Tag Archives: guitar modification

Lawsuit SG

Over the last weeks I’ve been busy modifying another old guitar I had been given by a neighbor about six years ago: it’s an Ibanez, but completely different from what most people know as an Ibanez.

This guitar is from 1971 – maybe a vintage item, if you will, but already slightly beyond the “Golden Age” of electric guitar craftsmanship. Since it’s from Japan, then a low-wage country, its worth is not at all comparable to that of an American original. This SG (a so-called lawsuit model, that became illegal after Gibson won a case) is just a cheap copy, with bolt-on neck at that. The pickups were almost broken as the electronic circuitry in general was.

But from the moment I played this instrument for the first time, I found there was something special about it – not very SG-like, but individual in quality. With a slide it delivered a great sound, and for some years it has been my guitar for special occasions, also for noise orgies…

Until the pickups finally gave up, and I had to get new ones. I decided to order some P90 style pickups. But a few problems arose: there were three pickups originally, but I wanted only two. The third one was activated only in the middle position of the toggle switch, and, contrary to what one might expect, this sound had less power and gave me no criterion to want a third pickup. But what to do with the ugly hole in the middle?

I procrastinated resolving this, and instead went on to ordering hand-wound P94 pickups – they are similar to P90s, but in a humbucker format. I expected a brighter sound than with humbuckers that should be matching the bolt-on neck construction and give a direct sound that could be great with some crunch added.

And so it was. When I received my pair of Amber P94, there was no difficulty in mounting them, and within half an hour or so the guitar was ready to be played again. The sound turned out much clearer and more present than before, and the special design of P94 (with pole pieces instead of screws), only recently available, gives them an exceptionally direct response. Needless to say I had built the electronic circuit anew from scratch, with good CTS replica pots, bumblebee caps and cloth wire, adding to an unimpaired frequency spectrum.

After due consideration I mounted the old middle pickup again, as a dummy, so new and old looks are merging. It looks fine to me. No ugly hole any more…

There were still problems with the narrow string spacing that was already improperly done by the Ibanez factory, the strings not being parallel to the neck. I tried a different bridge I had saved from my Epiphone, but with it I had to carve out a new notch for the E6-string that otherwise would have dropped off the fingerboard. Still it feels somehow weird to play on this neck, but the sound is great – and it’s still great with a slide! This guitar will remain my guitar for special occasions, only much better than before…

Soundtracks featuring this guitar coming soon.