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  • Little changes that have a big impact

    Hello, World!

    I have a guitar that I have been modding over the years. Although she is just a "Rocket Special" (Marshall starter pack) and I've had many better guitars over the years, I will always keep it since she was a Xmas present from my dad, and also my first electric guitar ever. I usually play classic rock, some Metallica and try to learn some DT/Petrucci songs.

    Here are the mods done so far:
    • Replace 21 fret maple/rosewood neck with a 22 fret single piece maple one
    • Isolate pickup cavities
    • Replace pickups and all electronics, by a single Gibson 498T and a single volume labeled "Tone"
    • Remove tremolo springs and block bridge with a wooden block (Clapton style?)
    • I installed the neck and calibrated her all by myself, so she is well intonated and the action is just right.
    The body is basswood with a thick black coat, I will keep it as is as it has collected different scars over the years.

    You can see her in the pics below. I have a few questions and ideas too. But the main one is in the title, since the guitar is almost finished, "What little changes can I do that will have a big impact on the sound and playability"?
    • I think it sounds a bit too high for my taste. So I'm thinking about adding a tone control?
    • I saw a used Dimarzio DP159 Evolution Bridge that I'm tempted to buy and install. Any knows how it compares to the 498T? I like Steve Vai's sound a lot.
    • Some of the machine heads are a bit stiff, and since they are the original cheaper ones, I might replace them with some Wilkinson EZ-LOK ones for better tuning and stability.
    • The neck is on bare wood and has a (strange to me) dry feel. I have a Gibson Care Kit (Low Abrasion Metal Cream, Premier Fretboard Conditioner, Pump Polish Finishing Cream). Can I use some of these products to clean and seal it?
    • I think, that some of the fret edges are a bit sharp. How can I smooth them out?
    • I like the all-black body look, but I'm tempted to swap the pickguard for a pearl-white one to make her look more elegant.
    • In my opinion, it sounds well. Would she benefit from a Black TUSQ nut and/or bridge saddles? Anyone ever used Graph Tech products?
    • Since the HB is wired in series it is a one sound guitar, which is fine by me, but sometimes I wish it would do a bit more. I thought about adding a switch to change the wiring from series to parallel and (maybe) out-of-phase too. Would this be a noticeable difference?
    • Last, the third & fourth pics show a custom Halo guitar that I designed on their website. I understand that they make custom hand made guitars to each one's specification. This "copy" of mine would cost over 2k with almost identical specifications. What would be so different about them?

    What do you think?

    Any thoughts and ideas will be greatly appreciated!

    Cheers,
    Walt



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    "I don't want to be a product of my environment, I want my environment to be a product of me."

  • #2
    Awesome project! I like the black pickguard personally. Looks wise, the black tuners look off to me though. Chrome or nickel would blend in better with the maple think, I think. And if you're upgrading tuners, may as well get locking tuners for the extra $10 and for some added stability and faster string changes.

    Fret ends - smooth ones make a big difference. I've done this on a couple beaters and it *worked* but definitely chipped the finish. Was not as easy for me as Youtube made it seem.

    Pickup swaps are fun, not always an improvement but could definitely be an improvement. A tone control is very useful IMO. More switching options could be fun, but I'd start with the tone control and potential pickup swap and really dial that in first. You can get tons of tones from 1 pickup, 1 volume, 1 tone.

    Replacing the nut or saddles isn't really worthwhile *just because* IMO. Replace these only if they are not functioning properly.

    A yuuuuuuge improvement would be to polish the frets! This makes a massive difference in playability.
    Originally posted by crusty philtrum
    Anyone who *sings* at me through their teeth deserves to have a bus drive through their face
    http://www.youtube.com/alexiansounds

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    • #3
      Originally posted by alex1fly View Post
      Awesome project! … And if you're upgrading tuners, may as well get locking tuners for the extra $10 and for some added stability and faster string changes.

      Fret ends - smooth ones make a big difference. … Was not as easy for me as Youtube made it seem.

      … I'd start with the tone control and potential pickup swap and really dial that in first. You can get tons of tones from 1 pickup, 1 volume, 1 tone.

      Replacing the nut or saddles isn't really worthwhile *just because* IMO. …

      A yuuuuuuge improvement would be to polish the frets! This makes a massive difference in playability.
      Hi Alex,

      I’m glad you like my project!

      I’ll start with the tone before changing the pickup. I guess I never really learned to use the tone control, as I always had it on 10 and just changed the pickup position. But now I can really experiments with it and with capacitor value.

      I guess I better be careful with the fret ends so I don’t mess anything up. Luckily the neck is still unfinished. And I’ll have a look at how to polish the frets too!

      I’ll leave the nut and saddle as is for now, and upgrade the tuners because they are calling for it.

      Thanks again and I’ll keep you all posted!

      Cheers,
      Walt


      Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk
      "I don't want to be a product of my environment, I want my environment to be a product of me."

      Comment


      • #4
        I'd get the frets polished, leveled, and trimmed, throw some gunstock wax on the neck, locking tuners for convenience, and maybe a pickup swap if you really aren't gelling with the 498.
        Ain't nothin' but a G thang, baby.

        Comment


        • #5
          Graph Tech is good stuff. I use it on many guitars. As far as sealing the neck, you can clean it with Murphy's Oil Soap, and then seal it with Birchwood Casey gunstock wax, which is what Music Man uses on bare wood necks. I always think a tone knob is a good idea, and you are really hearing the tone of that pickup. If there are too many highs, you have other choices. I love the Custom Custom, which no one will ever say has too much high end.
          Dave, Ambassador/Writer/Artist for Seymour Duncan

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          • #6
            Originally posted by Benjy_26 View Post
            I'd get the frets polished, leveled, and trimmed, throw some gunstock wax on the neck, locking tuners for convenience, and maybe a pickup swap if you really aren't gelling with the 498.
            Yeah, no reason to toss the 498 unless you really dislike it or really want to try something else.
            Originally posted by crusty philtrum
            Anyone who *sings* at me through their teeth deserves to have a bus drive through their face
            http://www.youtube.com/alexiansounds

            Comment


            • #7
              Very nice project right there! For guitar upgrades, tone and playability there are other folks infinitely better qualified than me to come up with the right advice. What I've found in my experience is that the choice of amp, speaker and pedal(s) can have a serious impact on the tone. Speakers like WGS Veteran 30 or Eminence Swamp Thang are darker sounding and pair well with a bright sounding guitar. Also rolling back the presence makes a big difference. Enjoy your journey

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              • #8
                The original Evolution bridge is going to be bright, probably brighter than you might like in that guitar, especially without a tone knob. If you like Steve Vais tone, the DiMarzio Breed works really well in basswood with an all-maple neck. Its warmer than the Evo and is more like a hot PAF with an Alnico 5 magnet. Its full and fat sounding but still has some bite when you dig in.

                The Evo 2 bridge is said to be a little warmer than the original and to clean up better when you back off the guitar volume knob. I think there were good reasons for coming out with that pickup, and for changing the fretboard on the white Jem production model from ebony to rosewood.
                Nobody knows, dude. Nobody knows.

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                • #9
                  +1 on a tone control. Will make the 498T a lot more versatile.

                  And a BIG plus 1 on the gunstock wax. Absolutely love the feel of my MusicMan necks.
                  .
                  "Brains have been washed. Fear has been mongered. Now we prepare for the final stage of our conspiracy theory." - Isle Of Dogs

                  .

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Originally posted by Mincer View Post
                    …As far as sealing the neck, you can clean it with Murphy's Oil Soap, and then seal it with Birchwood Casey gunstock wax, which is what Music Man uses on bare wood necks. ….
                    Excellent idea! It is exactly what MM use, I just looked it up under Neck Finish it says: “Gunstock oil and hand-rubbed special wax blend”.

                    I have not found that exact product locally (Switzerland) but I found a colorless antique wax, I guess that should work. Any components that I should look for or avoid?


                    Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk
                    "I don't want to be a product of my environment, I want my environment to be a product of me."

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Originally posted by alex1fly View Post

                      Yeah, no reason to toss the 498 unless you really dislike it or really want to try something else.
                      Okey dokey. I don’t dislike it at all, I was happy with it for a while. It is just that the other day I found it a bit too high. But I’ll try to fix that with a tone control!


                      Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk
                      "I don't want to be a product of my environment, I want my environment to be a product of me."

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Nice, ...that guitar is a true "Ship of Theseus"

                        I would definitely change the machine heads if you are dissatisfied. My faves for 6 inline are Sperzel and Schaller lockers

                        Have you tried lightly sanding your neck longways with 800/1000 grit steel wool scour pads? that gets rid of that feeling you describe. I personally hate finished tacky necks
                        You can knock fret edges with the pads too.

                        I prefer all black guitar to white pickguard.

                        I use graphtech saddles and nuts on travel guitars because the guitar stays in tune better, but it's not going to really "improve" you tone -just slightly warm/mellow it though

                        Lastly, If it were me -I'd make a graphic honoring my dad on a waterslide decal (just like the pros) for the headstock if it were me, whatever you got going on right now could be improved -is it tape?

                        Have fun!
                        Last edited by NegativeEase; 11-24-2021, 07:39 AM. Reason: spelling
                        “For me, when everything goes wrong – that’s when adventure starts.” Yvonne Chouinard

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                        • #13
                          Somebody on the forum is selling locking tuners in the trading room.
                          . I've got a brand new set of Wilkinson EZ lock tuners that I do not like. My advice would be to use Sperzel, Schaller, or Hip Shot.

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                          • #14
                            I'd recommend Burt's Feed & Wax Beeswax as an alternative for the neck. I strip the poly finishes from all my maple necks, rub in a light coating of tung oil, then finish with the Burt's. Everybody says Tru-oil is superior to tung oil, but I'm using up an old can. I got an EBMM John Petrucci guitar recently, and the neck feels very similar to the ones I do with the oil & wax.

                            My PRS has Graph Tec saddle savers, no complaints.
                            "Patience is key. Hard work is obligatory. And it’s the decisions you make right now, not the habits of the past, that will shape your success in the future." - Janek Gwizdala

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                            • #15

                              Originally posted by NegativeEase View Post
                              Nice, ...that guitar is a true "Ship of Theseus" ...

                              Have you tried lightly sanding your neck longways with 800/1000 grit steel wool scour pads? ... You can knock fret edges with the pads too. ...

                              Lastly, If it were me -I'd make a graphic honoring my dad on a waterslide decal (just like the pros) for the headstock if it were me, whatever you got going on right now could be improved -is it tape?

                              Have fun!

                              I was not familiar with the "Ship of Theseus", but it fits perfectly. TBH, a while ago I was thinking about creating a philosophical post on how much you can change on a guitar and still call it the same guitar...

                              I'll try sanding the neck, but I also want something to seal and protect it once I finish. So I'll try a colorless oil and then some wax on top.

                              Great Idea about the waterslide decal. I used to have a picture of him playing guitar, I'll see if I can find it and make something cool of it. Yeah, it is just a piece of masking tape on which I wrote "Proto 01" as this is still a prototype and my first one.
                              "I don't want to be a product of my environment, I want my environment to be a product of me."

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