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About SwissFrank

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  1. Hey Jim, this is a couple years ago, but I hope you get an alert. My pickguard looks EXACTLY like yours, with the protective plastic nearly impossible to get off. I've only gotten off a quarter inch squared. Do you remember what you used to remove the final mess and whether it gave any difficulty? (BTW this is a pickguard I bought cheap used on a parts rack. I think it was hanging there forever...)
  2. I need to make another family portrait showing my 3PU '57 Historical Collection LP Custom (black) and my J-200 Standard (natural). I took this the day I got my '59 Historical Collection 335 home:
  3. I had a Korean 1987ish Sheraton in college and loved it. The binding cracked bad, and some block inside the body perhaps came unglued and buzzed along with my playing. Meanwhile my hand-done coil-tap was crap and made the pickups start flaking out a bit. I literally threw it away and got a beautiful 2000 Gibson 335 "dot figured top." I actually didn't dig it in the store, but credited that to strange amp, no FX, no strap, lots of noise. Stupid me! It turns out the neck was weak enough that leaning back made it go a bit sharp, while leaning forward made it go flat. Flimsiest neck on any guitar I ever owned. It was absolutely unplayable. So then in 2013 I went on the hunt again. With rising salary, some vintage 335s were now in my price range so I played some 60s guitars and maybe a '59 or two. While in another shop I saw a used Chinese Sheraton visually identical to my college one. I bought it partly for old times' sake and partly just to get used to playing a 335-shape again, to aid my shopping. I then tried over a dozen new Gibsons. I brought along the Epiphone just as a comparison. At one store I challenged the salesman to see if he could tell the difference... and he was game. He pulled his hat over his face. But the difference was night and day. I'm not sure how to put this in words but the Epi just sounded... bad and muddled, while the Gibson was clear. They seemed approx equal treble and volume so I'm not sure what in cheap pickups can even be made cheaply to sound bad. I felt there was no point in keeping the Epi around even as a spare/road guitar, and sold it for $100 (I had only paid $250 or so). I finally settled for a $2500 figured top that seemed to have a stable neck... but after two days I called and begged to trade up to a $5000 '59 Historical Reissue that had the best sound to my ears. The '59 had an uncomfortably large neck, ultra-plain wood, and a sunburst I wasn't a huge fan of... but sounded perfect. The difference was apparent in about five seconds when playing them back to back, and for me there was no question that small sound/feel difference was worth spending twice the money on an uglier, more uncomfortable guitar!! There was something about it that almost sounded more "in time" than the Figured, even though that Figured was the best of 6-8 other Figureds (and quite a bit better than other modern models... and ALL the vintage ones I tried.) I made an infographic; the two guitars are pictured below. Soooooooooooooo.... long story long, what's the verdict? 2013 Gibson Historical '59 is better than 2013 Gibson Figured Top (hand-selected by me) is better than dozens of vintage and new 335s, which were FAR better than 2008 Chinese Epiphone is FAR better than 2000 Gibson Figured Top. Lets say my college Epiphone was a bit better than the Chinese one. The summary is that if you can't play the guitar (like my first Figured) it by definition sucks. And if it falls apart (like my first Sheraton) its not good for long, even if its good for short. Even if you change a Sheraton's hardware, the quality of the woods and materials, and workmanship, will not be comperable. And finally, at least with 335s... they are like snowflakes. You will find LOTS of difference and you have to try a half-dozen before you find a good one.
  4. Beautiful guitars Nick. I played one of those 12s a couple days ago, much nicer than I expected. I play a fair amount of accoustic (Taylor 855 12, Collings D2H-AV) and they have huge necks but the Historical seemed somehow even bigger.
  5. OK, after comparing a Historical Collection 59, a Dot Figured Top, and a Fat Neck at Ishibashi's HQ in Ochanomizu, then again different examples of these three guitars at Ishibashi's biggest store which is in Shibuya, I ended up with the Figured Top, nominally the exact same guitar I owned 2000-2006 and never touched! I found the HC '59 and Fat Neck's necks maybe slightly TOO fat for me. Yesterday's Dot Figured had the bendy-neck syndrome bad: just leaning back drove it sharp. Today's Dot Figured was acceptable, though: it'd do the bendy-neck thing if I was too crazy, but I could move around as much as I need without going sharp/flat. Combined with the price (big discount on that one guitar as they were having problems moving it), the pretty wood (not the best flame I've seen but good enough) swung the deal. Still have buyer's remorse: just a few strums of a G chord told me the second shop's Historical had a little bit more magic. I should have got that. I was turned off probably 40% by the neck being TOO fat, 40% by the sunburst, and only 20% by price. In fact, we need the guitars to SOUND GOOD OVER EVERYTHING ELSE and I let three factors that nobody could hear on a recording make the decision.
  6. Yes, I do know what I'm looking for... I just know it doesn't exist 8-) I want a "fat neck" with natural figured top and I'd prefer an Epiphone headstock to honor the fact that it was an Epi model that showed me the way. (Also the big headstock may help the tone just a bit: have you even noticed a guitar sounds better if you press the neck into a wall? I think the less that end of the string moves--and a larger, heavier headstock probably influences that--the more "normally" the string can vibrate and the better it should sound.) Neck flex: I have no idea how many guitars I've had that would have better tone were the string to be vibrating the neck less and the body more--as you say probably less a factor on electrics anyway. However I've had I think three guitars where the neck flex was changing pitch at least a couple cents unintentionally: a tiny problem on my 1975 Thinline, and on this 2009 Chinese Sheraton, and a huge problem on the 2000 Dot Figured 335. As you say, its not just size, its partly down to the wood. This Sheraton has a huge neck but it still bends a bit. Many of my guitars have smaller, simple one-piece maple necks (eg Strat) with no bend at all. I also have a theory its down to the body: one thing I LOVE about the 335 is how it glues itself to me, and my forearm like up to my elbow can rest on the guitar. That holds the body in position, so when my left arm moves (say, as I lean back) the guitar isn't free to move and as something has to give, the pitch changes. In contrast only like half my forearm sits on a strat; when my left arm moves, the guitar is free to move with it. Hence no pitch change. ------ Yes, thanks for all the cautions to examine first-hand, ESPECIALLY the innards of an early-60s 335. I woudln't have known to check for re-solders in addition to the components themselves being original had I not tripped across some articles last week. Its a real dilemma as I'd like a neck coiltap with no-load, but that'd be out of the question unless the guitar already had serious "collectability" issues. I'm lucky to live in Tokyo where just between the top three retailers there's 450+ 335's on sale. The unlucky part is that everything will cost 10-30% more than the US even after dickering and playing the "starving foreign musician" card... http://1484.bz/shibuya/gibson/?c=hnavitop (click the 335) http://www.ikebe-gakki.com/ (enter Gibson 335 in the text box near the top, where the king is pointing) http://www.kurosawagakki.com/tags/keyword/?str=Gibson+335 Vintage only: http://www.hyperguitars.com/search/?br=&md=335&kw=&ya=&r=&cp=&sk=rd
  7. Jim, I don't play complicated stuff, mainly what I'd call power-pop, so arguably changing instruments to get different sounds is more important to me than people who have the talent to say whatever they want with just one instrument. I'd say my Super 400 is getting half my time, with a (humbucking) Tennessee Rose and a (humbucking) Tele Thinline getting honorable mention. When I get out my solidbodies (LP, strat, solid tele), I usually put them down in 15 minutes due to lack of chemistry even though they're really immaculate instruments. In contrast I DO have chemistry with this Sheraton (like I did 1988-1995 with my first one), but put it down in 15 minutes because it just can't do the higher frets well. After letting my 335 Dot Figured "floppy neck" sit in the case 2000-2005, I had thought I had just grown in a different direction than 335s go, but this second Sheraton has me convinced now that the magic is still there. I just hope to god I can find a 335 now with that solid chunkiness I like in the Sheratons, but with the materials and workmanship to sound great up the neck. Accordingly, I'm spending this week going around Tokyo trying Historical '59, '63, VOS '59, Dot Figured Top (again) and a Fat Neck, and I'll try another half-dozen pre-'63 vintage instruments too.
  8. I owned a Korean Epiphone "335" (Sheraton II) in college in 1987. It made all my songs sound great, it made me sound more skilled than I was. But I ran it into the ground via ultra-low humidity and too many penny-wise-pound-foolish electronics DIY's. By 2000 though, I told myself I could afford a "real" 335 this time around, and got a drop-dead gorgeous 335 "dot" figured natural. The looks of that model still make me weak in the knees. In the music store it didn't sound great, but I chalked that up to the noisy environment, playing through a strange (to me) amp, not the FX I was used to, no strap (didn't think to ask for one) etc. But I got it home and it actually sucked. The suckiest part was that when I leaned slightly back, the weight of my left arm sufficed to drive it sharp. Lean forward and it'd go flat. I played it less than an hour a month despite not being a big fan of my other electric. When I bought my Collings D2H-AV, the retailer explained to me that in his opinion the big fat necks on early Martins was one of the keys to their good sound: it made a steady foundation for the string to vibrate, instead of expending its energy making a floppy neck vibrate. And it seemed borne out. So around 2010, a proper vintage 335 was coming into my budgetary range. I tried a half-dozen early 60's 335s and found they all sounded weak. I was NOT able to find a dot-era vintage. One day, after playing 2 new 335's and 2 from the early 60's, I spotted a $300 used Chinese version of my old Korean knockoff. I tried it and by gosh it rocked. The neck was big and fat. Its materials and workmanship aren't great--doesn't play well or sound good above the 12th fret etc., but chords sound really chunky and have great sustain. Anyway, last summer I added a 2012 Super 400 to my harem... and the neck is like a baseball bat and there is no body position that affects the pitch in the least. And of course the purity of sound puts everything else I own to shame. So between these experiences I became a convert to fat necks. I don't say I prefer them to play, but I am pretty sure they will always sound better. ----- QUESTION 1 for you guys is, do many people agree that fat necks sound better? Or do you think my 2000 dot figured (which the Gibson website now points out does NOT have the fat neck of the original dots) actually just had an unusually bad neck? QUESTION 2: any other variations in 335s that really affect the sound? Specifically I'm looking at power-pop, lots of Gmaj, Dmaj chords and stuff, hard strumming, long sustain a plus, ballsy tough sound here. QUESTION 3: does anyone (inc. Gibson personnel lurking here?) have any idea what in a Sheraton II would make it sound especially different (better to my ears) than a real 335, besides the neck? EG I'm sure the quality of workmanship and materials and electronics would all hinder the Sheraton II and yet it seems to have something very tough in the sound that to me at least is a plus. QUESTION 4: does the explicitly "Fat Neck" 335 model have the same neck as the Sheraton II? It claims to have a smaller body on the Gibson website, but is it noticeably smaller? (I've noticed that once you're used to an 18" Super 400 even a 17" L-5 feels like a toy. And the 339 isn't for me.) QUESTION 5: setting appearance aside, is there any consensus of which current 335 has the best sound (in terms described in question 2)? QUESTION 6: does Gibson Custom Shop actually take custom orders? QUESTION 7: if it were to do so, are there any variations that one should request besides (in my opinion) fat neck (if your priority is as described in question 2)? QUESTION 8: again if it were to do so, any chance they'd actually take a custom order for an **Epiphone** model? Say with a top-grade figured body, but the neck shape of a Super 400, and the Epiphone headstock, flower and name? QUESTION 9: if it were NOT to do so, what are the chances you could buy a figured natural 335 today, and have a luthier dismantle it and have fatter neck installed without the result being unsightly and/or unplayable?
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