Epiphone Les Paul Standard mods So I bought my Epi Les Paul Std in April this year, and while I definitely liked it when I got it, I later realised that it could use some modifications. It's my most modified guitar at the moment and while I'm not done modding it just yet, I definitely think it's already a lot better than when I bought it. So if you're considering modifying your Epiphone Les Paul, keep reading. So let's start with the list of mods; Sound-related mods 1. Removing the pickup covers Difficulty: Easy Est. Time: 30-45 Min This may not really be a mod, 'cause it's completly free if you have the stuff to do it. Quote from Barcham regarding the guitar body; "Yes, they do have a maple cap covered with a veneer". The Epiphone cap however isn't as big as the Gibson one, which affects the tone slightly. Epiphones are slightly thinner than Gibsons because of this. Since the veneer isn't really there other than for visuals (since Epiphone doesn't choose wood after the flame, they put a veneer on top of it to make it look good), the Epi Les Paul is a pretty dull sounding guitar compared to a Gibson LP Std. It also comes equipped with pickup covers. These are said to slightly darken the sound of the pickups, which is why some people buy pickup covers to cover their open-coil pickups when they believe their tone is too bright. Removing those covers seemed to brighten up the tone of the guitar a bit, at least I was able to notice it (I guess this part depends on how well trained your ears are). I personally also like the look of uncovered humbuckers. This is both a sound-related and a visual mod. Instructions: Start off by either loosening or removing the strings. Unscrew the pickup ring and then the pickup of the pickup you want to begin with. At least in my case, there was enough slack on the pickup wiring to pull the pickup away from the body to prevent wax from spilling on it. Now, there are two solder joints on the back of the pickup that keep the cover in place. The way I did this was I gently cut through them with a razor blade, make sure you're VERY careful with what you do, as slipping with it might ruin the entire pickup. Once you've gotten through the solder joints, you should be able to pull the cover off the pickup (you might need to heat it up slightly with a blow dryer first). Now you should see a pickup covered in wax, which is used to prevent microphonic feedback when the cover is on. As it doesn't look very good with it on there, you can use a blow dryer to melt the wax until it becomes liquid, and then wipe it off with a cloth/paper. (CAREFUL: The pickup gets HOT) To really get all the wax out from places where you can't wipe, you can use a plastic tool of some kind (make sure it's not sharp and cuts through the pickup wiring). Repeat this procedure with the second pickup. 2. Changing the nut Difficulty: Fairly Easy - Moderate Est. Time: 10-20 Min As you may have noticed, the stock Epiphone nut doesn't make the guitar stay in tune very well, especially the G-string which tends to get stuck a lot. It is also made in plastic, which doesn't transfer the vibrations as well as other materials do. The nut material is obviously chosen after your liking, but I bought a pre-slotted GraphTech TusQ XL Nut, which works perfectly (make sure you get the Epiphone model of it). The nut has permanent lubing in the slots, which will prevent the strings from getting stuck in the slots when you bend or tune. This modification definitely improved the guitar! Instructions: Get a razor blade/X-acto knife and gently score the edges around the nut. This is done to scrape the paint away from the nut so that it doesn't chip when you knock it out. Once you've scored all the edges, get a flat surface (example a piece of wood) and put it against the fretboard side of the nut. Get a hammer and lightly tap until you see the nut moving. Knock it back into place and then gently tap again until it comes out. Now you should (hopefully) be left with a clean nut slot, however you do need to clean it from old glue. For that you can use a needle file (you don't need to file it a whole lot). I found that the TusQ nut had pretty much a perfect height, so I just sanded the edges down a bit to make it fit flush. Now the slighty tricky part starts as you have to make sure you get the right height, and also that you center the nut. To glue it back in, you don't want to use super glue as this might make the wood chip if you ever need to replace the nut again. Instead, use a small amount of wooden glue, position the nut correctly and get a set of strings on. The pressure of the strings should be plenty to keep the nut down while the glue dries. 3. The neck Difficulty: Moderate Est. Time: 1+ Hour As I didn't try every Epiphone before I bought mine, I can't say if this applies to all of them. However, at least on my LP, the frets were very poorly polished when I got it, and bends felt a bit rough. I was at least lucky enough to get a properly leveled fretboard. If your frets happen to be poorly leveled, either follow a fret leveling tutorial or get a professional to set up your guitar. Also, if you take a look at the Epiphone's fretboard, the wood doesn't quite look like wood. It's missing a lot of contrast and wood grain. We're about to solve these things. Instructions (fretboard): Remove the strings. Get a razor blade (and only a razor blade, you want a somewhat thick one), keep it completly straight and begin to scrape the fretboard back and forth, one fret at a time. You should see the fretboard lighten up as you do this, and make sure it gets evenly scraped. Do all the frets 1-2 times. This will also even out any inlays sticking out (I feel like mine look a lot more flush to the surface than they did before). Clean the fretboard from dirt with a brush or similar and make sure it's completly clean before you move on. Now, you need some kind of oil (what type of oil depends, but do NOT use anything that contains wax of any kind). I used Dunlop Lemon Oil, which basically is mineral oil with a lemon scent. Dampen a paper or a cloth with the oil, and wipe down each fret thoroughly. Let the oil sit for about 10 minutes before you wipe off any excess. This procedure made the wood grain way more visible in my case, and it also cleaned away dirt from the fretboard. Instructions (frets): Before you start, put tape over your pickups as they would want to pick up all the metal accumulated from this. This part can be a bit tricky, as you want to be very careful with what you do, or you might have to get a refret. I played a couple of $2000 Gibsons, and noticed that they had very smooth and square frets which I really liked. My Epiphone on the other hand, while having somewhat flat fret tops, they were very uneven and poorly polished from factory. So, to get rid of the largest imperfections, run a razor blade across the frets. This process alone made the frets a bit more shiny and a lot more even. Then I moved on to fine grit sandpaper (and since I didn't have any at the time, what I did was I sanded two 200 papers against each other to make them finer) which I put on a flat piece of wood. Do about 3 frets at a time. Pull the sandpaper from fret end to fret end, not over the fretboard (from headstock to pickups). Just let the weight of the wooden piece alone do the job, don't apply any pressure or you'll take off too much material. Once all the frets were shiny and even, I moved on to something called Autosol (which basically is a metal polish) which I put on a big piece of paper and put on a larger flat piece of wood. To prevent this polish from getting on the fretboard, you can put masking tape or similar over (something that doesn't leave residue). I ran this across all the frets until they were completly polished. The result? Just as smooth bends as on the $2000 Gibsons! 4. Volume Pots and capacitors Difficulty: Easy Est. Time: 15-20 Min The reason it looks brown'ish is because of solder grease. The solders themselves work perfect I didn't like the way the stock Epiphone pots felt when used, I had to turn them down really low for it to decrease the volume the way I wanted. I bought a pair of Gibson 500k volume pots and replaced them with the stock pots. Also, the stock tone controls make the sound very dull once used. I bought a few .22 uF Orange Drops capacitors (pick whatever you want) and replaced them with the stock ones. These were definitely a lot bigger, and I found that they made the tone a bit warmer. Instructions (volume pots): Get a pair of volume pots of your liking. I got two Gibson 500k pots. Since the US-made pots have a slightly larger shaft diameter they wouldn't fit without enlarging the holes a bit. I just used a Dremel with a round sanding tool on low speed until they fit (be careful that you don't make them too big). I just soldered these pots in the same way the old ones were soldered. Instructions (caps): I bought a pair of Orange Drops after reading good reviews. I don't usually use the tone controls, but it happens. I haven't yet changed the tone controls themselves, because I find that the new caps alone give me the tone I want. To make this procedure easier you can unscrew the tone pots from the guitar. Then just desolder the old caps, bend the legs of the new caps to fit (make sure they don't touch somewhere where they shouldn't) and then solder them back in. As with all solderings made on this kind of equipment, make sure you heat the solder enough and keep it completly still as it cools. Not doing this might result in weird noises when you play your guitar. 5. Pickups I haven't yet performed this mod myself, but eventually I might fill this section. 6. Bridge I haven't yet performed this mod myself, but eventually I might fill this section. I do need to change the bridge though, as you don't have a lot of room for adjustment on the stock bridge. In my case, the G-string isn't properly intonated. A better bridge can also affect your tone and sustain. Visual-related mods 1. Volume/Tone knobs I found that the stock Epiphone knobs had digits that were hard to see, due to them being the same colour as the rest of the knob. Instead, I got a set of golden knobs that also matched the colour of my flame top better (Heritage Cherry Sunburst). 2. Pickup Selector Knob This is solely a visual modification. I didn't like the look of the stock cream pickup selector knob, as the rest of my guitar had a different colour scheme (I'm trying to get details to match the yellow/orange'ish flame) so I bought an Amber knob. However, I realised that as well as with the pot shafts being different, the pickup selector threads were as well. The US-made knob wouldn't fit. I ended up painting the stock Epiphone knob with golden nail polish. Conclusion: I had no plans of buying a Gibson when I got my Epiphone, I just did not have enough money at the time. I often read a lot of people asking "Is it worth modding my Epiphone?", and in my honest opinion YES it is. I compare my Les Paul to a cheaper Strat copy that I have, and the difference is like night and day (and these guitars felt somewhat similar when I first got the Epiphone). I believe that you definitely can get an Epiphone to sound and play just as good, if not better than a Gibson if you put down enough work into it. Epiphones are well-made guitars, they're just poorly set up. There's just thing one thing you can't really get away from. Some people want Gibsons just because of the name itself, which is understandable. Just the feeling of owning "the real thing" might be appealing to many. I am myself not a huge fan of the modern Epiphone headstock style, and I bet many people agree with me. I am probably going to get a Gibson at some point, but for now, I'm gonna make the best possible out of my Epiphone. Please give me your opinion on this thread, and tell me if you think I've missed something, or if the information is wrong!