Les Paul Smartwood Project: Complete!

So back in, oh maybe ’99 or ’00, I got this Les Paul Smartwood.  I guess it’s technically a “Smartwood Studio”.  I believe the wood on this one is Peroba, but I really don’t know anymore.  I do know that it was ugly out of the box.  I got it for a very low price because nobody wanted it and it was seemingly built on a Friday afternoon.  Frets were all overhanging, setup was horrid, and again, it was ugly.

Here’s the only shot I have of the guitar kind of in its original state.

les paul smartwood studio
les paul smartwood studio

 Promptly stripped and sold all the gold hardware, ripped out the nasty frets, bought new hardware/electronics, started to paint… and then it sat.

And sat…

Until about two weeks ago.  July 2013, probably 13-14 years later.

The only real inspiration for finishing was a pretty logical one, actually playing guitar.  Been getting together with a few buddies regularly to play; myself and the other guitar player both had fender-ish single coil guitars into fender-ish amps.  I showed up with my Gretsch from time to time and it was a little magical with some contrast in sound.  Got me thinking of how much better it’d be with a solid body humbucker guitar.

Oh, I have one!

Shit!  It’s in 50 pieces.

So I got to work.  Put in new frets, 6105 wire that is actually round and not sanded down to a pancake like Gibson does.  Painted, pumpkin orange on top, black on the sides/back.  Threw on hardware, all chrome.  Pickups – Duncan JB/Jazz (which was a cool combo when I bought them, back in ’01), which I don’t love but they sound good enough through my setup.  Amazingly, it all works and looks pretty okay.

les paul smartwood studio 1


les paul smartwood studio 2







So I’m making it a point to actually start finishing some of the projects I’ve had in progress for several years now. Enough screwing around and delaying things, it’s time to get stuff done!

I’m taking this weekend to get moving on some things. First up to bat was an easy one, finishing the headstock on the DNA. I put the neck from a JEM7VWH on long ago, but the headstock was in really bad shape. It was all dinged up and badly painted. Looked terrible for a $50 guitar, forget about something that costs 100 times that.

So I sanded the headstock down, glued a piece of veneer over the top, painted it black, put a clear on the top and slapped on a new Ibanez logo made at work (the “JEM” logo has “23/300” for the DNA number, if you can’t see in the pics below). It’s not a professional job by any means, but it looks a ton better than it did and I’m happy with it right now.

To kind of recap, here’s what’s been done to the DNA:
– Bridge pickup replaced w/ Seymour Duncan JB
– Neck pickup replaced w/ Seymour Duncan Jazz
– Middle pickup removed
– Knobs replaced to match bridge/tuner
– Neck from Ibanez JEM7VWH circa 1999
– Tremol-No with Deep-C
– 5-way switch with coil splitting

So what’s next? I’ve really got two major guitar related projects to complete.

1) Gibson Les Paul Smartwood – I need to finish refretting it, replace all the hardware with chrome, replace the electronics and get it repainted (notice I imply that I will not do the painting! that’s one thing I’m not capable of doing). I will update with progress of that, but I’m hoping that by Monday it will be pretty much ready to be painted. I think I have everything needed to get to that step.

2) Ibanez RG770 – this is a project that went way too far. It got a scalloped fretboard, new frets, some crazy experimental onboard preamp, etc, etc, etc. I’m going to strip it for parts and just scrap the thing.

That will do it for the time being. There are other projects out there, but those are the ones that I started and gave up on midway. It will be great to get them finished so I can move on to the next goals.

NAMM 2008 – Anaheim, CA: 2 months late

So this year, thanks to Kevan @ Tremol-No and some help from the Hoshino crew, I got into NAMM for the first time. For those who are unfamiliar, the NAMM show is the music industry’s big trade show. It’s turned into a global event and as the music equipment/supply industry keeps growing, so does the show. It’s a place for everyone from a huge guitar manufacturer like Fender or Gibson to show of their newest and staple products as well as knockoff companies and 2-3 person operations just getting their feet under them. By the way, it’s massive. The show takes place in the Anaheim Convention Center, which has over 800,000 square feet of space. They not only use all of it, they use more. There’s stuff outside, in the lobby, everywhere. I spent maybe 8 hours there on Saturday (pretty much from open to close) and aside from a quick lunch with a friend, it was all walking around, talking to people, looking at stuff. I played a lot of guitars, from fairly inexpensive Ibanez or Carvin models to borderline unaffordable Vigiers or similar high end brands. Best playing guitar there was by far in the Ernie Ball booth (they had a 30’s gangster theme, so all the guys were dressed in pin-striped suits with top hats, cool company, I liked the idea). I am now very eager to buy a John Pettrucci model. No joke. The 6 string version definitely surpassed anything else I touched at the show in terms of playability (there were plenty that were probably built better or looked nicer or sounded better). I’m going to start saving my spare change for one of those.

Like any trade show, there were lots of cool giveaways as well. I didn’t load up like some people (I think 40% of trade show attendants only show up for free stuff). However, my two prized freebies were a wood handled bottle opener from ZVex and some of the Eric Johnson series Jazz III picks from a guy at the Dunlop booth. The only thing I wanted to take home from the show was some of those picks and one of the reps there happened to have some. Thanks!!!

The other cool thing is all the music going on. I didn’t really care about guest appearances (I saw the Playboy PMOY, Paul Stanley, Joe Satriani, Nikki Sixx, etc), but the performances were cool. Caught a bit of the Red Jumpsuit Apparatus in the Taylor room (they were good, I knew the name going in but couldn’t tell you any songs they did). I saw a few artists I had never heard of doing improv and structured songs. Went to the aftershow party at the Hilton (most 80’s people in one place since the 80’s) and saw Kandace Ferrell (really good) and caught a little bit of Rob Balducci (great guy, great guitar player), but I was absolutely beat by then despite pumping my body with ribs and Starbucks. Wanted to stay for Rob’s full show, but I was falling fast by then (it was after 11PM, had been on my feet walking for the better part of 15 hours), luckily I’ve seen Rob perform 2 or 3 times in the past.

Anyway, that’s all I can think of for now. It was a great time and I’d love to go back in the future. I especially want to show up with a boatload of cash next time.

Click here for pics (I’m testing out Photoshop Express)