Scott's LP Restoration Project
Scott reached out to BlueHaus wanting to finally take the next step in his guitar playing and start learning songs from his favorite band, Tool. A man after our own heart here at BlueHaus, we knew he would need some humbuckers and a hefty overall build to handle all that sustain. We wanted to build Scott something that could handle high-gain effects yet wouldn't be intimidating to an intermediate player. We've all seen a prog-rock guitar that we didn't know if we should play or watch take-off into orbit. We wanted all the heft, without any intimidating and unnecessary components. Here's how Scott's build went.
For Scott's guitar I used the Epiphone Pro-Bucker pick-ups. (further down in the build I talk about my affinity for solderless pickups). These hum-buckers are designed to sound as close to the original Gibson P.A.F. sound as possible, and they really don't disappoint. I went with a Wilkinson wraparound semi-intonatable bridge, with a simple tune-omatic style set-up.
I also chose the classic Gibson LP style speed knobs, cuz they really are functional when hitting those quick adjustments mid-lick.
(I was rushing out the door and realized this photo was taken without the high E string, note that is for no particular reason at all, just forgot I hadn't finished stringing when I snapped the pic).
Here you can see where I left some of the original nitro pepto pink on the sides. I tinted some tru oil with the black mica dust and hit the exposed wood sides with a couple coats. Using tinted lacquers to show off old paint on restored bodies is something I started doing which is much akin to the way a film maker would put a memory scene in a different light to show that it is the character's memory. I think it works quite well.
As I've mentioned before I try to find the best built necks for each build. Necks are so important you really don't want to mess around with anything but a really well built one. This is a PRS style mahogany neck. I kept it simple with the neck with a ton of sanding so that it was velvetty smooth up and down, then a light hit of tru-oil. Locking tuners were going to be key to being able to play those Tool songs Scott mentioned so we found him some nice rotary style tuning machines. I also used a little black mica dust to exaggerate the grain in the headstock.
Here you can better see what I was talking about regarding the finish. This looks scratched-up, belt-rashed and roadworn, even slightly DIY. As a guitar builder I love the juxtaposition of that look with the fact that this back is in reality sealed, level-sanded, and polished to a beautifully smooth touch, while still looking like it might cut ya.
Also you can see here that I'm using a solderless pickup harness.
I love solderless systems. Let me first say that I have nothing against soldering, I learned to solder guitar wiring long before I ever touched a solderless harness. But given the fantastic and reliable systems on the market today, Solderless wiring harnesses really have shaken the stigma of being unreliable, and in my opinion truly come of age. I liken them to mashed potatoes. For years boxed mashed potatoes tasted like cardboard, then the technology got better, and now they're delicious! Same thing happened the last ten or so years with solderless pickups and harnesses. That being said, I also believe they serve the need of the client better most of the time. This allows the client to easily switch out pickups down the road as they see fit, and with zero sacrifice in performance, it really is a win/win situation.
Copper taping cavities, shields the guitar from unwanted buzzing due to surrounding signals floating around in the air. I also use shielding paint at times, for some reason i tend to decide on a case by case basis. I suppose i use copper tape on higher end projects, not so much because it's better but I think it is more labor intensive and maybe fits the description "hand done" a little better. Also there is one of my two doggies this one is Arrow.
No build is without its speed-bumps, back and top finished up, I had to break out the power drill to widen the routing between the neck and bridge pickup. The pickups were delivered after I'd already gotten a good bit of body-work done, or I typically would've checked this sort of thing prior to starting finishing work, cuz let's be honest, I get impatient. Whenever I have to do wood work on a finished body, its good to tape down some protection, here I was using a piece of grey felt to protect the body while I was widening the neck-bridge rout.
After level sanding I usually go straight to a grey brush-on primer, which I'll do usually two or three coats of to get a really even foundation. I like the three-dimensionality of acrylic paint and when finished with the right amount of tru-oil, I like the depth it gives, especially when brushed on. I own spray guns, and have a beautiful space overlooking the mountains in which to spray bodies. But the truth is you can get a perfect spray finish anywhere, what's hard to find is a cool, how do I say, slightly DIY so you can tell it was done by a buddy, kind of finish. At first glance it looks brushed, but deep, (I even wound up adding a hint of belt-rash to the back), but then upon closer inspection is silky smooth to the touch, and mirror high gloss in the light, yeah, that's what I like.
After nine Saturnian moon cycles of sanding the Ash top is looking nice. I typically start as low as 150 grit, and wind up in finishing grit sandpaper, usually 2000/3000 grit. With the back still basically untouched I pondered what to do next. In our conversation on the phone I threw out the idea of matte black for the back, and Scott seemed to dig it. I went through my paints and found an unopened bottle of a gun-metal brushed black acrylic I'd been looking to use, not exactly matte, but I had a good feeling about the overall look, so on it went.
I found this old LP style body online a few months back and bought it just because of the awesome deal that it presented. It originally had a nitro-cellulose finish, which would be great if it was at all intact, it was not, so it had to go. I know lovers of relic guitars are going to tear me a new one for ditching the nitro, but we're no strangers to nitro finishes at BlueHaus, I love them, but this one had nothing worth saving. Spoiler alert, we wound up saving a little nitro finish anyways, just because I'm sentimental. Hours of sanding later I realized I never took a photo of the original pepto-pink, so I paused to take this snapshot, and kept sanding.
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