train wrecks. It’s hard to know in advance what you’re getting. That is, unless you happen to know the seller.

I saw this baby on eBay a while back. It was being offered by a seller I’ve bought from before. He gets good cheap guitars, modifies them to make them better, and then sells them for a profit. He nicknames his guitars “Custom Shack” creations.

Why are most U.S.-made guitars so heavy compared to China-made ones?

This guitar intrigued me from the git-go. It was a Cozart T-style with a burl-maple top and an F-hole. The seller had changed out the 3-way bridge to a nicer Wilkinson with compensated brass saddles, installed Schaller-type locking tuners, and swapped out the cheap pickups with better ones. I asked the seller who made the guitar’s pickups, and how much the guitar weighed. He replied it weighed 5.5 pounds and that the bridge humbucker was made in China and measured 9k. Then he told me something interesting: The neck pickup was really muddy until he took the chrome cover off. Then it was “5 times better sounding.”

I thought about the guitar for a while, and later asked him if the neck had any issues. He said it was better than most Cozarts he had played, and had very little string buzzing. Then he shot me an offer. I made a counteroffer and we settled on $160, which included shipping.


Image 2 — Although the Hipshot bender was added by our columnist, this close-up also shows the Wilkinson bridge with compensated brass saddles that was among the seller’s mods.

Bottom Feeder Tip #284: Sometimes buying a cheap guitar is much sweeter if someone has already modified it and taken care of potential problems. They’ve done all the hard work, and now you can simply enjoy it.

When I received the guitar three or four days later, it was more than I expected. It’s very easy to play, the pickups sound great, and the intonation is spot on. It’s also very lightweight, which got me wondering: Why are most U.S.-made guitars so heavy compared to China-made ones? It’s a question that pops up every time I pick up an American-made Tele that weighs eight or nine pounds. I’ve even had some in the 11- to 12-pound range.


Image 3 — The headstock on this T-style boasts that it’s “custom hand made.” Still, the quality of these guitars varies widely.

So, how do I like my Cozart Custom Shack? It’s one of my favorite T-Styles. After 20 minutes playing it, I went ahead and slapped a Hipshot bender on—a sure sign it’s staying in my collection for a while. The pickups really have some nice sizzle. I especially love the neck pickup. Listen to my MP3 and you’ll hear what I mean. Is it a keeper? Well, hell yeah!