DIY JEM Style Guitar Kit (Part 1: Overview)

DIY JEM BoxI am back with a new Do-It-Yourself guitar build! This time we are taking a look at the DIY JEM Style Guitar Kit (eBay). I am extremely excited to start this project and I have some great ideas planned for this guitar build. This seller on eBay was kind enough to send me this guitar and it appears to be a high quality kit, especially for the price.

What’s in the Kit:

Let’s first talk about the guitar body. This is a solid Mahogany body with the unique “monkey grip” cut out at the top. For those unaware, this guitar kit is made to replicate Steve Vai’s signature Ibanez JEM guitar. Although this is not an exact replica, it definitely gets the job done.

The body of the guitar is routed for 3 pickups, which include 2 humbuckers on the outer slots, and 1 single coil pickup placed in the middle. This setup will give you a wide range of tones to choose from. The bridge cavity is also made to fit a floating trem like a Floyd Rose but can also fit a Gotoh floating trem with some slight modifications

DIY JEM Neck Inlay

The bolt on neck in this guitar kit looks fantastic! The neck is also made out of Mahogany and includes a Rosewood fretboard with beautiful vine shaped perloid inlays. In my opinion, the vine inlay is what sets this DIY JEM Style Guitar Kit (eBay) apart from other kits I’ve seen. It just looks great!

Also included in the kit is a nice white tortoise shell pickguard, which houses the 3 pickups. What is nice about this pickguard, is that the pickups are pre-wired making installation a cinch. There are only 3 wires that will need to be soldered to get things working.

Everything needed to build a fully working guitar is included in this guitar kit. From the body and neck to the tuners and strings, it’s all there! It even comes with a guitar cable as an added bonus.

Please take note that all the parts in this kit can be upgraded at anytime. For the purpose of this build, I will complete the project with exactly the items that are included in the kit.

Plans for the Build:

DIY JEM Guitar

I am most excited about completing the paint finish on the guitar body. My plan is to achieve a swirl paint finish on the body and headstock of the neck. I figured this would be the most fitting look for this project. The swirl paint finish is a very popular paint job for JEM style guitars, but achieving this is no easy task.

For the neck, I am going to keep it a natural finish. Similar to my previous Les Paul build, I will either be using Tru-Oil or Tung Oil as my choice of neck finishes. The goal is to obtain a smooth and fast playing neck. A neck that is ready to shred!


All in all, I’m super stoked to start working on this DIY JEM Style Guitar Kit (eBay). The body and neck feel great and should be a very nice playing guitar once complete. All the parts like pickups, bridge, and tuners can be upgraded to achieve a better sound, but at this point I do not see it being necessary. If you are looking to start a guitar project, I would definitely recommend this kit. Follow along and join me on this build!

Well that’s it for now. Stay tuned!

(Get your DIY JEM Style Guitar Kit (eBay) here or here on Amazon)


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  1. so excited to see what you do with this! can’t wait! 🙂

  2. I’m pretty stoked to see how you pull this one off. I was thinking about buying one myself. Since the electronics are attached to the pick guard, one would need to buy all new electronics to change the pick guard, correct?

    • Hi Alex, you don’t need to change all the electronics if all you want to do is change the pick guard. You can just transfer the parts to the new pick guard.

  3. Hey Fred, i have one thing that’s bothering me with most of these kits. I’ve looked at a few, but when i look at the rosewood fingerboard, they all seem very light. i understand that they use cheap woods, but is there a way to make the fingerboard darker?

  4. I am interested in this product. Was any fret work needed on the neck?I have never heard of a kit being mahogany, it looks basswood to me.

  5. And how are the frets?

  6. So Fred… did you lose interest?

    No progress…

  7. OH NO we lost Fred 🙁

  8. Oh my gosh, please elaborate. I hope you don’t mean that Fred passed away. Fred has many friends and followers, and I for one always enjoyed Fred’s thoughts and videos, and just like Kris, I thought that perhaps Fred had had trouble with the finish of his guitar build, or that he had lost interest in his website, so could you pass along any information that you have.
    Jim in Cornwall.

    • No no, I am still here lol. Sorry guys for the lack of updates. Been extremely busy with other websites and projects. I will get back to these guitar builds though, I promise!

  9. Wow Fred, glad to hear it, Kris had us nervous, lol. Looking forward to part two of your newest build when you get a chance.
    Jim in Cornwall

  10. Hi Fred and all on here. I am in England and really fancy building a Jem guitar. I can find 2 options on eBay here. One in the UK and one in Spain. Only the one in Spain comes with the vine of life neck but does not seem to supply a trem bar although it does list the Floyd Rose bridge. My worry is they both come in basswood. I have googled this and although they say basswood is an ok wood you do wonder of course. What are your and the forum members thoughts on that????? I suppose I will have to go with the Spanish one with the Vine of Life but I did wonder why most of the kits over here were basswood rather than mahogany or something. Great site by the way Fred and I am really looking forward to the continuing build after going through yor LP build. Thanks for being there

    • Well Steve Vai”s Ibanez Jem is made out of basswood with a maple neck, rosewood fretboard so i would rather get the one with basswood than mahogany if you’re going for his tone, if you would like a fuller, richer tone then the mahogany is what you would rather want.

  11. Great news.
    Been in touch with the Spanish guy and he can get a selection of Jem kits with different woods so I can get a Jem kit with a basswood body and a spalted or flame maple top. That and the tree of life neck. Just need to get a few more pounds together

  12. Nothing happened here yet then
    I have got my kit and I am ready to proceed
    I got the basswood body with a spalted maple veneer top
    My first job is to shim out the neck slot as there is a loose fit
    It does give me a chance to line the neck up perfectly though
    Then it will be down to wood preparation
    Need to get some more cash together for the materials though

    Come on Fred
    I was hoping to follow you, not the other way round 😉

  13. Hey Mick,
    I read your msgs to Fred, and I`m not positive but I think that the real JEM guitars are made out of basswood. Even if they`re not, I just finished my first kit (a semi-hollow ES-335 type kit with gold hardware, using Fred`s vegetable dye (green) and Tru-Oil technique to finish, and it turned out beautifully (if I do say so myself, lol). Just realize that the grain colour in basswood is very green (hence my choice in colour), so you have to plan for that if you are going to use the dye technique. Good luck with your build – I must have watched every one of Fred`s videos on his Les Paul build ten times each, and they really made my first build that much easier.
    Hey Fred, we are all looking forward to your next step in the JEM kit build,

    • Jim, thanks for answering. I also believe that most Ibanez guitars are made of basswood. Not 100% positive either. I know there has been a lack of updates on this site but I am slowly getting back into the swing of things. I already have the wood preparation videos filmed from a few weeks ago. The difficult part is finding time to edit them, which takes many hours.

  14. Hi Fred,
    No problem, and your videos are well worth the wait – I looked at a slew of different videos, some excellent, and some very confusing while building my kit, but your series was smart, well produced, and took me from q to z in an easy to understand way, so thanks again.
    Very much looking forward to more of this current build…..
    Jim in Cornwall

  15. Oops, that’s A to Z lol (guess I need more light when I type)
    Jim in Cornwall

  16. Well I have virtually finished my Jem
    The painting let me down a lot as I had to do it inside and the light was just not good enough
    I am not going to be too worried as I can repaint it in the future if I want to and I get fed up of it
    I am very happy with the paint finish though
    It sounds very good to with excellent sustain
    I can imagine it with a really good electrics on it
    Maybe one day
    You can see the build on my blog except finished photos as I am waiting for a nice day so I can get some photos outside to really show off the flip paint
    Watch this space

  17. Well the photos of the finished Jem are on my blog
    The address is on the post above
    As I say the paint finish is not as good as I would have wanted
    The area that caused almost all the problems was the hand grip
    Keep that in mind as it is a minefield for runs
    Unfortunately the light was not perfect as the sun had gone in but you can get the idea of how the flip paint works changing the colour with the different angles
    I do wish the paint finish was a bit better but you never know, one day I may strip it off and do it again
    What I am happy about is the sound

  18. Whoops

    It really does it’s it’s job as far as sound is concerned even though it is obvious the pups and other electrics are not of the best quality
    The sustain is excellent
    Far better than my Squier Standard Fat Strat
    So for that I am really pleased
    You never know
    One day when I have a bit of spare money LOL
    I may redo it all with new electrics, paint, the lot

    So now I am just waiting for Fred to start the vid of his build
    I can imagine it will be great
    Just remember Fred
    I know you say you are dipping it, but remember that hand grip
    It really is a run machine

  19. Hey Mick, just had a look at your JEM pics on your BlogSpot – I know that as the builder you see every problem, but I think your JEM looks great!!!
    I can’t wait to see Fred’s next installment…
    Have a great day!
    Jim in Cornwall

  20. Thanks a lot Jim
    I am happy with the sound which I guess is the main thing
    It’s not an exhibition guitar
    I wanted it for playing and it does that

    I am looking forward to Freds build, especially the dipping, to see if he has any problems like me around the hand grip
    For me that was the nightmare run magnet

  21. So I’ve been watching your DIY Les Paul videos on YouTube, fantastic job by the way, and I was wondering if you have any advice on guitars with a bolt on necks? Such as adjusting height, action, ect.
    And also a suggestion for another video if you don’t mind, it’s a DIY Music Man guitar… I’m having some trouble with it.

  22. I have been interested in doing my own DIY kit, but have been hindered by the painting process, I have a custom V that I am working on, and want the “factory” finish. Is there a simple way to do this? I have read that it will take weeks of work, and a lot of patience with sanding and buffing between 20+ layers. Also, I am very excited to see more about this JEM build.

  23. Hi Fred,
    Just checking in again with your site (I do so about once a week) – I guess you’ve given up on your JEM kit build as it has been almost eight months since you introduced the first chapter to us.

    I’m sure you have your reasons, but it’s a shame – your first build not only influenced me to build my own first kit, but if you look at other YouTube guitar kit builds, your name is often mentioned for your finishing technique (I used it myself on my 335 build), and your series of videos has to many, become the benchmark to be measured against.

    I hope you either find the time to get back to it, or, if this was not the right kit for you, I hope you will find and try another one that suits you better.

    I can’t tell you the pleasure I got from watching your Les Paul series.

    All the best for 2014
    Jim in Cornwall

  24. Dave in the Canaries

    Hi Fred, Have just received my JEM kit from the USA, when is your next video going on line?.I really enjoyed the Les Paul video.

  25. Heloooo! We need some new vids! I’m really having some trouble painting mine with the monkey grip. I need help!!!!!!!!

  26. Hi Fred; It’s been awhile since I viewed your video about the blue LP that you finished in true oil. Knowing what you now know from that experience would that be a go to option for finishing one of your future builds? Were you satisfied overall with the results ? If you would please elaborate on your observations about this method of finishing? Would you consider it an acceptable professional type of finish suitable for commercial purposes or would you be more prone to use some other traditional finishing method? Prior to making that video did you get the idea from some one else to try this method?