Do you know John Klein from Pennsylvanian?

tl;dr Please, please, please, use caution when dealing with this guy. My 10 month stint dealing with him was quiet painful. He lied (a lot), stole from me, and then disappeared. The police know him by name and are actively looking for him. His parents are disappointed in him and say he’s “having problems”. If you are considering working with or interacting with this person, please use caution and protect yourself. Do not make the mistake I made by trusting him.

This is John Klein

He lives in the Philadelphia area (Prospect Park at the time of our interactions).

He built guitars for a while. He focused on N4 clones and other concepts that incorporated the Stephen’s Extended Cutaway neck joint.

Here’s a video where he talks about his inspiring triumph over hardships and how he’s living his dream as a luthier.

I love the idea of the SEC neck joints. It feels like there isn’t a joint at all when you play on the higher frets, and I also love the aesthetics on the front of the instrument. It’s a great design that I wish had caught on more.

Towards the end of 2016, I wanted to get a guitar w/ hotter pickups and a non-fine tuner floyd rose. I basically wanted to combine the characteristics of the Washburn N4 with the Guthrie Govan Charvel. This is when I found John Klein through his ebay store. He was excited about the concept I was after. His quote was, “The more details I hear from you, the more stoked I get thinking of designs in my head.”

From here we agreed on a price, I paid half up front, I sent ~$500 worth of hardware to install, and everything seemed to be on track.

Spoiler alert!

This story doesn’t end well and I ignored all of the warning signs because I really wanted this guitar and I’m not used to interacting with dishonest people.

On December 22nd 2016 I spoke with John and he was very upset. He was completing a series of guitars for a client and the guy, supposedly, wrote him a hot check for $10,000 and his bank account had a negative balance. Being the naive and nice guy that I am, I thought, “wow, this sucks around the holidays. Here’s the rest of the money I owe you for the build PLUS $100 ….just because you’re having a hard time.” In hind sight this clearly removed all his incentives to finish the project. I suspect there’s some truth to his story, but it’s hard to say how much in hind sight; you never know when you’re dealing with someone who lies.

Communication was good for the next two months. Here are the pictures of the progress:

This is the last picture I saw of the guitar. The woods are beautiful and I would have loved owning it. Unfortunately this picture is as close as I got.

After February 20th, there were long gaps in communication. Each time there was an elaborate story to justify why he wasn’t available. Towards the end of June he made contact saying the guitar was almost complete and he got a shipping estimate. July 20th I was contacted saying the guitar was complete and would ship that day. Once I made the epic mistake of paying this snake¬†more money, poof he was gone. He never answered his phone, text, emails, etc. He’s a ghost. The police informed me that he was evicted from his residence, and broke in and trashed the place after the locks were changed. Sounds like a class act.

As of the time I’m writing this (8-30-17), his black Washburn N6, which is in several of his videos, is being sold on ebay through a store in Springfield PA. The headstock has distinctive markings; it’s clearly the same guitar.

Anyway, my point of sharing this story is to 1) make others aware of John Klein in case they ever encounter him in the future, and 2) serve as a cautionary tail of how important it is to protect yourself when dealing with various people over the internet. I should know better, but I totally fell for this guy’s scam.

My take aways from this experience are:

  1. Even though he talks a good game, avoid working with or hiring John Klein, John Klein Guitars, JKlein Guitars, Empyrean Guitars, or whatever future name he uses. Based on my direct experiences, he is not trustworthy and it’s unclear he has a moral compass. I feel sadness for his child. :(
  2. For a large project like this, never ever pay in full up front
  3. Never send money “as a gift” via paypal. This is an instant warning sign if a seller requests this.
  4. As much as I like the idea of helping people who’ve had a troubled past, it greatly increases the risk.
  5. Don’t ignore warning signs, even if you want to. Listen when your brain is tells you something is a bad idea.

All of records and communication with this person have been recorded and I look forward to the litigation phase of this adventure.


Lucky for me his family responded to our facebook messages. It turns out they were able to recover my case, and the guitar project. Looking at the pictures the guitar hasn’t been worked on since Jan or Feb, and is in the same condition as the pictures above. Everything is just ¬†rough cut. Unfortunately, the hardware appears to be long gone, but I’m grateful they were able to recover what they did and are shipping it to me.

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