First Act Lola, Sheena, and Delia

In addition to producing entry-level instruments for mega-retailers such as Wal-Mart, First Act builds custom guitars for such high-profile clients as Franz Ferdinand, Cheap Trick, and Aerosmith in its Studio for Artists facility. Now, the company has launched a line of American-made custom shop guitars, starting with three instruments called Lola, Sheena, and Delia.

These guitars are quite different from each other both visually and sonically, though they do share several characteristics, including First Act/Kent Armstrong hand-wound alnico humbuckers with custom housings (Sheena has a single coil in the neck slot), set necks, Corian nuts, stainless-steel jumbo frets, and proprietary low-profile bridges and chunky tailpieces designed to improve sustain by running the strings through the body.

The workmanship—particularly the woodworking—was generally excellent on all three models, though tiny irregularities including stray dollops of glue, uneven bits of binding, and multiple slots on some string saddles were apparent upon close examination. Intonation was also generally very good, with only slight inconsistencies in a few places that would probably disappear with a more thorough setup.

The instruments sport lots of cool cosmetic features, such as black center strips on their necks that widen out to form attractive facings on the rear of the headstock, cutaway pickup covers that expose the color of the coils, and cleanly applied neck and body binding. The fretwork is equally impressive, and the beveled neck heels are a welcome touch. Within the control cavities, however, slipshod soldering slightly diminished the otherwise quality vibe of these instruments.

I tested the three sisters using several amplifiers, including a JBL-loaded Fender Twin Reverb, a vintage 100-watt Marshall half-stack, a THD Flexi-50, and a Rivera Chubster 55.


At first glance, Lola appears to be the love child of a Les Paul and an SG. Her single cutaway—and relatively thick—body suggest the former, while her smooth contours, vintage cherry finish, and pointy lower horn call to mind the latter. But take a closer look and you’ll note the asymmetrical “pompadour” headstock, minimalist tailpiece, half-open pickup covers, and “circling sharks” neck inlays—all of which indicate that Lola is new in town.

The two halves of Lola’s Honduran mahogany body are perfectly joined by a thin piece of black laminate, and contoured along the sections that make contact with the player’s arm and upper chest. The medium-thick neck is also constructed from two pieces of mahogany, with a rosewood center strip and fretboard. The tuners functioned smoothly, holding the pitch even when the guitar was played very aggressively.

Lola sounded good through all of the amplifiers. The neck pickup was rich and well rounded on clean settings, and smooth and silky on overdriven settings, like you’d expect from, say, an old Les Paul Junior. The bridge pickup produced fat yet toothy sounds similar to those made by a vintage SG, and with the series/parallel switch engaged, the tone thinned out nicely for rhythm playing.

Lola is nicely balanced and her contoured body and neck joint, and medium-high action (which I personally prefer on an instrument of this type) make for ultra-comfortable playing. I found lots to like about Lola, and she would be a great choice for anyone who digs vintage Gibson solidbodies, but lacks the major coin needed to acquire one.


Sheena’s shape is roughly based on that of a Fender Telecaster, but her downward-facing cutaway, extended headstock, arty chrome hardware, and cool black binding make her a unique creation. She has a beautiful solid alder body finished in transparent yellow, a pretty two-piece flame maple neck with an ebony center, and a gorgeous birdseye maple fretboard—all of which are nicely enhanced by her black pickguard and binding, Hipshot O-Ring knobs, and ebony headstock facing.

On clean amp settings, the P-90-like single-coil in the neck slot dishes up meaty yet well-defined notes and chords, while the bridge humbucker is naturally much edgier, venturing into Tele territory with the series/parallel switch engaged. On overdriven settings, both pickups deliver substantial crunch and bite, and with the gain cranked up Sheena sings with a wonderful sweetness and sustain.

The guitar’s gentle body contours, “C” profile neck, and silky-smooth maple fretboard make her a pleasure to play—and the deep cutaway allows easy access to the high frets. The action was too low at first, causing the high strings to crap out when bent more than a single step on the low frets, but that was easily remedied by adjusting the bridge.

I spent more time with Sheena than with Lola or Delia, and found her to be a very versatile guitar that sounds great and is lots of fun to play, even on long sessions where fatigue can often set in.


The most unusual and fancy of the three guitars, Delia features a semi-hollow, double-cutaway body that’s simultaneously reminiscent of Gibson ES-335 and oddball “pawnshop” guitars of the ‘60s. Her 5A flame maple top is a gem, the Honduran mahogany back and sides are nearly as pretty, and she’s even got an elegant flame maple two-piece neck with an ebony center. Gold hardware adds a touch of class and further differentiates her from Lola and Sheena.

Despite Delia’s casual resemblance to an ES-335, the only significant feature they really have in common (besides two humbuckers) is an internal structure to improve sustain and inhibit feedback. But rather than using a solid block of wood, Delia features an internal bracing system extending from the neck pocket to just underneath the bridge. And with no series/parallel switch, Delia is equally straightforward to use. As with Sheena, Delia has a “C” profile neck that feels full in the hand without being too beefy. There are no body contours for obvious reasons, but she’s still very comfortable to play and feels quite light at 7 lbs.

Tonally, Delia tends towards the brighter side of the spectrum, with lots of spank and sparkle from both pickups. You won’t get warm and woody “Sco” or boldly biting “B.B.” tones out of Delia, as you might expect from this type of guitar. But the sounds Delia does make are loaded with personality, ranging from pleasantly snappy to borderline out-of-phase snarky. This is a great rhythm guitar, especially for funk, and she cuts through dense mixes without being too obvious. Delia can also rage on overdriven settings, though, once again, these tones tend to live in the upper-mid part of the spectrum. If you’re in search of original semi-hollow sounds that are still in the ballpark of classic thinlines, Delia is definitely worth an audition.

Closing Numbers

Other than the few cosmetic quibbles already noted, my only other concern is that these guitars tended to hum more readily than most when played close to computer monitors (such as those found in many home studios), which is probably a result of their minimal shielding. Otherwise, Lola, Sheena, and Delia are fine instruments that combine stylistic innovation, unique appearance, practical utility, and surprising affordability considering they’re handmade in America.