ALS48 Is this guitar's ugliness just skin deep?

Discussion in 'Other Single-Cuts' started by Watersilk, Dec 28, 2017.

  1. Watersilk

    Watersilk Member

    Messages:
    92
    Likes Received:
    70
    Joined:
    Jan 12, 2017
    A 'Her, or an 'It'?

    Like all of you on this forum, I absolutely love Les Paul's...

    I have two Gibson (reissue) Les Paul's, not even production line models, but both Custom Shop jobs, so why am I interested in Tokai's?

    Last year, I bought an LS85F, it turned out to be quite a project, I had no idea that Japanese Tokai's could be chock a block with junk hardware, nasty, cheap chromium plated rubbish that should never have graced any guitar; however, the body and neck were well made, finished, for want of a better word, at least nicely gooed over with Polyurethane varnish that needed a good rub down to thin and feel right. i have nothing against Poly finishes, if they are thin, and thin this one now is.

    Not content with rescuing this deeply-flawed instrument from it's plastic straight jacket and rubbish hardware, I decided to go really crazy and look for a very cheap model, an ALS48, a Korean one.

    After much searching, looking for a cheap example of an already affordable guitar, I found a rather sorry example on eBay. No one was bidding on it, no wonder, my gosh this thing looked ugly! I wanted her/it for guitar classes, something I could trawl around the filthy, dangerous streets of London.

    [​IMG]

    One bid, I had her/it, £155, plus £10 delivery. That was back in May, delivery was to my Mother's address in London, meanwhile, I was eight thousand kilometres south, in tropical Africa.

    I don't know why I was so excited to see this ugly thing, but I had waited seven whole months to see what monster I had become the owner of...

    [​IMG]

    No, please don't for one minute think that this is lovely, this picture does not do this guitar the injustice it deserves, it is disgusting, believe me! Truly disgusting!

    The finish, if you can call it that is far worse than the Japanese model, far worse! It looks like a child has done it. The red has more than a tinge of pink in it, the back is even worse than the front. Does anyone know why the cover plates are cream and not black? Notice the lack of a dimple on the open book headstock... perhaps made for another market?

    [​IMG]

    The finish makes it feel like a toy, not at all a serious instrument; but it's a cheap guitar I hear you object! Yes, however, is there more to this beast?

    There are are few problems...

    [​IMG]

    Some tortured soul has given this jack plate a real going over...

    [​IMG]

    Strange selector tip, ghastly selector plate!

    [​IMG]

    A beveled pickguard!

    [​IMG]

    The bell knobs are so close to the top, it's a wonder that they don't foul it...

    [​IMG]

    a deep scratch...

    [​IMG]

    The awful pot metal, clunky chrome hardware!

    [​IMG]

    Because I love Les Paul's, I find it difficult to believe that this can be a 'bad' guitar, perhaps there is a great guitar hiding, waiting to be set free...

    Here then, is a mad post, documenting an heroic effort to save this it and turn her into a she!

    Watch this space!
     
    filtersweep likes this.

  2. rockstar232007

    rockstar232007 Senior Member

    Messages:
    16,014
    Likes Received:
    12,396
    Joined:
    Jun 28, 2008
    Besides the obvious, something just seems really off about this thing.

    I've seen a LOT of Korean-made Tokais, and none of them looked as wonky as this. Especially that neck-heel (half-round/square).

    Not saying it's fake, but definitely not one of the better ones.
     

  3. Watersilk

    Watersilk Member

    Messages:
    92
    Likes Received:
    70
    Joined:
    Jan 12, 2017
    Wooo! I didn't notice that! Thank you. No, it's not a fake, but it's a very strange guitar! I wasn't going to post the re-making of this guitar, but two things caught my attention when I looked more closely, the rosewood fretboard is odd, it's better quality than my Japanese Tokai and odder still, almost identical to my Custom Shop Gibson's board! Today I decided that I couldn't stand the awful finish on the back, I started sanding it off.. what I found under the gunky finish was shocking. I expected to find a really poor piece of wood, or rather pieces, but the quality of the Alder is amazing! Why use such good quality woods, then cover with a disgusting finish? I thought that these thick finishes were applied because they cover all kinds of evils; the wood I exposed is beautiful, the kind expensive handmade furniture is made of, close-grained and without filler, so far...
     
    rockstar232007 likes this.

  4. Mowgli5555

    Mowgli5555 Senior Member

    Messages:
    762
    Likes Received:
    212
    Joined:
    Jun 20, 2010
    Hmm... I guess I am just curious as to what you expected for $200ish USD??
    That should be like 1/20th of what you paid for your Gibson Reissue. Josh
     
    PermissionToLand likes this.

  5. Watersilk

    Watersilk Member

    Messages:
    92
    Likes Received:
    70
    Joined:
    Jan 12, 2017
    Hello Josh,

    Yes, exactly! I didn't expect much, but I feel quite sure that this guitar has some surprises to come...

    I think that a little more thought should have gone into the production of this guitar, certainly under the skin there is some quality here, it's almost as if the factory workers were told to make it ugly... ugly by purpose, not by budgetary limitation. Think about it, it takes the same time to spray a guitar with a bad colour as it does with a decent colour, the pickguard doesn't have to have a bevel added to make it cheaper to produce, I don't think it is cheaper to chrome plate than it is to nickel plate; perhaps, there are things that have been done to this guitar to make it look cheap and nasty... it's odd that they start out using really good wood for the body (I haven't had a look at the neck wood yet) the Rosewood fretboard is also fabulous, then plaster horrible coloured Polyurathene over it... the Koreans are quite capable of making good guitars, and here is a good guitar.. covered up!

    Anyway, if you like tinkering with guitars, it's a lot of fun to strip a bad guitar and find a good one hiding beneath it.
     

  6. Watersilk

    Watersilk Member

    Messages:
    92
    Likes Received:
    70
    Joined:
    Jan 12, 2017
    Just looking at this guitar, going on the Tomato, Tangerine hued Cherry Sunburst colour, I guessed that Tokai had modelled this guitar on a 1960 Les Paul Standard. This gave me the idea of staying with this theme and where possible, buy new parts to enhance the '60 look.

    it was impossible to see in the eBay pictures, but I had assumed that the neck would be a slim '60 type profile.

    The measurements are as follows:

    Neck Thickness: 1st Fret: 21, 11th Fret: 24
    Body Thickness: 50
    Headstock Thickness (at end) 14.9
    Nut Width: 43.1

    All these are compatible with the measurements of a 1960 Les Paul, like the nice example below.

    [​IMG]

    It will be a challenge to see how close I can get to this. Of course, I will not disguise the fact that this is a Tokai, but just try to move it a 'little' closer to the real thing; not just in looks, but feel too, perhaps even tone???!!!

    All changes that involve component upgrading, will be reversible, should i ever wish to sell this guitar in the future.

    So, it's just my time, effort and a large dose of insanity!
     

  7. Watersilk

    Watersilk Member

    Messages:
    92
    Likes Received:
    70
    Joined:
    Jan 12, 2017
    After buying my ALS48, I was both surprised and frustrated to find so little information for these Korean models. It's then interesting to get inside and have a look at what makes one.

    I was pleasantly surprised to find that the cavity covers were nicely finished underneath with foil:

    [​IMG]

    However, I was not at all impressed by the wiring and electronics! The picture is a bit dark, but shows the size of these Pots! They are about half the size of standard CTS pots!

    [​IMG]

    My advice to anyone who is not tone deaf and has a Korean, Indonesian or Chinese electric guitar is to remove this rubbish and invest in new Pots, Caps, Selector Switch, Jack and wiring. I suffered poor tone from a previous Korean guitar, I first blamed it on the wood and construction, believing that an 'affordable' guitar should sound bad; however, removing the entire electrics solved the problem; really, the difference was like night and day! I know absolutely nothing about electronics, it might have been just one component in the circuit spoiling the party, but in removing the entire electronic circuit you can be sure to have removed the problem; only when this has been done, can any enthusiastic expectations of turning this into a musical instrument proceed.
     

  8. Wolf ^_^

    Wolf ^_^ Senior Member

    Messages:
    195
    Likes Received:
    93
    Joined:
    Aug 14, 2014
    How strange, I remember seen a few days in store a while back and they had the proper placement on the controls.
    It looks a lot like an Epi , but even epis have the correct knob placement
     

  9. Watersilk

    Watersilk Member

    Messages:
    92
    Likes Received:
    70
    Joined:
    Jan 12, 2017
    The Original tiny metric short shaft Pots!

    [​IMG]

    The shafts even feel disgusting, corroded zinc perhaps?

    Original Selector Switch...

    [​IMG]

    The original pickups...
    Does anyone know who made them? By the gold-coloured backplate, I could guess G&B in South Korea? All I can see marked on the back is 'R' for rear and 'F' for front. If it is G&B, they are not a bad company, they make PRS SE pickups, some of them sound good... my SE Soapbar has P90's made at the G&B factory.

    [​IMG]

    Does anyone know who the Korean Tokai's were made by, and where? Outsourced guitars can be quite a mystery!
     
    Last edited: Jan 1, 2018

  10. Watersilk

    Watersilk Member

    Messages:
    92
    Likes Received:
    70
    Joined:
    Jan 12, 2017
    And now for something completely different! The Hardware!!

    The original bridge:
    Instead of threaded poles, the bridge sits on studs which screw into bushes, both the the bushes and studs are poor quality

    [​IMG]

    The original Stoptail:
    The bushes are really poor quality metal, light and dead sounding when dropped onto a table top

    [​IMG]

    The original tuners:
    They are most probably fine, but those snot green buttons I could never live with!

    [​IMG]
     

  11. PermissionToLand

    PermissionToLand Senior Member

    Messages:
    562
    Likes Received:
    273
    Joined:
    Sep 1, 2014
    I'm sorry, but I have to take issue with you calling the hardware "pot metal". Insufficiently strong metals have not been used largely since the 1970s. I have rarely seen a bridge that collapsed on a guitar built after 1980 or so. And do you really think you can test the purity and quality of a metal by the sound it makes when dropped on a table?

    As for the pots; mini-pots are extremely common on budget guitars (they were used by Japanese companies too, back in the day), and just because they are smaller does not make their quality inferior in any way. Frankly, I'd bet that if you only replaced the pickups and set up the guitar properly, you'd have a very hard time telling the difference between that and if you upgraded the bridge, TP and pots as well.

    Also, the Kluson tuners that came on my Historic Gibson had the same shade of "snot green" buttons. Funny how things suddenly become "garbage" on a cheap guitar when they would be accepted on an expensive one. I've also seen many a "clownburst" exactly like that one on an expensive Gibson, which is praised by the owner.

    Sorry to be "that guy" but I get tired of these derisive attitudes toward cheaper guitars. Frankly, with new pickups and a proper setup, any of my Korean or Chinese guitars are only marginally lesser than my Gibson in any functional way. I can admit that I paid a lot more for the Gibson because I love the way it looks, the attention to detail, the feeling of a nitro finish and so on. But I will not delude myself to think that it is somehow radically, fundamentally superior.
     
    Last edited: Jan 3, 2018
    Pukiman, valvestate, longjaw and 6 others like this.

  12. Watersilk

    Watersilk Member

    Messages:
    92
    Likes Received:
    70
    Joined:
    Jan 12, 2017
    Hello Permission to Land,

    Hey, thank you for the reply!
    First, I must make it clear that I do have a certain fascination for Asian guitars, I have a Korean Hamer, a Korean Danelectro, a Korean PRS and a Japanese Tokai already. I'm not posting this to make fun or degrade more 'affordable' Asian guitars, but just to document what makes this guitar. I have a great interest in what makes a guitar sound good; tone with a certain amount of sustain; I find this a fascinating subject.

    Pot metal is a general term used to describe soft alloys used in casting; I'm sure that it isn't a technical term. I didn't really know what to call the metal used in these bushings, however it doesn't ring, it has vibrating absorbing qualities, this is the absolute opposite to what you 'perhaps' need in a musical instrument where vibrations need to pass through. This test isn't a test of purity, I have no interest in which metals have been used, the interest here is solely about the ringing qualities of them. Vibrations pass through the bridge where they are meant to carry on passing through into the body of the guitar, if there is a soft vibration-absorbing link in the route then this will 'perhaps' prevent this to a degree; in guitar dynamics, we are dealing with small differences, those small differences when together in a chain, do add up to a total that is greater than the sum of their 'singular' parts. If I can change the softer metal bushings to harder metal ones which have better ringing qualities, I believe that these will enhance sustain and also quality of the primary tone. Saying that, the bridge on my Hamer is original and that guitar is sounding amazing, perhaps though, there is still more improvement to come with a bridge upgrade?

    None of my Asian bridges have collapsed either, however my Japanese Tokai had Taiwanese hardware (Ping Well) the stoptail studs on that guitar were really bent when I bought the guitar, I can't be sure how or why, they were bent in the direction of the bridge, string tension? The interesting point here is that the mere fact that they were bent was testimony to the softness (which I would call poor quality) of the metal used.

    Onto the electrics:
    I think mini pots are used in a Fender Jazzmaster, in addition to the regular sized pots. I wasn't criticising the size, again just documenting them, I mentioned the ugly shafts because that is what they are, the look or feel of course has no bearing on their function; even though they feel disgusting.

    Please don't waste any money betting on the electrics, while the metallic qualities are something I can't be 'absolutely' sure about, I have tested your theory on the electrics. When I changed the Duncan Designed pickups on my Hamer for USA Seymour Duncan '59 and Pearly Gates, I did notice a great improvement, but it was only when I got rid of the Korean electronics, selector, jack, pots, cap and wiring that a second great improvement was experienced; really, I heard those pickups for the first time! It was a shocking experience that changed my view on upgrades; I will tell anyone, if you want better electric tone in an Asian or even many United States models, don't stop at changing pickups, you will only enjoy their full worth by upgrading the electrics too; possibly, an exception is Japanese electronics, it's possible that these are more than up to the job? However, I do believe that their high-end models have CTS pots, perhaps this is a clear message that their electrics are sub-standard by their own admission. I just change the lot, I know then I'm building on solid ground, not sand.

    As for the tuners: I did say that these were probably fine, however, personally I just can't stand the green buttons, that's my personal preference. My Custom Shop Gibson has greenish buttons too, not nearly as green, but greenish nevertheless. The guitar is red, so this isn't at all a good match, or indeed acceptable for someone with a smattering of colour sense; furthermore, I don't accept this colour just because it happens to be a very expensive (over-priced) guitar; they will go, the 'relic' Gotoh tuners will be a much better match, they have a brownish tinge which will match the binding perfectly.

    Ha! Clownburst, that's a good name, but I think it's not far off an original Gibson 1960 Cherryburst colour, I will ride with that, perhaps I will just try and make the reds a little more translucent; this will be the biggest challenge, to improve the look and feel of the poor finish on the top; a bit like this 1960 Les Paul Standard:

    [​IMG]

    That guy! No Permission to Land, this is what forums are all about, I enjoyed reading your reply.
    A Gibson being fundamentally superior? Yes, I agree completely with you, I'm not sold on the idea that Gibson's are fundamentally superior. I bought my Gibson's for the same reasons as you, however, other than having only a short tenon, I really believe that this Tokai represents great value for money, and yes, I also want to prove that with a 'little' sympathetic upgrading (or rather, a lot) this is going to be a fabulous guitar! Please don't think I am just trying to run Asian guitars down, under the gunky finish there is some lovely wood here, I would be more than happy if I bought this body and neck for a build project, it's beautiful wood!

    Permission to Land, please look in every-so-often, It's freezing cold here and I can only do the messy parts outside, so it's coming on slowly, but I will post every stage of the transformation. This Guitar will give a Gibson a run for it's money!
     
    Last edited: Jan 4, 2018

  13. Watersilk

    Watersilk Member

    Messages:
    92
    Likes Received:
    70
    Joined:
    Jan 12, 2017
    I tried to carefully sand the red to allow the wood grain to show through, however, it was all or nothing, so I decided upon nothing! This will make the job of refinishing more difficult, I hope I can mange to pull this off! I would like to have some blush of red present, like the original above. For the present, I still have a lot more sanding to do until all of the original finish is removed from the remainder of the back and neck.

    [​IMG]

    Some nice flame has been revealed, but I know the veneer is waffer-thin, so I will have to be very careful!
     
    PermissionToLand likes this.

  14. Troy McClure

    Troy McClure Senior Member

    Messages:
    447
    Likes Received:
    184
    Joined:
    May 4, 2016
    I'm guessing you've just broken thru the colour coat as the sand selaers are usually very thick on cheaper poly finished guitars. Depending on what finish you hope to end up with it might be best to reuse the sealer coat rather than risk going back to the veneer.
     

  15. Watersilk

    Watersilk Member

    Messages:
    92
    Likes Received:
    70
    Joined:
    Jan 12, 2017
    Hello Troy,

    Yes, I'm really worried about breaking through to that veneer!

    As you say, it would seem that first they fill the grain with a think layer of grain filler to cover up any problem areas arising from insufficient preparation, then apply yellow coloured varnish, then red, then a thin clear varnish.. ? I'm not sure, but that seems like the order of service. The problem is that the wood grain doesn't show through well, certainly not at it's best, it's drowned in all those layers on top.

    The easy way out would have been to lightly sand the top varnish, but not break through to the colour, then use rotten stone to leave a smooth, thiner satin surface, then use Planet Waves restorer in places to highlight those areas which are worn by body contact (bringing back some of the gloss); I did this on my Japanese Tokai, with absolutely amazing results, but that had a much better quality finish to begin with; this Korean model doesn't give me the luxury of that option.

    However, this project, as you have rightly pointed out, is now in dangerous territory, if I am not careful I will end up having to have a new maple veneer!!! This though, is why I decided to find a Korean model, I wouldn't wish to experiment with one of Tokai's fancier models.

    I think that the only way to bring out the flamed grain and make this 'look' like a Les Paul, is to dye the wood, then seal with a thin layer of varnish with oil added for a more natural feel, rather like that of Nitrocellulose.

    I'm thinking that my only way forward is to try and sand that sealer till I find the wood.... then look at one of the Wudtone dye colours, in doing so, I will be running out of experience and most probably talent... but this is how we learn... perhaps!

    This project is complete madness, from a financial point of view. It is though, a lot of fun!

    Meanwhile, I'm trying to source a new jack plate, does anyone here know where I can find one to fit this guitar? The original is completely ravaged! Bone white would be correct, but it's looking like even white might be tricky! I think Epiphone sized jack plates are correct for Tokai's, Gibson sized will not fit, like the pickup rings, the spacing is metric.

    Meanwhile, the sanding progresses... revealing a three-piece Maple neck:

    [​IMG]

    The neck is a bit more tricky to sand:

    [​IMG]
     
    Last edited: Jan 8, 2018

  16. Troy McClure

    Troy McClure Senior Member

    Messages:
    447
    Likes Received:
    184
    Joined:
    May 4, 2016
    I've refinished a couple of guitars too and would have to agree, there's usually a stage where it becomes a real pain but once you break thru it it's usually worth the effort. I've only ever done solid colours though so thankfully haven't had to try and save a paper thin veneer, good luck with that. Have a search of the epi forum as apparently even the solid colours have a veneer under them and people have stripped plenty of epi's to refinish.

    The enjoyment I got from refinishing mine far outweighed the costs and there can't be many hobbies like playing guitar where the real costs are actually minimal. The amount of electrical gear, computers etc I've dumped from the last 5 years cos it's obselete far outweighs anything I've spent on guitars and I can still play my 30 year old guitars and sell them if needs be.


    Here's one thread where they seem to have been succesful at saving the veneer, most of the refinish threads have gone thru the veneer as it's only around a mm thick or pics lost forever when photobucket went greedy.

    http://www.mylespaul.com/threads/i-...y-1996-mik-epiphone-les-paul-standard.262062/

    Here's one where Who did it using paint stripper, didn't do the top the back is also a veneer and that survived stripping, looks good too

    http://www.mylespaul.com/threads/ep...viewing-pleasure-going-bareback.370037/page-5
     
    Last edited: Jan 8, 2018

  17. Watersilk

    Watersilk Member

    Messages:
    92
    Likes Received:
    70
    Joined:
    Jan 12, 2017
    Ah! You are so right Troy! A guitar is still a guitar, unlike many things money is spent on, they can be played forever or sold so all or most of the investment is returnable.

    If the worst comes to the worst, I will put a new veneer on there, then I can even chose the grain, the only time I think we can say that all is lost is when we give up!

    Thank you for the threads, I will have a look at them; either they will frighten the life out of me, or give me courage... :)

    Thank you Troy!

    Try IMGUR, much better than Photobucket ever was!
     
    bluesriffdev likes this.

  18. Watersilk

    Watersilk Member

    Messages:
    92
    Likes Received:
    70
    Joined:
    Jan 12, 2017
    Due to the weather and a spell in West Devon, the striping of the finish has come to a halt.

    I just thought I would share the removal of the bridge and Stoptail bushes with you... because it took me a while to find the correct parts for removal and replacement.

    While the Stoptail sits on the usual kind of bush, albeit a metric one, Korean guitars including Epiphone's employ a similar bush for the bridge as well.

    [​IMG]

    If in the pursuit of tone, you choose to remove the existing bushes, then Faber have a good solution for removing them, using a bolt.

    [​IMG]

    This is their 'E-Sert' Kit. The idea is that the bolt screws into the existing bridge bush, screwing it all the way down into the hole, on reaching the bottom, the bush magically starts to rise and finally pops out. This is the theory! However in my experience with this guitar the bushes only popped half way out. I had to drop some wood into the hole through the bush, so it was underneath, then screw the bolt back in; on reflection, I think Faber's bolts need to be a little longer to work without dropping something down to partially fill the hole.

    I was able to repeat this for the Stoptail bushes too.

    Regarding the bridge, after inserting the new Faber bushes, you are left with 4mm posts for your new metric bridge to sit on.

    I will cover the fitting of the new bushes later in the build, when it's time to fit the new hardware.

    Does anyone have a good tip for taking the shine off the nickel plating on the new hardware?
     
    Last edited: Jan 16, 2018

  19. daithesaes

    daithesaes Senior Member

    Messages:
    290
    Likes Received:
    172
    Joined:
    Dec 8, 2014
    I remember reading somewhere on here that if you get a Tupperware box, put some vinegar in it and then elevate the bits you want to dull/age above the vinegar. Put a lid on the box and after a while (not sure of timings sorry, never done it!), the nickel will dull/tarnish like it's been played for years.
     
    Watersilk likes this.

  20. Watersilk

    Watersilk Member

    Messages:
    92
    Likes Received:
    70
    Joined:
    Jan 12, 2017
    Hey Dalthesses! Yes, I remember reading that too, I was going to do just that, but wondered if there was a better way; because I don't wish to use nasty chemicals, the vinegar trick sounds like it's worth a go. The best part is, well, if it doesn't work, it's just some vinegar wasted, no harm to the parts! I will do this and let you know how it goes :)

    I had bought the relic Gotoh bridge and stoptail, they were nice and dull, but too uniform, as you would expect nickel to be if untouched for three decades; if the instrument is played, then the tarnishing would surely be uneven. With this in mind, I used a little Brasso to make a 'slight' shine to those surfaces which receive some contact through playing. I'm now very happy with these, but they make all the other nickel parts look far too shiny and new! The pickup covers will be the most difficult, I don't want to remove them, then go through all the trouble of refitting them again; I'm wondering if I can tape up the backs to prevent the vinegar vapour getting inside. I suddenly had a thought there, perhaps that is one reason why older pickups sound so good, the copper wire is tarnished... ha! No, I'm not serious!

    That 1982 Tokai must be a serious guitar!
     
    daithesaes likes this.

Share This Page