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Hacking an epiphone into something beautiful

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I have a very creative idea... I've wanted a Black Beauty by Gibson/Epiphone but im not willing to modify it if i have to pay full price. But on craigslist there are no Black Beauties sold and only the standard Epiphone Les Paul Custom... 3 Questions Concern me...

 

1) Has it been done before? and if it has i want to hear how it turned out for you

 

2) I don't plan on doing this myself... i am no professional luthier... i plan on sending it off to my personal luthier. My main question is... This modification... is it going to cost more than a brand new Black Beauty 3? (I plan on spending about 300-450 on a used Epi Custom) So how much would this momentous task cost?

 

3) The Wiring... they way i want my guitar to be set up is Rhythm position (Neck and Middle) Middle Position (Middle) Treble Position (Bridge and Middle) But i want 3 volume knobs so i can control the middle position more so if i want Full bridge or Full Treble i can simply cut off the Middle.

 

So Adding ALL these ideas into one guitar... Generally how much would it cost? More or Less than a Les Paul Custom Black Beauty? If it costs more... i might as well just save up and get the Black Beauty but if it costs Less... hmmmmmm i shall follow my devilish plan!

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I've done it on 2 Epis and a Gibson. Yes, it can be done, but if you have to pay a luthier to do it, it will cost more than buying a secondhand BB ready-made. You're talking about an hours' work to create the cavity, the cost of a pickup and mounting, and an hours' wiring work, then re-stringing.

 

If you're not a pro, it will take much longer...you need to go slow and careful on the carpentry.

The risky part is creating the middle cavity without cracking the lacquer or wood inbetween the pickups...you end up with a fragile section inbetween which is easily damaged. I broke it on the first one I did.

 

I love the look of a 3 pickup les paul, but in practice it doesn't give you any new sound variations, unless you go for a split coil as well like Pete Townsend used to. I did it for the looks, and because I had spare pickups lying around it only cost my time.

 

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No, i meant will the work cost more then a Brand New Black Beauty... if it was second hand id buy instantly. But will this modification cost more than a New Black Beauty?

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Ok so im in the negoication process of buying a Epiphone Les Paul Custom for 325... and a Black Beauty 3 costs about 800 with tax... would the edit cost more than about $500

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.

 

Beware buying Customs and Black Beauties from auction sites- they are notorious for being faked.

 

Caveat emptor!

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I love the look of a 3 pickup les paul, but in practice it doesn't give you any new sound variations, unless you go for a split coil as well like Pete Townsend used to. I did it for the looks, and because I had spare pickups lying around it only cost my time.

 

+1. Absolutely. What's the motivation? Looks or sound variety? I love the look of a Black Beauty LP and SG Custom, but all you add is expense and weight, and have little room left to pick the strings. Sound-wise, you get more variety from a HH Les Paul with the 4 push-pull Jimmy Page system (which I put in some LP's and 335's). I added a middle HB to a couple guitars. I regretted it shortly after I did it. Middle HB's are notorious for their poor quality tones. Something to do with the positioning under the string nodes and all those coils crammed together, makes for a crappy tone. The same PU that may sound great in the bridge or neck, will sound neutered in the middle slot. You wouldn't ever recognize it as the same PU. Big disappointment. Almost no big player has an HHH guitar, and the few that do probably don't use the middle PU (Ace Frehely uses his middle HB as a smoke bomb). Think about this: Everyone copied the HSS and HSH layouts. Except for Gibson and Epiphone, virtually NO ONE makes HHH guitars. Just like no one's copying Varitone switches. Great on paper, but they don't work out in the real world.

 

I wired my SG Custom like this:

- Bridge HB with coil cut & phase push-pulls on it's own 250K volume and tone.

- Middle PU is a HB-sized P-90.

- Neck PU is a HB.

The neck and middle have their own 500K volume and tone (one of which is a blend pot, but you could use a push-pull to switch between them), and one pot is a push-pull for coil cut on the neck PU. This gives something like 30+ sound combinations, but you're not going to use more than a half dozen of them.

 

On any HHH guitar in the future, I'd use HB-sized P-90's for the neck and middle, with an HB in the bridge. P-90's work better in close quarters than HB's. Without coil cut, three HB's offer NO advantage over two HB's. What Gibson should have done originally, was use soap bar P-90's in the Black Beauties and SG Customs, and then all 3 PU's would be useful.

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Ok so im in the negoication process of buying a Epiphone Les Paul Custom for 325... and a Black Beauty 3 costs about 800 with tax... would the edit cost more than about $500

 

No. It'll cost a lot less than that to do everything. But you'll have to find someone who can do the rewiring if you can't do it youself. I had a luthier cut out the hole for around $25, and did the wiring myself, which was more complicated than what you want. Have you thought about upgrading PU's? It's the biggest thing you can do to improve your guitar's sound. Epi HB's have single leads, so you can't do coil cuts with them, and they're buried in wax, like a bar of soap, which doesn't help the tone any. I'd recommend getting used Seymour Duncan PAF's (not cheapo 'Duncan Designed'). You can get used American-made Duncans for about half-price online, and you'll want them to have 4 leads for coil cut. If you're intent on using 3 HB's, get all of them with 4 leads, so you can mix and match which coils are on, and that'll give some decent combinations. 3 HB's without coil cut isn't very exciting, especially if they're stock Epi HB's.

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Epi HB's have single leads, so you can't do coil cuts with them

Not with the standard wiring, but it's an easy mod to turn them to 4-wire operation, very easy.

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Im not really in it for the coil splitting... the 3 pickups cause i tried out a Gibson Les Paul 3 1957 Reissue... and i loved the sound that came out of it... i dont know what you mean by HHH aren't good combination... but if you configure the wire the way i have it it will be different... I put my guitar in to the luthier and we made a plan where the toggle switch is going to be standard... but im going to have 3 volume switches and each volume switch is controlling each pickup so if i still wanted the Full treble all i would have to do is to switch off the middle.

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I know to some from some of you im going to get slandered... but im going to put up my own Gibson Les Paul Custom for the 3 pickup. I really like the Design and my guitar is a Gibson Les Paul 1968 Reissue in Tri Burst. the pickups im putting in are Bridge: Burstbucker Pro, Middle: 57 Classic +, Neck 57 Classic... i dont plan on reselling this guitar so i dont care for its future value all i care for is my personal taste :D

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Well, good luck with it. I think it will look great, but what people are trying to tell you is that a middle humbucker adds next to nothing tone-wise. I have it switched off most of the time.

 

If the 3 humbucker guitar you tried sounded great, it probably wasn't because of the the extra humbucker.

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I love the look of a 3PU les paul even the 3PU SG looks cool but in my opinion theres no huge sound/tone differance to have so for me it's just the looks.I bought a Gibson 3 PU custom 35th anniv les Paul a few years ago.It was beautiful ebony black with the gold hardware dam was I happy for a while.Again maybe it was my ears but with that guitar there was really no huge sound/tone differance in having a middle PU again though what a beautiful axe.My serious problem though is I have major trouble playing a 3pu LP even a Strat.I pick directly over the middle pickup and it throws off my playing bad so no 3 PU's for me.I've tried moving my picking hand but the way i rest a part of my hand on the bridge I cant get used to moving so a middle PU just gets in the way.BTW the pictures of you changing your guitar to a 3 pu are cool it looks exactly like my Epi LP plus top in amber I just got,congrats on a great job.

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I don't get why people have an issue picking directly over a pickup. The whole string area from the bridge to the bottom of the neck is there for use on any guitar; pick at the bottom of the neck and you get mellower tones, pick right next to the bridge and you get harsher tones. And inbetween there are all those pinch harmonics to find. My right hand drifts all over the whole area depending on what I'm playing at the time. I have no problem with a 3 pickup les paul.

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After a lot of years picking while resting my hand on the bridge would be a lot harder to change than changing to a two PU guitar,it's just how I've always picked.I do move my hand if I need to pinch harmonics or get a different tone playing next to the neck or the bridge.Just normal picking for some reason (many years)I need to rest my hand on the bridge and that puts my picking directly over a middle PU,no biggie.

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