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Custom Frankenstein Telecaster

I got my hands on this Telecaster copy from the early 90’s. It was a gift from a fan who hoped, “It would got to a good home where someone might play it once in a while.”.

There was no doubt that this guitar had seen a few owners and that it had been a starter model once upon a time. With a fairly straight neck and no initial investment I decided that this guitar would become a personal project.

I began by removing all the hardware and electronics, sanding down through seven layers of hell, and shopping for higher quality replacement parts.

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Finding the original sunburst on the back, I left some of the finish for cosmetic and sentimental purposes. I used deck stain (left over from a home renovation project), Hanging the body off a guitar stand with a coat hanger hooked through a hole for the neck bolts.

I used a block of wood and some wood filler to close-up the hole in the front face where the tremolo had been. Using the original pick-guard and jack/control plate as templates, I cut out aluminum from old ductwork to use as the replacements. Painting the pick-guard black and sanding it for color and texture was more challenging than I can describe. There are more than a dozen coats of paint, which ends up adding character as well as contrast compared to the jack/control plate that I left simple as sanded aluminum.

Before

After

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Here was my eBay shopping list:

  • Stock Stratocaster Boat-Jack
  • Two heavy chrome knobs
  • Gibson Les Paul style bridge-saddles & hard tailpiece
  • Grover mini-locking tuners
  • Wilkinson Vintage single coil bridge pickup
  • Oversized strap buttons & screws
  • Fender tweed guitar strap
  • Frankenstein pin
  • Frankenstein coin

While waiting on everything to come in the mail I stopped in at the local hardware store and picked up a five inch bolt since the guitar was originally a zero-nut style of headstock.

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When the hardware arrived from eBay I was ready. I had already drawn up the schematics and wiring diagrams, so that was my first chore. I began by retrofitting the boat-jack onto the face of the guitar and sanding the heck out of the knobs. To make things even more challenging, I decided I wanted the boat-jack to be slightly recessed.

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Once that was done, it was time to cut & place the pickups. I decided on One Volume / One Tone too keep it simple; the Wilkinson Vintage up front and a stock Ibanez INFS1 middle pickup (from a friend) in the bridge position. A three-way switch wired neck / both / bridge and the boat-jack complete the circuit.

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Once the bridge and tailpiece were added it began to look like a guitar again. For adventures sake, I scalloped the last few frets and made the neck plate recessed.

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With the Grover’s already installed, there were only a few cosmetic additions to the guitar and it’s case before it was complete.

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Review

Now dubbed Frankenstein, this guitar performs great considering. I keep it in open G tuning and use it a lot for slide work. Keeping the intonation set correctly is a constant battle. Generally I give it a good work out and simply compensate as best I can – much easier when playing slide.

The tones I get from Frank are pretty basic: weak & twangy or strong & dirty. What this guitar lacks in versatility it makes up for with character and clarity. Even through the thickest fuzz or distortion, the Wilkinson Vintage provides a crisp attack, which again works great for slide.

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Posted by on May 3, 2011 in Chamberlain Gear

 

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1963 Epiphone Firebird VII Reissue

Firebird-VII 

  • Produced in The Saein Musical Instrument Complex in Incheon, Korea in 2003.
  • 3 Alnico-V mini-humbuckers
  • Gold hardware
  • Maestro Lyre Vibrola tailpiece
  • Mahogany body
  • Mahogany set neck construction
  • 3 Vol/1 Tone with 3-way selector switch
  • Gold reflector knobs
  • 22-fret Rosewood fingerboard with block inlays
  • 24.75″ scale
  • 1.68″ nut width
  • $831 MSRP (2005)
  • Color Options: Black, Antique Ivory, Red, and Vintage Sunburst (2002-2005).

I found this guitar for sale online in 2010. Prior to finding the ad, I had been watching for a good deal on a new toy for some time. I had even done some research on a few models that I saw frequently in pawn shops and Winnipeg’s music stores.

Looking for an upgrade from my regular standard of guitars, I also hoped to find something that suited my blues/rock style of playing and had a unique look to it – as imagery is very important to me when on stage.

A Little Firebird History:

The president of Gibson in the 1960s, Ted McCarty, hired car designer Ray Dietrich to design a guitar that would have popular appeal. Under Dietrich, the Firebird took on the lines of mid-50s car tailfins. Dietrich took the Explorer design (which had commercially failed a few years earlier) and rounded the edges. The most unusual aspect is that the guitar is “backward” in that the right-hand (treble) horn of the body is longer than the other. Thus, the original Firebirds were unofficially referred to as “reverse”.

The Firebird line went on sale in mid-1963 with four models distinguished by pickup and tailpiece configurations. Unlike the Les Paul and SG line, which used the terms “Junior”, “Special”, “Standard” and “Custom”, the Firebird used the Roman numerals “I”, “III” , “V” and “VII”. Gibson’s line of Thunderbird basses is rooted in the design of the Firebird, and uses even Roman numerals (“II” and “IV”) to distinguish it.

Epiphone, being a subsidiary company of Gibson, was given authorization to produce this reissue from 2000-2005.

Being that it was listed as “used” condition, I was weary, but there was no evidence of abuse from the pictures posted in the ad. After recently receiving an income tax rebate, I decided that this was something I’d have to take a serious look at. Not finding much information on the Epiphone Firebird line right away, I went to inspect the guitar in person.

The moment I walked into the room my eyes darted towards the bright red Firebird VII sitting neatly along a wall of guitars. Right away I knew that this guitar was going to do what I wanted it to do. I low-balled the seller by another hundred dollars and he met me halfway. I felt that I was practically stealing this guitar as the guy apologized for the lack of a hard-shell case.

Review

I find the Epiphone Firebird VII to be an amazing guitar. No other instrument in it’s class performs better or guarantees the quality that my guitar has delivered.

Finding that the three Alnico-V Mini-Humbuckers outperform most stock-quality Epiphone pickups was a pleasant surprise. With the configuration of 2 Volume / 1 Tone and a Blend potentiometer for the middle pickup, there are virtually millions of tones achievable through the three-way toggle switch.

The Maestro Lyre Vibrola tailpiece and tremolo bar are a bit tricky to setup, but with a knowledgeable technician or luthier helping you with your regular set-ups you’ll find that the traditional mechanical design works flawlessly.

With matching gold Grover Tuners coming stock on this beautiful redhead, I can’t help but to love her. Holding it’s position as my “go to” electric guitar, I can’t imagine my collection being complete without this Firebird VII.


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Posted by on May 2, 2011 in Chamberlain Gear

 

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