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"Relic-ing" an Epiphone IB'64 Texan


dhanners623

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I posted this over at the Epiphone forum, but figured folks here might be interested in it as well since it does involve a member of the Gibson family and not everyone here goes over there.

 

The backstory: Last year, I bought an Epiphone "Inspired by 1964" Texan. Always had the jones for a Texan but didn't really want to spend the dough for a vintage one. The IB'64 Texan I wound up getting sounded very good and I really liked it. The Shadow Sonic NanoFlex pickup system was a added touch and it makes it a very good stage guitar; I've gigged with it several times.

 

The only thing that bugged me about the guitar was its poly finish. While it didn't seem as thick as most Asian polyurethane finsihes, it still just seemed too damn glossy for a guitar that sounded as good as this one. So I thought, "Hey, why not relic the guitar, ala Fender or even Huss & Dalton?" (There's even a guitar shop in Nashville that relics acoustics; in fact, their website features some Gibsons that they've made to look older for some Nashville stars.)

 

A good friend of mine, Leo, is enrolled in the nationally renown guitar building and repair school at Southeast Technical College in Red Wing, Minn., so I asked him to see if he'd be interested in doing the job as some sort of class project. He's crazy enough (in a lovable way...) to try it. Even though their classes deal with making instruments look better, not worse, he was intrigued by the concept and decided to give it a try.

 

My basic instruction to him was to not just knock off the poly gloss, but, if he could, buff it back up to a vintage patina. I also told him that just to make the guitar look older, he could add a few nicks and scratches. He said he also would try to age the binding and the tuners.

 

I got the guitar back Sunday and was floored. It looks great, he nailed the vintage patina thing and he was very tasteful in the aging. It looks like a guitar that is a few decades old, has been played a lot, but has been taken care of by its owner. More importantly -- and I wondered if something like this might happen -- it sounds even better. Thinning out the finish seemed to loosen the top, as well as the back and sides, and the guitar seems much more "alive" now and the tone is also improved.

 

Yeah, I know some people will think I'm vain and crazy, but hey, it's my guitar. I can do with it what I want.

 

I'm not the best guitar photographer around, but some shots are here:

http://s213.photobucket.com/albums/cc91/dhanners/Texan/

 

Thinking you folks might be interested in what work was involved, Leo wrote out the work he did:

 

Rough material removal was done with a combination of cabinet scrapers, 3M scrubbies and copper pot scouring pads, steel wool (#000-0000,)sandpaper of varying grits (100, 220, 400 and so on) depending on the amount of finish to be removed and the type of contour desired. There were some areas where wood was exposed where a wire brush was used along with water to raise the grain a bit.

 

-- Surface dings and chips, etc. were accomplished by a number of means- flogging with a set of keys, light taps with a jeweler's hammer and screwdrivers,etc.( The round shaft of a screwdriver does very nicely for the little binding chips) and the belt buckle marks were etched in with the ball hex-head of a truss-rod wrench. I dropped a few coins from 3 feet or so for random top dings as well.

 

-- Most of the initial sanding with the rougher grits was done dry, but at the 400-grit level I switched to wet sanding up to this point the work was only being done on areas where specific wear patterns were desired based on the player's style and handling of the instrument. Form the 400 grit onward, the entire instrument was wet-sanded with 400, 800, 1000, 1200, 1500,and 2000 grits. I frequently revisited heavier grits in some areas as the final wear patterns became evident. Once the 2000 grit was very thoroughly applied to the entire suface with some touch-ups from larger grits and steel wool here and there, I began buffing with a soft rotary wheel and Tripolish compound. This was rather time-consuming but paid off. Note, it is VERY important to have good lighting from several angles at this point -- the really fine scratches will disappear at certain angles and you need to be very vigilant. After this step a thorough hand buffing with a soft flannel and a very light polishing compound was applied before a final polish/wax coat.

 

-- Bindings and plastic parts were sanded with 400 grit on down (special care was taken to remove molding lines and soften corners consistent with playing wear) and colorized with Letraset permanent art marker (primrose) and vintage Amber lacquer pencil (Stew-Mac #6091).

 

-- Tuners were bathed in distilled vinegar and salt for five days while other work was taking place.

 

Anyway, that's about it in a nutshell (big nut). The only advice I would give to anyone attempting this is go slow and evaluate your progress constantly. I cannot stress the importance of adequate light, and I wore actual magnifier glasses for a lot of the finer work.

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Nice job......only suggestion I eould give is to dirty up the "pickwear" around the sound hole. It is too fresh and a little un-realistic to the eye in my opinion. If this was really a 1964 Epi...that wear would be dirtier from finger oil and dust....otherwise a great project....you've probably given those clever Ebay-ers ideas on how fleece unsuspecting buyers!...lol...

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I wanted Leo to be somewhat conservative in his approach. Plus, even on the guitars I've played hard, the area around the pickguard doesn't get too dirty.

 

As far as eBay sellers go, I would hope any prospective buyer would confirm the serial number of the guitar he/she is looking to buy.

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-- Tuners were bathed in distilled vinegar and salt for five days while other work was taking place.

 

Great post and excellent work by your Apprentice David!!

 

Interesting about the tuners. Not sure how long you would want to keep Kluson's in a bath of Vinegar though!!! I did a set with more of a chemical approach but was super happy with my results!!!

 

[thumbup]

 

IMG_0061.jpg

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Actually, I had printed out the "Trade Secrets" bit from StewMac's website about aging tuners and gave it to Leo. He might've thought it was too much work than what he wanted to do or would make the tuners look too old. Plus, it involves some nasty chemicals: http://www.stewmac.com/tsarchive/ts0017.html

 

 

...Yeah I can vouch for the chemicals. If you do this I would suggest a mask and that it de done in a well ventillated area (I did mine outdoors!!!)

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Remember you talking of a report here when you were about to get into the task and have been looking forward to it. Now the job's done and it seems to be a scoop. The guitar looks much better - kind of down to earth in the exactly right 'high' way and very tempting to reach for. Got a too shiny IB 64 Texan in the next room and would consider something similar if I knew it was a keeper - not sure yet.

 

All in all a good solid reportage that could be passed on to any local craftsman if needed. Thank you - enjoy your woods.

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Great post and excellent work by your Apprentice David!!

 

Interesting about the tuners. Not sure how long you would want to keep Kluson's in a bath of Vinegar though!!! I did a set with more of a chemical approach but was super happy with my results!!!

 

[thumbup]

 

IMG_0061.jpg

I was looking at the close-up pics that were posted and the tuners are marked Wilkinson Deluxe. I have not heard of that brand??

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Wilkinson is one of the myriad outfits out there making guitar parts, including tuners. Don't know why Epiphone went with them. They tune just fine and are certainly smoother than tuners I've seen on other, older Epiphones.

 

Wilkinson doesn't have a website that I can find, but sell their stuff through a music parts distributor in the UK: Wilkinson parts

 

The more I play the guitar, by the way, the more the top (with its thinner finish) seems to be opening up. It has become a really fine sounding guitar, especially for the money.

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  • 1 month later...

I'm going to have another go and relicing another two sets of new klusons,....One set on my '05 Historic J45 and a new set of Klusons on my recently acquired '60 ES125 T.

 

Hot going to go too heavy on either set so was thinking of trying the " ... distilled vinegar and salt for five days" method as opposed to my past efforts on my CW with the very effective but less Eco Friendly acid PCB Ethcin solution method.

 

My only concern is the potential damage to the gears by Leaving a set of tuners bathed in distilled vinegar and salt for five days!!!!!!

 

[confused]

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I've not noticed any issues with my tuners. They still tune smoothly and stay in tune without any slippage, or at least no slippage that I can attribute to hinky tuners. (Good name for a band there: The Hinky Tuners.)

 

I will say, though, that prior to the tuners having their five-day "bath," whenever I looked through that tiny hole in the back of the housing, all I could see was some sort of gunk, obviously the lubricant they packed inside. After the bath, when I looked in the holes, I could see gears. I haven't noticed any difference in tuning, though, so maybe there's still lubricant in there. That said, I've had guitars with Waverlys and Grover Sta-Tites and neither had lubricant on them and they are among the best tuners you can put on a guitar.

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Salt? Vinegar? 5 days? Let me get ahead of this one:

 

Stewart MacDonald.

 

http://www.stewmac.com/shop/Tuners/Guitar,_solid_peghead_tuners.html

 

Have your plastic handy.

 

[rolleyes]

 

In my case, you can put your plastic away. Nearly two months on and the tuners tune just as smoothly as they did before. No kinks in the movement or nothing. The only difference is they just look older.

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In my case, you can put your plastic away. Nearly two months on and the tuners tune just as smoothly as they did before. No kinks in the movement or nothing. The only difference is they just look older.

 

Around the time you got this guitar I got one too that I had to send back because of a faulty pickup. I still miss it. Now I'm thinking about getting another one and trying this because yours looks great! Way to go, dhanners!

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As it turns out, my only regret is that I didn't do this sooner. The guitar has turned into my favorite stage guitar. It just sounds very good unplugged and plugged. It sounded decent before the relic work, but now it is truly a different -- and much better -- guitar. My J-45 is starting to get a complex because it doesn't get taken out so much.

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