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DagerOne

Epiphone Special rescued and refinished

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While trolling the local Craigslist ads, I found this Epiphone Special (not the Special II, but its predecessor) for $25:

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Obviously, it was in pretty sorry shape, and one could argue about whether it was worth even the $25 I gave for it, but regardless. I obviously couldn't do much testing on it in its condition, but the seller told me the electronics on it were "fine". Once I opened the control cavity, I learned otherwise, but it wasn't a complete travesty.

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Several "connections" were held together with only electrical tape, and the ground to the bridge wasn't connected to anything.

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You can see in the headstock photo above that several of the bushings were missing, so my first order of business became finding a replacement for them, as I couldn't realistically string it up to determine if it was salvageable until doing so. Even the existing tuners that were complete were in very rough shape.

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Looking into replacement tuners, I found the existing holes to be 8mm diameter, and there aren't a lot of options for tuners of that size. Fortunately for me, user "brianh" here had not only the required bushings, but a complete unused set of tuners off of an Epi Jr if I'm not mistaken. He offered them up to me free of charge (Thanks again, brianh) and with them I was able to at least get the guitar strung up and functional. Doing so, I learned a few things:

 

1) The stock humbuckers were surprisingly hot

2) The electronics were scratchy but serviceable

3) A dent in the neck was in a location that made it intolerable

4) The guitar didn't really do anything for me that my other guitars didn't do

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So I decided to strip it, repair what I could on a budget, and refinish it.

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Not that I put much faith in such numbers, but both humbuckers read out at 14.5k. :blink:

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Attempts to steam and raise some of the largest dents and gouges were pretty fruitless on this plywood body.

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In the end, I had to fill and sand some areas:

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I'm an amateur when it comes to refinishing guitars, and I thought that a $25 salvage piece would be a good sacrificial lamb for me to try something I'd never done before. I picked up some Feibing's Leather Dye, which StewMac calls "ebony in a bottle" to dye/"ebonize" the fretboard. Though the rosewood looked okay, it didn't appear nearly as pretty in real life as it seems to in these photos. At any rate, I gave it a try. It didn't turn out as dark as I'd have liked, but it wasn't bad, either.

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I'd decided to use Duplicolor paint for this project. Cheap, readily available in a lot of colors, and a strat I'd refinished in it had turned out well. The color I chose was a GM color for Polar/Arctic white.

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I couldn't find anyone who had a high-quality version of the "Special" logo, so I went with the only one I could get my hands on. I didn't really want to label it as a Les Paul, but the blank headstock drove me nuts. This is just a mock-up of what eventually were made into waterslide decals:

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Already having several humbucker-equipped guitars, and none with P90s, I decided to try the GFS Mean 90 pickups in this little guy. I didn't take any pictures of it, but I also rewired the guitar with its existing pots after cleaning them up with Deoxit/Faderlube.

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Sidenote: The wiring for the pickups travels DIRECTLY beneath the screw hole for the bottom-rear pickup ring screw. Securing this pickup ring resulted in my piercing the wiring for the neck pickup, rendering it non-functional. Much thanks to the GFS guys for cutting me some slack and getting me a replacement for something that was entirely my own fault with the help of a poor design from Epi in the first place. First rate customer service from GFS. [thumbup]

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And finally, strung up with D'Addario super lights (all I had lying around...probably because I could never find a use for them). The old nut was cracked on the low E side, so it was replaced with a Tusq XL also:

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I replaced the knobs with reflectors. The guitar was missing one speed knob anyway, so I didn't have much of a choice:

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brianh's tuners, put to good use:

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And, it's still an Epi:

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I think it looks a lot better under about $25 in paint. The guitar itself cost $25, remember. The Tusq XL nut, strap buttons, and the reflectors I had left over from another project, but probably cost $12 total. The GFS pickups were around $80 shipped, and the strings were probably $5. So, all told, I have about $150 in the project...which seems like entirely too much until you remember that the vast majority of that (the pickups, knobs, etc) can be reclaimed if I want to use it elsewhere. Plus, I learned some things and have a guitar that does something a little different with the humbucker-sized P90 clones. It plays well, sounds nice, and if I fall out of love with it, I can put the stock pups back in it and maybe get my original $25 back at least. :)

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[thumbup] [thumbup] [thumbup] [thumbup] [thumbup] [thumbup] .................Awesome job.........It's a beauty...

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Fantastic job DO, looks a million dollars, some damn fine restoration on the cheap, congrats on a job well done.

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I have to say I'm really amazed by what you've done here!! I'm a DIY person myself, but I'm too lazy and I don't think I can do a good job like you (well at least not now [tongue] ), as I've never restore a guitar before.

 

Excellent work, mate!! You're like the 'Renovator' on guitars! [thumbup]

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Fantastic rebuild.

An inspiration to DIY [thumbup] - thanks.

 

And into the "Epi Lounge Do-it Yourself Sticky" it Went!!!!

 

Actually, that WHITE headstock is rather cool looking! Got ME thinking......

 

As we haven't had a lot of refinishes this year, I took the liberty of putting yours into

the DIY under:

 

***GUITAR PROJECTS and/or BUILDS:

 

subsection: PROJECTS and BUILDS:

 

It's near the bottom with the other Special and Special II refinish projects.

 

The ONLY two "off the shelf" brands of Spray Can Paints I would recommend are

BOTH "Lacquer-Based" (NOT Enamel Based), and those would be either Dupli-Color, OR

Krylon.

 

Having Refinished several guitars with Krylon, I LOVE the color selection, but as Krylon has

been reformulated in recent past it has inherent "Cure-Time" problems -

1. 2-3 month Curing process

2. 1 year to hard finish.

 

I do not know if Dupli-Color has same issues. Krylon, once "Dry to touch" can be buffed out, shined up,

and handled and polished. But, as both myself and RTH have discovered, the dang finish is still technically

"soft" - the slightest bump will leave a dent.

It's changed the way I approach refinishing a git when I use Krylon. Thinner coats, and MORE cure time

between coats. Bummer, but it's the nature of the Paint.

 

What have you noticed regarding Dupli-Color? Same issues?

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That turned out great, nice work I love the "in progress" pics.

I have a couple that I've put more in parts than I paid

for the guitar, but the experience was worth it [biggrin]

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The ONLY two "off the shelf" brands of Spray Can Paints I would recommend are

BOTH "Lacquer-Based" (NOT Enamel Based), and those would be either Dupli-Color, OR

Krylon.

 

Having Refinished several guitars with Krylon, I LOVE the color selection, but as Krylon has

been reformulated in recent past it has inherent "Cure-Time" problems -

1. 2-3 month Curing process

2. 1 year to hard finish.

 

I do not know if Dupli-Color has same issues. Krylon, once "Dry to touch" can be buffed out, shined up,

and handled and polished. But, as both myself and RTH have discovered, the dang finish is still technically

"soft" - the slightest bump will leave a dent.

It's changed the way I approach refinishing a git when I use Krylon. Thinner coats, and MORE cure time

between coats. Bummer, but it's the nature of the Paint.

 

What have you noticed regarding Dupli-Color? Same issues?

 

I have not found that to be the case with Duplicolor. It dries hard, sands and polishes well, and is relatively resilient. I generally stick to very light coats, but only ten minutes between coats. I'll then wait three days or more before I sand it out, or when a fingernail can't be pressed into an inconspicuous area (like beneath a pickup) and leave a mark.

 

Sorry if I posted in the wrong section. Glad folks found it interesting. :)

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I would really like to hear more detail on your paint job.

 

1. How many coats of white?

2. Did you sand in between coats?

3. Did you use clear to finish? If so, how many coats?

4. What did you use to polish the finish?

 

That white looks great on the headstock. That is one of the beefs I have with Epi/Gibby guitars. Sometimes the black doesn't look real good, depending on the color of the guitar.

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I would really like to hear more detail on your paint job.

 

1. How many coats of white?

2. Did you sand in between coats?

3. Did you use clear to finish? If so, how many coats?

4. What did you use to polish the finish?

 

That white looks great on the headstock. That is one of the beefs I have with Epi/Gibby guitars. Sometimes the black doesn't look real good, depending on the color of the guitar.

 

ME, TOO!!!! Which "Brand of Dupli-color" for the Primer, Color, and Clear?

Did you use sanding sealer?

 

It's posted in the correct section, you're good!

 

EDIT: Example of KRYLON finish - Sho' looks good, but is a bit soft (unknown to me at

that time)...

 

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Krylon looks far superior to Duplicolor when it's first sprayed, but the softness is what moved me away from it. When you take the time with Duplicolor, I think the results are really, really good.

 

On a body that isn't multi-layered like this one, I'll usually sand down to bare wood. On this guitar, I block sanded off the color and as much of the "sealer" coat as I could while still feeling safe from burning through. With the number of dings, dents, occasional burn-throughs and filled areas I had left, though, I ended up using Deft Sanding Sealer (available at Lowe's). I sanded that to a uniform 320 grit, then put a couple of coats of Duplicolor's Sandable Primer in white (DAP1689). I very lightly sanded the primer coat, then went to color. I used Duplicolor's "Perfect Match" Polar/Arctic White (10 WA9567) for this project. I get the Duplicolor products at either Advanced Auto or O'Reilly's...Pep Boys and Autozone carry them, too, but they run 20 cents more per can around here. ;) This was done with two cans of color. I will lay one entire can down in a day, then let it dry for three or more days like I described above. I'll then wetsand it up to 800 or 1000 grit to take care of the inevitable overspray, wipe down with naphtha, then lay down about 3/4 of the second can and let that dry for several days again. I'll wetsand again, this time up to 1500 or 2000, reserving that last 1/4 can to fix anything I've missed or screwed up. :-" Eventually, it's wetsanded to 2000 grit and polished with your choice of compounds, scratch removers, etc.

 

On this guitar, only the face of the headstock was cleared in order to bury the waterslide decals. I got the idea from my Epiphone Ultra II, where the face of the headstock has a gloss clearcoat, but the back of the neck and headstock is matte. Duplicolor, particularly the white, polishes up pretty darn well. It doesn't have that "three meters thick" shine appearance if it isn't clear coated, but it still looks really nice. I don't think I'd leave a black guitar uncleared, though. I've used Deft clear, Reranch, Ohio Valley Nitro, etc over Duplicolor with good results. This headstock? I actually used Krylon clear because I had some on hand and I don't plan on "handling" the face of the headstock so its softness isn't as much of an issue.

 

I'm no expert...that's just how I've done it with what I feel have been really good results. :)

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I like it... a lot! [thumbup] Definitely like the white headstock too, I don't think black would really fit in this case.

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I agree with animalfarm. The headstock looks really great with the transfers and gold(?) tuners. I dyed my Junior's fretboard with the darkest Minwax stain (Ebony 2718) and it took six applications before I was satisfied. Next to a real ebony fretboard it won't pass but it looks OK. You and animalfarm have some great looking repaints.

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I can't help but admire, even envy, someone who can do what you have done here. A truly beautiful job. Because you put so much care and love into this project, I wouldn't doubt that it is better than when it came out of the factory.

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I can't help but admire, even envy, someone who can do what you have done here. A truly beautiful job. Because you put so much care and love into this project, I wouldn't doubt that it is better than when it came out of the factory.

 

I think if I had it to do all over again, I'd consider picking up one of the Epi LP Junior Specials that Sam Ash was selling for $99 over the Labor Day holiday and adapt it to this. That's a single humbucker, so it would involve routing and adding a switch, but it would be a heck of a lot easier than a refinish! ;) Of course, that also has a black headstock face, so that would mean not having the white one that so many of you seem to like. [flapper]

 

Thanks for the comments, guys. Glad I took pictures.

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Amazing transformation....top notch restoration! I have a candy red Memphis Strat that I've been thinking of taking down to a "natural"........your project is definitely inspiring. Great job! [thumbup]

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I had one of these previously. For an el cheapo guitar, they don't sound too bad. You've done a great job on the rescue/restoration.

 

Best wishes

 

Alex

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