1980s Synsonics (Korean-made) Mini-Explorer Electric Guitar

Synsonics guitars were imported from Korea by Gretsch in the '80s and all of them appear to be amp-in-guitar mini-size electric guitars either intended for kids or for travel. Most seem to be Strat-shaped but a few are Explorer-shaped like this guy.

I received this in a lot I purchased of some funky gear and you can see the condition it arrived in at the bottom of the post. It's an essentially valueless guitar and it had been modified with minor success into a lap steel at some point and then, apparently, left to rot in a barn for a couple decades.

After removing the filth, leveling and dressing the frets, adding side dots, and gutting all of the electronics onboard (including the amp, speaker, old pickup, wiring harness, battery box, etc.), I set about making it into a player. I did this one up during my off-hours as a "brain reset" fix -- sometimes I just need to work on something weird to get me excited about the normal job again -- and this made a nice little addition to the recording stash because it's so dumb and fun.

I fit some parts-bin bridge posts into the top, recut a stop-style tailpiece into a bridge with some compensated slotting of the top for the strings, added an Artec-made Alnico II humbucker pickup, installed a simple one-volume wiring harness, added nice Gotoh tuners to the headstock, and then cleaned it up.

I inlaid various international coins wherever extraneous holes were located in the top and then put some old toys in the old speaker and battery-box cavities. There's a merman, gnome-shaped crayon, and spider under the speaker grill and a kitty foot, wooden kitty, and lizard in the back.

Because it actually has a normal scale length of 24" (like a Fender Mustang) and a medium-thickness neck, it plays like a normal guitar so it's not as much of a "wasted effort" feel as it would have felt like if it'd had a 19-21" kiddo-guitar scale or something like that. Also, as you can hear from the video, it sounds pretty dang good. I win!

Repairs included: fret level/dress, side dots install, new tuners, new pickup, new wiring harness, new bridge setup, cleaning, decoration, etc.

Body wood: plywood

Bridge: stop-tail/modded

Fretboard: unknown

Neck wood: unknown

Pickups: 1x Artec-made Alnico II humbucker

Action height at 12th fret: 1/16" overall
String gauges: 52w, 38w, 28w, 18, 15, 11

Neck shape: medium C

Board radius: ~12"

Truss rod: adjustable

Neck relief: straight

Fret style: medium

Scale length: 24"

Nut width: 1 5/8"

Body width: 12"

Body depth: 1 1/2"

Weight: 5 lbs 5 oz


Rob Gardner said…
Jake there is something about the way you bring these ratty oddball guitars back to life that reminds of bringing a mangy stray dog in out of the rain, feeding it, giving it a bath and letting it sleep by the fire. And this little guy turned out to be an astonishingly good guitar to play too. Great project.
Jake Wildwood said…
Thanks Rob, I appreciate that... it's sort-of how I feel about it, too. Poor, one-eyed dog or cat...!