Sunday, January 25, 2009

Transforming a special Les Paul Special II, Epiphone to Awesomephone!

I recently ended up with a few nice EMG HZ pickups and wanted to make something special... the thought of a BlackOut Epi Les Paul Special came to mind... I found one which started with all gold hardware, and dreamed it up from there... Here's a shot of the body just as I started to strip down the guitar for mods...

I think some of the best fun was making the guitar work with variable coil splitting. Since the overall design of the guitar and the pots is simple (one tone, one volume, 3-way toggle switch), I used two push-pull 500 kOhm pots and a nice switchcraft toggle (and a switchcraft jack, too...). These nice EMG HZ H3 pickups are splittable from the factory. Here's the neck:

Here's the bridge, but with all the black out hardware (the gold was donated to another project guitar - a black Vendetta XM... boy did it look nice in black and gold!)

Here's a shot of both the knobs pulled... The way I wired it, you could do the standard neck, neck-bridge, bridge configurations, but you could also choose to tap the bridge or the neck as you wish - lots of sounds... one very versatile, light, and great-playing instrument.

The headstock with its new wicked Wilkinson deluxe old-style (but black-widow black) tuners! Nice!

The guitar traded in one day. I didn't even have a chance to record with it... Too bad, really. It sounded FANTASTIC.

The neck on this particular LP was quite nice. I don't know why it struck me this way with a bolt-on neck on an Epi, but it was very nice. And the finish detail was very far above the $150 street price for the guitar I used as the donor instrument to my midnight mod-ness.

Cheers. See you again soon. The studio is full of works-in-progress!

Monday, January 12, 2009

Fun With Pot (well, really - Opening up a Potentiometer)

I recently received a new CTS/Fender 250kOhm potentiometer via online purchase through the mail. Unfortunately one of the ears was broken completely off and was nowhere in the package. This particular pot would have been of no use to me. (Customer service sent me a new one right away, with no fuss. It was a wonderful experience.)

P.S. Don't try this at home with a good potentiometer, it might not work when you put it back together - disclaimer and all that.

So, just for fun and to show everyone what's inside, I tore it open and took some pictures - I thought the parts were very interesting.

First, pull back the little ears on the pot body to allow the potentiometer to come apart:

Now pull off the top bezel and the ear contact plate:

Now with most of the inside assemblies pulled apart:

And now a look at the insides and the back of the pot (with manufacturer, and date code):

I really like CTS pots for guitar and bass work. There are other good ones, too, but CTS seems to be very reliable and even supplies some pretty great guitar manufacturers with OEM pots.

I hope you enjoyed this little voyage into tone and volume control. More to come...

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Friday, January 2, 2009

The Secret Handshake of Installing Seymour Duncan Blackouts!

The Secret Handshake of Installing Seymour Duncan Blackout Pickups

(Or, in my case, Whiteouts)...

I recently installed a matched pair of Seymour Duncan Blackouts in my ESP LTD V200 vee guitar!

Today's entry will be a little about the Blackouts (which were white, in my case!), and a little about the ESP LTD V200.

First and formost: I'm converting my Vee to Blackouts, and about half way thorough the tear-down/build-up, I notice that the quick connectors (something like EMG Quik-Connects) have three wires in, two wires out - and all the diagrams refer to a red wire, a white wire, and a bare wire. I'm thinking (at this point) that the venerable and always reliable Seymour folks have gone loony and have given me the wrong parts. I wanted to split my coils, as well as get the full benefit of the next-generation active humbuckers!

I'm in distress at this point. I've got the whole guitar and all the parts exploded on my little work table, and I'm at a dead stop. I can connect RED to the red wire of the battery lead. But the "black wire" is a complete mystery and doesn't fit in anywhere.

Google is your friend. Repeat after me, Google is your friend. Lots of searching and trying to find the right terms, and I get the answer for which I'm looking... The "black wire" is actually a wrapped two-wire lead. Strip back the black, and you get the bare wrap-around wire, a white insulator, and the internal lead to the white insulator. Voila! Red, bare, and white!

After this monumental revelation (which is NOT OBVIOUS AT ALL in the instructions or in the quick connectors in hand!!!!!!!!!!!!!!), the rest was cake (I prefer german chocolate cake, personally)...

On to the ESP LTD V200. What a guitar! (I'll write a review for it at soon.)

I used white Seymour Duncan Blackouts;

Gibson cream humbucker rings (I like them to stand out and contrast);

Gold-and-abalone set-screw Telecaster-style knobs (Great looking, easy to push/pull);

A real USA-made CRL/Fender three-way switch;

NICE Alpha 500 kOhm push/pull potentiometers;

REAL USA copper wiring;

Silver-bearing solder;

Insulated four-wire from the jack to the pots;

REAL USA Switchcraft stereo jack (stereo is required for active pickup setups - DON'T (READ: DON'T) wire the body grounds into the setup or it will drain the battery over night. The third prong of the stereo input jack creates the circuit ground;

Grover 6-inline locking tuners(!);

Great gold screws;

Dressed and round-ended fretwires;

Real carnauba wax;

And lots of attention to detail (like a nice bare copper ground wire common running across the pots, etc.);

A good battery clip;

Careful electrician's tape covers on all exposed complex areas (top of switch contacts, push/pull solder groups, etc.).

I've included lots of pictures of the sneaky "black wire" in the Blackout pickups, a nice shot of the back of a blackout, and some (OK) pictures of the finished V.

I can now shred, split and do old rock and roll, do mellow warm humbucker stuff, and lots of progressive rock (my favorite).

Ask questions, please! Want a step by step HOWTO? Let me know. It'll take a bit to put it in my schedule, but I'd love to do it for you.

Until then, Bear at and (where my music CDs are!)

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