(Blog post originally started on 12/23/12)
For some of you who know, I have this Ventura Les Paul copy guitar I’ve acquired in my teenage years, which I did blog about earlier this year back in Spring (last year lol). Well, like I’ve mentioned in the original blog post I’ve made, it has gone through some sort of transformation, one may say. But the time has come just recently, where I’ve decided to commit, bite the bullet, and ride this ride of “investment” into the Ventura.
Thanks to something called a “job” (that I did have), I’ve been stashing cash on the side to save for whatever, in this case, it was for the guitar.
Since Nancy Luca, my teacher from school addressed a couple issues with my guitar, the strings not lining of up to the magnets of the humbucker pickups. And the reason for that may be because of a worn nut (the bridge on the top of the neck), and the bridge itself on the bottom. Along with that, the frets are low according to Luca, either from being worn or being a guitar design fad back in the 80′s. With all of these issues addressed, I resorted to some online shopping through Stewart-MacDonald, also known as “Stew-Mac“.
Got myself a TUSQ XL Nut (1 7/16″ string spacing, stuck with factory measurement after measuring it), a Gotoh Tune-O-Matic bridge (kind of like the original one on the Ventura, except not faded), and 6 feet worth of medium/wide fret wire.
medium/wide fret wire, Gotoh Tune-O-Matic bridge, and TUSQ XL nut
Saved up some more money and decided to get some pickups too. Reason being was that I really enjoy the tone of single coil pickups. Really raw sounding, this, and utmost different. How often do you run into a Les Paul guitar with pickups that aren’t humbuckers? I’d say, it’s almost the norm for any Les Paul out there (not hating, just saying, I’d like to get one myself). Did some brief researching and settled purchasing some pickups on Sweetwater, them being the Gibson P-94′s.
The original P-90 single-coil pickups were originally either mounted within the body of the guitar or on top of archtop-like guitars with “dog-ears”.
P-90's with dog-ears
But since I wanted to avoid any route that required modifying the guitar from what it already is (mind you, the plan was to get as close to “plug-n-play” status where everything fit), the Gibson P-94′s seemed more suiting. Direct drop-in pickups into humbucker mounting space and case.
unpackaged from Sweetwater
Gibson P-94 cream finish, gold hardware
tried to do a "mock-fit" to see how it'd look
After receiving both neck and bridge pickup, I was pretty stoked to get this project started.
I brought the guitar to Steve Soest, a very well known guitar luthier based out in the OC, in which Luca suggested to me, as well as my fellow guitarist friend, Erwin, did as well. From the reviews I heard, this guy works wonders on your guitar and makes it feel like you’re playing on butter. Never have I ever done serious work on the guitar but this will definitely be the last time I’ll be doing anything to it… hopefully.
Steve Soest, renowned guitar luthier, giving the guitar a look
He took a quick look at the guitar and we went over the issues that the guitar had, which he already saw. He did compliment how not bad of a guitar is as a whole, but it was still obvious that because it’s a copy, it had its flaws, not being an authentic Les Paul guitar.
The guitar took a couple weeks to get worked on but eventually, the time waiting was paid off. The fret job was the most tedious because of the amount of physical work that’s needed to remove the old frets, measure and put the new fret wire in, and sand it down to get the wire just as wide as the neck. As for the bridge, it was a simple drop-in part. Not so much for the nut on top of the neck. That had to be slotted enough for the strings to sit on from the opposite side of the bridge, but wasn’t too much of a job for Steve. It was actually a good thing it was a fresh nut with the string slots not sanded in all the way so that he can sand them down accordingly for string thickness.
As for the pickups, that job was rather straight forward other than discovering something about the wiring. He called me before the guitar was ready for pick up that the LP had some 250K potentiometers that were wired up to the old pickups. That being said, that was the reason why I wasn’t getting the whole frequency range that the humbucker pickups were supposed to pick up, hence the “muddy” tone it had when I used to play with it. I knew something was wrong with the way the guitar was wired up before when I had it repaired a while back. It literally didn’t sound “right”. With that issue addressed, the only solution was to have the pots (potentiometers) replaced with 500K, to get a wider frequency range for the pickups. And THAT was what topped off the whole guitar.
I eventually picked up the Ventura from Steve and paid for the repairs and the work he did on the guitar (was ~$400 O__O) but it was all worth it. If you have the skill behind something that you love doing to back it up, then I’d say go for it, you pay for what you get, and it’s worth every cent. I gave it a demo play at his shop before leaving and it sounded beautiful. Never would I ever thought this old Les Paul copy guitar from Japan that had so many flaws would feel so damn good (sorry for the language). The guitar just made itself more sentimental value than it once did before. I have to admit, I never felt so happy about receiving an instrument for a long time. This was the moment where I knew this guitar for sure, was officially my first guitar. I knew after this, I had to invest even more time playing guitar to hone my skills.
and here's a picture of the Ventura the night I picked it up
Above is a picture of the guitar when I picked it up that day. With the Ventura finally being complete, that was the end of the guitar came to be… or is it? Either way, this guitar is finally where I wanted it to be. Feels good man.