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Epiphone Les Paul - Rebuild


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#1 Myc

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Posted 25 August 2016 - 09:22 AM

So......not to be outdone by SteampunkScientist......

 

For some years, I've had a Epiphone Les Paul Classic guitar. Back in the day, I caught the "gear mod" bug and tried installing new humbucker pickups for better tone and sound. Having no idea what I was doing and having no soldering skills really hampered my efforts. Terrible connections (cold/weak solder joints) and leaving the original potentiometers, switch and cable jack always kept this guitar from sounding its best. But I had no idea until...........

 

Fast forward a few years. I basically turned my Epiphone into a full-blown custom-shop guitar !!

This thing sounds so badass - It's like I bought a new instrument !!

 

Basically, I have "gutted" the entire guitar and replaced all of the electronics from top to bottom.

What is the difference between the Gibson and the Epiphone? one might ask.

The electronics. Epiphone uses a lower grade of electronics to keep the price point low so ditch-diggers like me can feel like they own a Les Paul without laying out thousands of dollars.

 

I started with a matched pair of Gibson Burstbucker Pro humbuckers. I got them brand new (and on the cheap) from a local guitar shoppe.

Lately, I ordered an electronics rebuild kit with new capacitors, potentiometers, pickup selector switch, and instrument cable jack from Stewmac. 

The new pots are "cleaner". Volume has a consistent, even rise from 0 to 10. Tone is clean and consistent even in the 0 setting (where things usually sound "muddy"). The new switch and cable jack just top things off with top-of-the-line SwitchCraft components. 

 

I'm stoked.

After making the mods to the guitar, I found that I had secondary issues with my tube amp.

A rebuild kit has been ordered and I'm fired-up to get started. 

 

Just as a gentle precaution:

One can re-wire a guitar with little or no harm - except for consideration for minor mistakes

Working on amplifiers without knowing basic safety can get you killed. Stick with the passive stuff prior to cracking into the bigger projects. 

Attached Thumbnails

  • ELP Template - caps.jpg
  • ELP Template - top.jpg
  • ELP electronics.jpg
  • ELP switch cavity.jpg

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#2 Coopdog

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Posted 25 August 2016 - 12:49 PM

Very cool man! I have recently found a guy whose music and style that I just love named Justin Johnson. Surprisingly he plays mostly Cigar Box Guitars. I was amazed at the sound and music he could make with a 3-4 string simple instrument like that. So I went to ebay and bid on a couple, unaware that if you bid it you bought it if nobody outbids you. So I ended up with two very cool Cigar Box Guitars that sound HUGE compared to what they look like and I am doing intro to slide blues guitar lessons as I always wanted to play slide guitar but never really had a feel for it. With not a whole lot of work I am doing a somewhat primitive but passable job at it now. I never seem to get tired of my guitars. Music is the gift that keeps on giving, as there is always much more to learn. Check out Justin Johnson doing May the circle be unbroken at the Cash Cabin on you tube. (I still cannot link you tube vids here or I would do that for you.) Not a 3 string, but still a CBG in that video.

 

Peace...

 

[Direct Link]


Edited by Myc, 25 August 2016 - 05:59 PM.

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#3 Myc

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Posted 25 August 2016 - 06:05 PM

Thanks for sharing. Very cool. I've heard of guitars which "sounded like a cigar box" but I've never actually seen one. ;)

You can tell he had a pile of leftovers and some spare time on his hands - if he built it himself, that is. 

It never occurred to me what to do with the old stuff I pull out. It just lays around in a box somewhere for exactly this moment when a fellow musician sets my gears whirring. Seriously, Thank You. 


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#4 SteampunkScientist

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Posted 24 September 2016 - 11:06 PM

I can't believe I missed this thread! Great stuff here, and Myc, great job on that Epiphone! Yes, the quality of the electronics makes a huge world of difference as you now know. Could not tell if you shielded the tone and volume section with copper foil, but if not, that eliminates hum and pick-up of noise. The foils is connected to ground.

Edited by SteampunkScientist, 24 September 2016 - 11:07 PM.

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#5 Coopdog

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Posted 25 September 2016 - 03:35 PM

Well some time has gone by since I made that post and thank you to whoever put the video up for me. In that time I have gone over hard for these little guitars. Now I have to work some Overtime so I can invest in a better one as the ones I got a very cool and fun to play with but are very much entry level guitars. Having perused a few makers now I have found some for 2-300 bucks that are most impressive with resonators and other cool upgrades. Been having a blast with these little things.

 

How's the rebuild going?


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#6 Myc

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Posted 25 September 2016 - 07:24 PM

So Coop, you got me looking at those CBG instruments. I stumbled onto this one today:

[Direct Link]

 

Hope you enjoy. Check out her other stuff. This lady is pretty good and well worth the time. 

 

As for the rebuild:

The guitar is unbelievable. I've played it for years and have "out of the box, brand-new" joy from it yet again. Seriously, it is bringing back memories of playing an actual, vintage, 1963 Les Paul. A Friend used to have one. He joked that I only visited him to play his guitar. :)   :jumping up and down:

 

The amp.......is f-ing stellar. The sound is so clean and quiet that you can hear the callouses on your fingers "padding" on the strings. Bell tones, crystalline presence, ........ it is like a totally different amp. I changed out a ton of stuff - plate resistors, new filter capacitors, power section resistors, capacitors across the bass and treble tone pots for brightness, linear taper volume pot swapped for an audio taper.............

I'll not bore you with the rest. I'm on a learning spree. ;)

Before

20160902_160433 - Copy.jpg

After

20160902_223735 - Copy.jpg

 

Then, I decided to re-cap an older amp I had around.

This time, I tried to keep everything "vintage".

Before

20160904_141622 - Copy.jpg

After

20160925_174318 - Copy.jpg

I went to the extra effort of "re-stuffing" the old capacitor packages with the new capacitors which are much smaller. 

I still need to re-tube the smaller amp since they're likely late 40's/ early 50's originals. They're still available but whew! Afterwards, I can chase down the circuit and determine if all of the resisors are still in spec while under load.

 

Coop, while you practice slide guitar also know that there are a lot of Led Zeppelin tunes in those open tunings as well. I had no freakin' idea..........and have subsequently begun to compose my own riffs and plays using those tunings. Pick out your favorite performance on youtube, tune up.........and play along. LOL 

I used the think this world and our lives were so hopeless. Fuck it.......I'm having a blast. 

Who - In History - Has ever been able to play along with Led Zeppelin?

We can !!

Video allows you to watch their hands. Pause allows you to count the frets. Lessons help you to learn the key to the tuning of the instrument...........


Edited by Myc, 25 September 2016 - 07:40 PM.

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#7 Coopdog

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Posted 25 September 2016 - 09:59 PM

Man I can play a lot of Zeppelin. Love it and the new tunings I am playing with are a blast. Music re-invigorated my life and got me interested again. Now all day long I can't wait to get home and grab up my guitar. Oh yeah and I LOVE Samantha Fish. That girl is badass. I would love to see her and Justin Johnson in person.

 

Lots of Stones songs in Open G as well. Been polishing up Wild Horses and a few others. Wild Horses is a cool chord progression that the wife is going to try to write some of her own lyrics to. Zeppelin does a lot of odd tunings and even when they do a particular one they seem to tune by ear so it is always a little flatter or sharper in the recordings so hard to get just right even if you do find the tuning. So if you decide to invest in a cbg, I have a little advice for you. There are a lot of builders out there that make some cool looking instruments but who don't have the knowledge or skill to get things like the intonation just right. Do some research and dig a little before you buy. The Weeklyhouse guitars I have do a pretty fair job for an entry level CBG and the intonation is pretty good. Changing out the string gauges slightly changes the intonation and you may have to move the bridge so you want one with a moveable bridge so you can play with alternate tunings and string gauges.

 

I tend to be pretty anal about tuning so the intonation thing is important to me. I only paid $66 each for the little CBG's I picked up but I can tell already that I am going to have a little collection of these things so I can string them up with different tunings. I found a guy named G.S. Monroe who really puts the love into his work and he is a lifelong Luthier and still keeps a decent price for the base models with lots of cool upgrades available for very reasonable prices. One of his is next on my list I think.

 

I should probably start a different thread for these lol I did not mean to hijack your thread with a different subject line. :) Peace and be safe and keep on rocking man!


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#8 SteampunkScientist

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Posted 25 September 2016 - 11:50 PM

Excellent Thread!

Here are my toys:
IMG_20160804_163023823.jpg
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#9 Coopdog

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Posted 26 September 2016 - 03:17 AM

Here are my favorite few out of 11. The two CBG's and the smaller 12 string are tuned to open G, the bigger 12 string is standard E tuning.

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  • Guitars.jpg

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#10 dead_diver

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Posted 26 September 2016 - 05:32 AM

What make is that older amp?
Solid state amps aren't too dangerous to work on if you know what you are doing but tube amps can kill easy if you're not careful.
They still make a lot of tubes overseas but some are poor quality. I avoid Chinese tubes and stick with the Russian, Czech and Polish tubes. The EPA rules make it almost impossible to manufacture them in the US :(

#11 Myc

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Posted 26 September 2016 - 09:08 AM

This thread is not hi-jacked at all. So no worries. This is exactly what I was intending - to get advice - and get a look at others' gear.

 

I'm thinking I would like to jam with that Samantha Fish - she has a natural blues "feel" about her. Nice voice - good song interpretations and adaptations - good recovery from organic mistakes while jamming - she wouldn't show me up too bad. LOL (Plus I'd like to try a sip of her bath water.) 

As for the CBGuitars..... I understand a little about building instruments. The tonal length of the scale requires a little setup. It makes sense that a floating bridge would be best on one of these. I have a 50's/60's Kay electric which uses the floating bridge. You need a measuring tape and a tuner for setup. Tune the string - then tune the harmonic at the 12th fret. Once they're both in unison (or as close as possible), you're in tune. 

For some of my stuff, I tune down to A=432 Hz rather than A=440 Hz. 

 

After all these years, I have my recording gear back out. I finally figured out what that Preamp out/ Poweramp in was for (lol). Up until now, I've been miking the amp for recording and it's a real PITA. Just about the 20th take, when you get that riff just right, you wind up with a kitty meow in the fade at the end - or guitar strap squeaks.............Gaaaaahhhhhh!!!

 

As for the old amp. That's an Alamo Model 2. I think I have the only one left in existence. It's modeled after a Fender Champ and uses a 5Y3 rectifier, 6SK7 pre-amp, and 6v6GT power tube. I still need to rebuild the filter capacitor but could not find a suitable 3-section replacement. This will force me to deviate from the original design. I'll have to get clever to conceal the new stuff and I'm still thinking and looking. 

Good point on the dangers of working on tube amps. You'll see a capacitor bleed-down lead attached in my working photos. It also helps that I'm a licensed, high-voltage electrical worker with safety training, meters, tools, and 22 years of going home alive everyday after work. 

Finding the tubes is still easy. Paying for them is the tough part. It will cost roughly $90 to re-tube that little amp. (About the same as it costs to re-tube the 40-watter which has 5 tubes in all.) Once rebuilt though, it should easily out-last me and I'll have a sweet little couch amp for the living room. 


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#12 Coopdog

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Posted 02 October 2016 - 01:58 AM

OK so I made an order with that builder I mentioned above. He had some awesome suggestions and I have a custom CBG being built for me. I really like the way a 3 string plays and the gnarly sounds it makes. That being said my go to instrument is a 12 string. He suggested to make mine a 6 with 3 paired strings to keep with the tradition of a 3 string Cigar Box Guitar and give it a stronger voice with a sort of 12 string tone. These are not strung for high/low octaves like a conventional 12 but 3 pairs of two that will give it more voice playing unplugged but will give it a unique tone when run through an amp. I also upgraded the standard piezzo pickup to a Humbucker Gold Top and upgraded to Grover tuners and had a brass resonator cone added. This thing is gonna be a beast and I cannot wait to get it. I should have it by next Friday I hope. I feel like a kid at Christmas and I have been playing my 3 string guitars almost exclusively since I ordered this thing. Got it for a very reasonable price as well. I even paid extra because I feel he under values his work. I will post pics when I get some.

 

Peace...

 

EDIT: just noticed I got a cactus cultivator badge added to my awards bar. Very cool! :)


Edited by Coopdog, 02 October 2016 - 02:00 AM.

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#13 Myc

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Posted 02 October 2016 - 09:29 AM

Sounds like you got the bug and went all Jack White. You might enjoy a documentary I watched:

It Might Get Loud was recently recommended to me. The movie starts off with Jack building a "wash-tub" style single-string thing-a-ma-jig using an old telephone mouthpiece. I wonder how many folks know that the modern electronic pickups started off as telephone tech? Later in the movie, he has a luthier incorporate a retractable harmonica microphone setup into a semi-hollow body. 

 

I've been spending my time noodling with the rebuilt equipment. The tonal characteristics of the guitar and amp have been so altered, I'm getting lost in exploring new sounds. Building up callouses on my fingertips which had faded after 6 years of dis-use and enjoying every second. 

 

Congrats on the cactus badge !



#14 CatsAndBats

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Posted 02 October 2016 - 09:41 AM

 The EPA rules make it almost impossible to manufacture them in the US :(

 

That's sad. Why, is warm unmatched tone bad for the environment?

 

(Meanwhile monsanto soaks fields growing food with poisons..)


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#15 Myc

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Posted 02 October 2016 - 10:03 AM

I found this article which I thought was pretty neat even thought they're very clear about not using toxic materials in the process, I suppose mass manufacturing might require the use of those substances. 


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#16 Coopdog

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Posted 02 October 2016 - 04:35 PM

It might get loud was an amazing video. We own it and break it out from time to time. It has great repeatability and like a few others I could watch it over and over. Check outm or just buy, "Lightning in a bottle" and Roger Waters The Wall done at the Berlin Wall. The Playing for change videos rock too. You ever heard of Rosetta Tharpe? She was making all these bluesy rock and roll riffs way before most folks ever heard of them and she is practically unheard of when folks are talking classic blues.






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