Shop Spotlight: Six String Supplies

As the quality of mass–produced electric guitars has reached such lofty standards in the last couple of decades, more and more people have become interested in buying lower spec instruments and upgrading just the critical electrical components.

It’s a very cost efficient way to seriously improve an instrument, and with it has come a rise in workshops selling kits that give you everything you need — sometimes even with much of the wiring already done for you.

We caught up with Ed from Six String Supplies, a British company selling high–quality guitar electronics, to get his take.

What got you interested in electronics — specifically, guitar electronics?

Ed from Six String Supplies

For most of my life, I’ve been guilty of taking things for granted. Turn on the TV, TV works. Same with the radio, the CD player, and even the car. I was never interested in how things worked, just happy that they were working.

My first guitar was a cheap knock–off of Clapton’s “Blackie.” That was the only reason I chose it. One day, the volume control started getting crackly. Eventually, it just died. So I took it apart, and after burning my fingers, melting the pickguard in several places, and generally making a mess of it, I somehow got it to work again.

It evolved from there, really. Nowadays, I only keep one or two guitars, and they tend to get used for experimentation. I’ll put one of the wiring kits in to test them out before listing them on the website or Reverb for general sale.

And what inspired you to actually set up shop building harnesses and kits as a business?

I just thought, “Why not?” I’d always wanted to run my own business, and doing something I can get excited about each morning is an added bonus.

There are quite a few harness builders around, but the soldering on a lot of them left me thinking, “I can do better than that or different to that.”

So many kits are all the same. I try and do more “exotic” kits. Some of the best sellers are non–standard. So I took the plunge one day. I had no soldering skills and very little knowledge, but YouTube and Google are wonderful things, aren’t they?

Upgrading electronics is a great way to seriously upgrade a cheaper guitar. What sort of things should people consider when looking to upgrade the electronics in their instruments?

You can seriously improve a Chinese imported model or any cheap knock–off, really, by upgrading the pickups and electronics. There are so many boutique pickup winders in the UK, so there really is a great array of choice out there. The UK guitarist is spoiled for choice, pickup–wise. We’re lucky!

Electronics–wise, pay attention to tolerances and consistency. There is a lot of hoodoo written about guitars and electronics all over the internet. So many after–market guitar products seem to be made from dragon’s blood and pixie dust.

Grab three or four pots with decent tolerances and a matching set of capacitors. Don’t spend a fortune on some mythical capacitor to seek that missing tone you’ve been craving. Go for quality. If you do it once and solder it well, it will be a very long time before the electronics need replacing again.

That said, some people might be put off, thinking that a good degree of electronic prowess might be required to upgrade electronics in an instrument. What would you say to those people?

Google and YouTube! Though, on a serious note, get yourself an easy–to–read diagram and a good soldering iron. You’d be surprised at how simple it can be.

Our website actually started out as a mini guitar wiring diagrams library, and we have recently started doing videos. I learned from watching videos of others doing it. Now, I do my own videos because as you say, we obviously get a few customers who need help.

For such a niche business, how important has the internet been in connecting you with customers? Do you get a lot of enquires outside of the UK?

In today’s world, I think the internet is essential for all businesses, regardless of industry. For Six String Supplies, it has proved invaluable. As a small, startup company, you need all the exposure you can get, especially when you’re competing with some well– and long–established names in the UK.

We generate quite a few enquiries and orders through social media, as well. The usuals: Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Google+ (yes, that one), and more recently, YouTube.

We get a few enquiries from outside the UK but predominantly within Europe. I’m fluent in French, so it comes in handy sometimes. No luck with German though…

Speaking of which, pre–wiring kits (like much of the industry) is quite a small market in the UK compared to the US. Would you relish a bit more home–grown competition in that area? How do you feel about the state of the small music gear builders industry in the UK and where it’s headed?

Competition is what makes the world go around. It’s really exciting. The UK market is buzzing — modding guitars, partscasters, or building from scratch are more popular than ever.

Six String Supplies started its journey at the same time as one or two others, so it's nice to see them at shows or follow them on social media to see how we are all evolving as businesses together.

It seems every couple of weeks there is a new company cropping up from nowhere. Its great to see. Maybe that’s a reflection on life in the UK in general though? More and more people are having a go, and why not?

What’s in the near future for Six String Supplies? Where is your ongoing focus?

Well, we’ve started small by focusing on electronics. It’s easy to get ahead of yourself and want to massively increase your stock, but at the same time, you get a feeling if you’re ready for it as a business or not.

We’ve just placed a stock order to increase our range of electronics and will eventually expand into pickups. We’ve got a couple more guitar shows this year: Cumbria, August Bank Holiday, and Kempton in October.

It’s all about organic growth for us at the moment and reinvesting back into the company each month. Ultimately, the company is called Six String Supplies, and that means all types of guitar parts and guitar building supplies. That’s the long term vision.

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