The evolution of my Les Paul Studio Pearl 'Black Burst'

Discussion in 'The Custom Shop' started by dubster82, Aug 23, 2016.

  1. dubster82

    dubster82 Senior Member

    Messages:
    103
    Likes Received:
    42
    Joined:
    Dec 21, 2012
    Well, Thought i'd do a thread on my longest owned Les Paul and most modified. It's been through a lot.

    I'll do this in stages for definition and incase anyone quotes me.

    In 1998 I was 16. I had just gotten a job and had money to spend. Not a lot, I was an apprentice Electrician and it would be of been around £1 an hour but still more than the nothing I had up until that point. My only electric at that point was a red Jim Deacon strat copy I bought in '94 with Christmas money and I felt i could do with an upgrade. It was a different time back then. I didn't know anything about guitars other than how to play them. I didn't know models, brands other than fender and probably Gibson. I didn't know terms, I didn't know about pickups or construction and materials. Clueless, an easier time. :D

    I popped along to one of the local music stores and just looked with my eyes wide open. I'm pretty sure I probably wanted a black guitar as black is my favourite colour (i think everything looks better black) but I had no idea of what it would be. Well, I clapped eyes on this Epiphone Les Paul and I fell in love :naughty: It was so different to my strat in soo many ways and I loved everything about it. The floating pearl effect scratch plate, the carved top, the bigger pickups; the neck that wasn't screwed on! Even though the shop was dark you could just see that it wasn't solid black, you could see the grain in the centre but not round the edges. I used to love Fenders sunburst Stratocasters but this was like that, but in an real awesome and classy way set off by the pearl plastics.

    Pics, unbelievably I don't have any pictures of it from 1998.... but when Les Paul passed, I'm sure you all know about the massive auction of his estate... well here's pics of his one :applause:

    [​IMG][​IMG]

    On the way out the shop I clocked this poster
    [​IMG]

    I didn't really know who that Joe Perry was but thought he had a pretty good taste in guitars :lol:

    So I played it and loved it. It hung on my wall along with the strat. I found the change in scale length weird but at the time I had no idea about scale length. It needed new strings. I had no idea about strings. When I restrung my strat I bought Ernie Ball power Slinkies. Why? Well that pack was purple and they were 'POWER' Slinkies :thumb: They were 11's but I didn't really know what that meant in the grand scheme of things. When it came to picking strings for the Les Paul I thought it was more delicate and classy so I felt thinner strings would suit it and I think it was Fender strings had red string at the end of them and I thought that would suit my Les Paul down to the ground, so they were bought in 10's. :lol: you can't make this stuff up. Ahh to be naive...

    As is usual, being a teenager took over. Being out all the time and other things in life happened and I stopped playing guitar and they just sat and collected dust. :rolleyes:
     
    CaptainT likes this.
  2. dubster82

    dubster82 Senior Member

    Messages:
    103
    Likes Received:
    42
    Joined:
    Dec 21, 2012
    Many years passed and where I worked, a new guy started that had many similar interests to my self, namely cars and Metallica. We were the same age too and when I found out he also played guitar I figured it was time to dust off my Les Paul and see if he was interested in playing together. By now it was 2011! and it still even had those strings on it :lol: I reckoned I'd forgotten pretty much everything but though i'd give it all a bash again.

    Here she is for real
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]

    One of the things that I came to not like about the guitar was the uncovered pickups. I felt it looked a bit cluttered and untidy. I wondered if there was other options. My memory reminded me there was a 'proper' Gibson version of this because of the lad Joe Perry so I googled it to see what it had...

    [​IMG]

    ah...

    Ok, thats no use. The other thing I thought was weird was the flamed maple top. The trans top makes it look greyish, and they more often than not had really light rosewood boards which i just thought didn't match at all. "Why didn't they make it have an ebony board" I thought? Well a bit more digging and I find this...
    [​IMG]

    Behold the Custom Shop version! Ebony board AND covered pickups that weren't chrome! This is my perfect guitar I decreed, I must get one!

    Ok, turns out they're super expensive and super rare. Right.... well at least I can see what black metal covers look like. Awesome, I'll just stick with my Epiphone and change the pickups.

    Black metal pickups? yeah, common as muck....

    I started jamming with my mate from work and he had guitars with EMG's in them. Ah of course, Metallica use them. It's Metallica we're playing, I should maybe get them. Oh, but EMG's are plasticy and have no screw bits. aww...

    I couldn't do that to my Les Paul, if only there was another option.

    Well lucky for me, James Hetfield of Metallica felt the same way, and that year his Signature EMG pickups were released, black metal covers and visible Pole pieces et-al, hallelujah!
    [​IMG]

    My Girlfriend (now wife) got them for my Christmas and I got stuck in fitting them.
    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    Not as black as I was expecting.....

    Oh well, here now

    I took the pick guard off for the first time, stepped back to see if I liked it...
    [​IMG]
    hmm, not greatly...

    Ripped the old pickups out
    [​IMG]

    New ones in
    [​IMG]

    Everything back together, another quick no pickguard check
    [​IMG]

    Nope!

    Ah, thats better
    [​IMG]

    After seeing my mates strap fall of his guitar a couple of times I bought atrap locks and expensive strap
    [​IMG]

    Then let him have a try
    [​IMG]

    Luckily where we worked was a workshop and they let us make as much noise as we wanted at the weekends :thumb:

    The other bonus of these pickups was it came with a JH signature Plectrum, the Dunlop Blackfang. A 1.14mm Ultex pick with a sharper point than I was used too on my Orange Tolex. Why was I using an orange Tolex? well, it was my second favourite colour and had a turtle on it :lol: I had tried others like green 0.88mm but never liked them. I learned Classical guitar in school, plectrums never came easy to me but this plectrum transformed my playing.
    [​IMG]
     
  3. dubster82

    dubster82 Senior Member

    Messages:
    103
    Likes Received:
    42
    Joined:
    Dec 21, 2012
    I was happy with my guitar. I was happy with how it looked and I was quite happy with how it sounded. Other people weren't though. People told me they didn't like the pearl bits. I defended it. It's really difficult too photograph without it just looking bright white. But as time drifted on I did find myself wondering how it would look if it had black plastics instead of no pickguard like i had tried earlier. It would have to be a 'Custom' Pickguard though, I dont like plain black ones you see on Gibson studios, too plain for this. The speed knobs were also starting to annoy me. I'd seen tophats and thought they were much classier.

    I managed to borrow some tophats and black plastics and gave it a try.
    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    Not bad. There was a problem though, the truss rod cover was way taller and I would have to make a new hole. I didn't like that idea, as I wasn't totally sold yet an I'd maybe want to go back to pearl.

    I did some digging and found there was a shorter black two ply truss rod cover available but it said Gibson on it. No big deal, "they all say something" I thought so I bought one off eBay even though it was like 20 quid, I just wanted to do this right.

    I bought a Custom Scratchplate too and it looked like this:-
    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    Looks good but "Why is the truss rod missing a screw?" I hear you cry....
    Well, turns out this one was TOO SHORT!!!
    [​IMG]

    Lordy... I coloured in the hole with a sharpie and lived with it for now. By now I had a growing collection of guitars...
    [​IMG]

    I didn't get the tophats either but my '83 Gibson Custom had speed knobs too so I thought I'd give them another try..
    [​IMG]
     
  4. Zarg

    Zarg Senior Member

    Messages:
    441
    Likes Received:
    117
    Joined:
    Jun 29, 2016
    gorgeous guitar! lovely journey and I think she looks as great as never before now.

    and you have such an amazing collection, I'm pretty jealous to be honest.
     
  5. dubster82

    dubster82 Senior Member

    Messages:
    103
    Likes Received:
    42
    Joined:
    Dec 21, 2012
    As the collection grew it took more and more of a back seat for obvious reasons.

    It kinda bugged me though, I didn't feel it was as good as it could be and I felt I was doing it a bit of a disservice. What did I mean by that? Well, I'd always felt it was a very dark sounding guitar, acoustically. Compared to my strat which was bright and spanky unplugged. I used to think it was just how it was, but as my collection grew, so did my knowledge and experience and I couldn't help thinking it wasn't just dark sounding but if I'm honest a bit dead sounding. Maybe thats just what you can expect from a cheap guitar made in Korea? Maybe just some guitars are not that great? Well, it had served me many many years, and I decided it deserved every chance it could get to shine, so I started to look into why it might sound dead if we assume the construction and the materials are sound.

    I looked at the nut, and although it appeared to be plastic, it looked very well cut. It looked very good quality and it didn't appear to be soft at all. Compare it to my ESP LTD Iron Cross (yup, fan boy it turns out) another lower brand made in Korea guitar and its nut looks like and feels like cheap garbage, but it sounds fantastic. So I didn't think it would necessarily be that.

    The Iron Cross had Tone Pros Bridge and Tailpiece, my epiphone had stock parts of an unknown material, could this be the problem? I had a spare gold Gotoh Bridge from another project. These are essentially TonePros without the grub screws, so I slackened the strings and tried it on. I did notice a bit of a difference, but not massive.

    So I thought to myself, maybe its about a sum of it's parts. If I change enough, it might add up to one big difference. Then it really will have had the best chance to be the best it could be. If I match the spec of the LTD and it's not as good, its just fundamentally not a good guitar. If all else fails I could use all the parts on another project and just retire this. Let's do it I thought.

    I bought brand new genuine Gibson top Hats and pointers and a new Poker chip. There was nothing wrong with the old Poker chip but i felt that the amount of change that was happening, for it to truly be a custom even that could change so I got a black one with silver writing. The gold just stood out a bit too much even if it did match the 'Les Paul' script and kinda almost the EMG logo.

    Now that damn truss rod cover! Short of getting a blank of material or a custom one made I had an idea and took a chance. I bought a genuine Gibson one (by this point all parts I buy are genuine Gibson because I've been stung too much with tat from eBay) and chopped the bottom off.
    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    Nice. I was going to drill the two bottom holes in but then I thought "ESP only use one screw on theirs and it doesn't seem a problem". 3 screw have always looked a bit clumsy to me, so I stuck with one. I figured I could always add them later if it was a problem.
    [​IMG]

    Where have the tuners gone? Well, It had all black Kluson style tuners before, and I mean ALL BLACK. It was actually one of my favourite things about the guitar aesthetically. Unfortunatly they weren't that great in action. The posts were a bit sloppy and the gearing wasn't very smooth. Never was. The Iron Cross has locking tuners. Really good locking tuners. I actually prefer them to Sperzels that I have on my other guitars BUT... The ESP Iron Cross and the LTD Iron Cross spec differs only on the Nut material and the type of locking tuners. The ESP has Sperzels... So I saw this as an opportunity to upgrade both guitars at the same time whilst only buying one thing. Buy Sperzels for the LTD and use the LTD tuners on MY signature guitar :lol:
    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    When I took the strings off the nut just fell off. This revealed what I felt was a fundamental problem with the guitar.
    [​IMG]

    See it?
    [​IMG]

    If still not how about now?
    [​IMG]

    The surface upon which the nut sat was never flat. If you imagine that the nuts primary job is to transfer string vibrations to the body it is plausible to think that this would require as much contact as possible. Having gaps underneath the nut I felt could be a big tone Killer especially acoustically where I felt the guitar fell flat. Well, I'd need a new nut afterall. You can't make that flat and refit the same nut without shimming it which I didn't want to do so I kept going and bought a new nut. As I was keeping the spec the same as the LTD with parts like the TonePros Locking hardware I felt it made sense to get a new Nut for it too. I twas the only thing that let it down aesthetically.

    I got them both Tusq XL nuts.
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]

    I'd done eveything myself by this point, but I felt I'd brought it as far as I could. I wanted to get the repair and the new nut fitted by a proper Luthier so again the guitar had the best chance it could. Before that would happen though I figured this would be an ideal time to strip it, and machine polish it to get rid of all the little scratches you can see in the light of the original photo's. Bring it back better than new.

    Stripped
    [​IMG]

    Polished
    [​IMG]

    It then got a couple of coats of Blackfire Wet Diamond sealant. Whilst the screws were off I gave them all a coat of smooth black direct to metal paint as the final thing to 'freshen up'
     
  6. dubster82

    dubster82 Senior Member

    Messages:
    103
    Likes Received:
    42
    Joined:
    Dec 21, 2012
    The Luthier I chose was Chris Mcintyre in Edinburgh. I read post from here by people that had used him when he was based in London saying he was one of the very best. How luck that he's back in Scotland I figured so I made the trek down south with the Epiphone and the LTD. Then waited.....

    Then the day came to go pick them up. Oh my god. This Epiphone is now everything I could of hoped for and more. Acoustically? It's probably one of if not the most musically acoustic electric guitar I have! It's so bright and lively. Chris fixed the fret board, fitted the nut, leveled and re-crowned the frets, set intonation and set the relief and action to suit me and my playing and oh boy has all this work paid off. I absolutely love it now, what a guitar.

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    The girls happy to be home
    [​IMG]

    I like taking time setting up my pickups heights. I think alot of people skip the importance. I used my '99 Gibson Les Paul Classic as a reference to speed things up as I'd spent a lot of time on it previously.
    [​IMG]

    If you're near or around Edinburgh, I highly Recommend Chris. He knows his stuff, and if you've a guitar that needs some love but you're not sure its worth it, just do it, it may surprise you!
     
  7. dubster82

    dubster82 Senior Member

    Messages:
    103
    Likes Received:
    42
    Joined:
    Dec 21, 2012
    If you've read all that, from 1998 - now... Congrats and thank you :D

    After all that, I figured with the nice couple of days we got up here in Scotland it deserved me breaking out the SLR and getting some better shots of it.

    I adjusted the exposure of the first two so you get a better idea of how it normally looks,
    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    the rest are pure unadulterated sun shots :lol:
    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    Cheers :slash:
     
  8. dubster82

    dubster82 Senior Member

    Messages:
    103
    Likes Received:
    42
    Joined:
    Dec 21, 2012
    Thanks! I hope you get to see that latest pictures.


    As for the collection, well.... it's grown since then :naughty:
     
  9. dubster82

    dubster82 Senior Member

    Messages:
    103
    Likes Received:
    42
    Joined:
    Dec 21, 2012
    Final spec:
    1998 Epiphone Les Paul Studio 'Pearl' model
    Ebony 'Black burst' finish over Mahogany body
    Mahogany neck
    Rosewood fretboard
    ESP LTD Locking tuners
    Modified Gibson Truss Rod Cover
    Graphtech Black Tusq XL Nut
    EMG JH 'Het Set' active pickups
    Stock black pickup rings
    Gibson Black with Silver Switch ring
    Gibson Les Paul Custom pick guard
    Stock black pick guard bracket
    TonePros black locking bridge
    TonePros black locking stopbar
    Gibson 'top hat' knobs
    Gibson nickel knob pointers
    Schaller black 'strap lock' buttons
     
  10. deadlyweasel

    deadlyweasel Premium Member

    Messages:
    1,123
    Likes Received:
    672
    Joined:
    Mar 25, 2011
    Very cool thread!!!!
     
  11. dubster82

    dubster82 Senior Member

    Messages:
    103
    Likes Received:
    42
    Joined:
    Dec 21, 2012
    Thanks!
     
  12. rjudo

    rjudo Senior Member

    Messages:
    230
    Likes Received:
    97
    Joined:
    Dec 26, 2010
    Nice guitar, cool story.
     
  13. dubster82

    dubster82 Senior Member

    Messages:
    103
    Likes Received:
    42
    Joined:
    Dec 21, 2012
    Thank you kindly.
     
  14. jonnyboy69

    jonnyboy69 Junior Member

    Messages:
    3
    Likes Received:
    0
    Joined:
    Mar 18, 2017
    Love the all black look
    Cool looking guitar ��
     
  15. CARNAGE222

    CARNAGE222 Senior Member

    Messages:
    841
    Likes Received:
    158
    Joined:
    Feb 13, 2008
    A great looking guitar and a great story to go with it. Glad you didn't give up on it.
     
  16. dubster82

    dubster82 Senior Member

    Messages:
    103
    Likes Received:
    42
    Joined:
    Dec 21, 2012
    Thanks guys ����
     

Share This Page