Shop Builds Ep 2: the Unicorn Epiphone G-400 Demo Guitar

Hey guys, this week we have something special for you!
Like most of you, our techs are avid window shoppers. Isn't there nothing better then hanging around local guitar stores or the occasional pawn shop, looking at all the random and unique guitars they have? Well, last week, one of our techs, found a unicorn Epiphone at a local pawn shop that needed some TLC. why do we say its a unicorn? you are going to have to keep reading to find out.

 


Here's some background info of this guitar before we start


Manufacture Specs


built at the Unsung Plant, Korea
on March, 1999                

Body:

  • Mahogany Body

Neck:

  • Set Mahogany neck
  • Rosewood fingerboard
  • Trapezoid Inlays
  • 12" fingerboard radius
  • 22 frets
  • 24.75" scale
  • 1.68" nut width

Electronics:

  • Alnico Classic humbuckers
  • 2 Vol. 2 Tone controls
  • 3-way selector switch

Hardware

  • Chrome
  • Epiphone stamped
  • Black reflector knobs
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to call this Epiphone a "unicorn" is a tall order. and I don't know if we can live up to the name. But we will plead our case and explain to you why this is a rare example of essentially now a "Vintage Guitar"

"First off lets talk about the elephant in the Room"


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Besides how pretty the guitar is, The Body- when you read the specs you see that this guitar is made of "mahogany" your first thought is "Cool, just like a real Gibson" In this case "Mahogany" is a blanket term used to described a broad range of "Mahogany" Species. Gibson only uses what people call the "Genuine Mahogany" this is narrowed down to 3 species. Honduran mahogany-Swietenia macrophylla ,and Swietenia mahagoni and West Indian mahogany-Swietenia mahagoni. Epiphone on the other hand is limited to what is the "best value". "Genuine Mahogany" is an expensive wood to manufacture with and to stay within Epiphones set retail price. it's use is out of the question. So, what are Epiphones made from? this is a impossible thing to pin point. There are 17+ species you can call Mahogany, and there are endless variables that come to play. Things like,
1.Fluctuations in prices of wood which will affect what is used batch to batch.
2.Ever changing laws that will forfeit or limit the use of a species Epiphone once used.(think the raid on Gibson in 2011) 
3.Environmental Causes which can wipe out and severely limit the total wood being produced.
the list goes on.

 


The Neck- this is no different then the body, when it comes to what mahogany was used. but, lets talk about this guitars neck. while newer Epiphones are usually made of 3 pieces of "Mahogany" this 1999 version is made from 5 pieces of a "Mahogany" /Maple combo. That's right Maple. The Maple part of the neck looks to have been rough sanded right before staining the neck, creating a Faux Mahogany grain pattern.
 

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So, why is this guitar a "unicorn"


the Body- this 1999 Epiphone G-400 feautures not only a 2 piece body but a 2 piece body that was properly "Final Sanded" which shows off the beautiful 3d wood grain.

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How is that rare?


The Body

Rough Mill- When buying wood in bulk for manufacturing, it comes on a pallet in a varied array of widths.  Wide board tend to cost a lot more then thinner width boards. So, to save money, manufatures will buy lumber that is mainly thinner width boards. You will tend to find that most Epiphone bodies are made of 3+ pieces. And, the lower the retail cost the more the number of pieces increases. So, the fact that this individual Epiphone has a 2 piece body is quiet rare as the number of 2 piece bodies of the "Batch Year" has to be limited to a disproportional amount. maybe a handful of guitars out of hundreds.

 photo courtesy by gibson

photo courtesy by gibson

the Sanding

A guitar that has been properly Sanded is a sign of a quality craftsman. why is that? We will answer that in two parts.
A.Final Sanding. To properly sand a guitar you have to have a deep understanding of how it works.  During building, a luthier will sand the guitar in a series of set grades of sandpaper. Each grade has a set goal and requires a keen eye to know when to switch grades. Switch to soon, deep scratch's appear in the color coat. Wait to long and you created a whole new guitar shape. This process is time consuming and leads us to our second part.
B. Time Constraint. Whenever you ask someone "what makes a high end guitar, a high end guitar?" the most common response is the raw parts. the tone wood, the number of pieces, the electronics, the parts. Where this is true, it is only half the story. The second part is how long they are allowed to work on the guitar. The higher the price the more hours spent, with a large chunk of those hours being spent on sanding. So, whoever sanded this SG did an amazing job in a short period of time.


"Alright now that we are done explaining why this is a cool guitar. we will go into why we bought it. "



As you may know. When we create products. We create a "demo guitar with a theme" Why? At Gunstreet we are obsessed with our quality. Not just our quality of craftsmanship but, the overall quality of the day to day experience, dealing with our products."
 


The Build


When we got this guitar, it was apparent that it needed some work. Besides the obvious damaged to the control cavity. the neck pickup was dead. the previous owner had installed a Graphite Nut. But, the "A string" was filed down too low causing the String to "Buzz" so, that needed to be replaced. The tuners were garbage, and, stayed in tune for a equivalent of a song. which because we plan to use this as a Demo guitar, that won't work for us. So, all this stuff, will need to be replaced


The Plan

the build is will go down in Four stages

  1. Replace Tuners
  2. Replace Nut
  3. Sheilding
  4. Replace the electronics

Parts List

  • Gibson Gear Tuners
  • Bone nut
  • Gunstreet Metric 50's Wiring
  • Gunstreet 6 Streeters Prototypes
  • Copper Tape

 


Bonus Goal- How close can we make this unique Epiphone play and sound, like its bigger brother!


- Replace Tuners


these "E" Epiphone tuners are a good value for your money but for what we need, we want tuners that will last a good amount of time. Gibson Gear tuners are not the best you can get, but they come standard from a wide range of Gibson SG

gibson tuners on epiphone
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in order to install the new Gibson tuners we had to enlarge the stock holes. this is a mod that we truly must stress caution when doing, as it requires a set of proper tools so not to damage the finish.


- Replacing The Nut



As you can see the previous owner filed down the A String to far Down. we well replace this with a Epiphone sized Bone Nut
 

bone nut

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Stage - Shielding


this guitar is going to become a demo guitar for us. So we are going to push this guitar to its max. Putting this guitar in front of high wattage amps, this guitars wiring will need to be shielded.
 

Why Shield?

we live in a world that is filled with electrical frequencies that affect your guitars electronics. things like fluorescent lights, cell phones, electrical dimmer outlets, all create radio-frequency interference. this sneaks into your guitar. how do you stop this? one way is to create a Faraday Cage. to super simplify it. this "Cage" creates a shield. you can make this "cage" by lining the inside of the guitar cavities with copper tape.  this copper tape when properly grounded, acts as a shield, blocking all the random frequencies crashing onto the guitar.


- Replacing the Electronics


when we started to plan this guitar build, we had to think about what makes a sg, a good sg. Historically the Sg is known as a powerhouse guitar. Bands like, Rush, The Who, The Doors, Cream, all favored the guitar for it's tonal qualities. but, two bands really made their mark of the sg. And, really defined the guitar forever. AC-DC and Black Sabbath. Two bands whos whole sound was the sg. With this agreement we sent off to make a guitar that in bodies the tone of those bands.


Replacing Electronics Part I - Wiring


To us a good SG is like having an atomic bomb at your disposal. the way the SG was designed, it already had a distinct tonal resistance that breeds a powerful tone, add the high pass filter of the 50's and you have a guitar you can not beat!

 

Stock Epiphone Wiring Vs Gunstreets 50's Wiring


 

Capacitors-

Epiphone- this harness features what people call Tick Tack Capacitors. These Cheap, Working Horse Capacitors, usually cost as much change as you can find in your couch.
 

Gunstreet -Uses CDE "Orange Drop" Capacitors, which is known to be the top of the line capacitor. As it is found in most high end Guitars

 

Stock Wiring-this guitar comes stock with Modern Wiring and features "Tick Tack" 0.022uf Capacitors. the harness is wired using "Shielded" Pvc wire and Linear Pots in the Volume Controls and Audio Pots in the Tone Controls

Gunstreet 50's Wiring-This harness is wired to some of the standards of Epiphone parent brand Gibson. Using Braided and Cloth Wire. this harness features CDE "Orange Drop" Capacitors.

 

What's the Difference?

besides how the circuit is wired. the main difference is the Parts and how they combine.
 

Pots-
Epiphone- this harness uses linear Pots in the volume and audio Pots in the tone. In most cases this is reversed. People find that Audio Pots are best used as volume controls. Linear Pots have a better control as tone controls.
Gunstreet- uses Audio Pots for the Volume Control and Linear Pots for the Tone Controls

Wire-

Epiphone uses Shielded Pvc Wire ,which is a cost effective way to wire the guitar.

Gunstreet uses Both Braided Cloth Wire and Cloth Wire. Wired just as you would find in Vintage and High End Gibson SGs.
 


Intermission-Detail Shot Break

we include some detailed photos of just how pretty the wood is. take notice to the damage located where the output jack was. The damage went all the way from the output to the Neck Tone Pot.

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Replacing Electronic Part II - Pickups


In these Shop Builds Series We worked with Multiple Pickup Manufacturers to make what we call 6th Streeter's Batch Pickups. These Custom, High End,  Limited Batched, Bouquet Humbuckers are numbered by Manufacturer and are designed to match whatever your playing style is.

6 Streeter Prototype


With the Batch No.1 Series.  The Master Winder designed a pickup that is truly 3 Dimensional. Listen as you hear the high clarity of the Bridge PickupWhich if you aren't careful Packs a Punch.  Or, the Powerfully Deep Neck Pickup as it Commands the Lower Strings and Rythm

Specs

Scatterwound - AWG 42 Gauge Wire-Custom Tonal Wax-Bridge Magnet-Alnico V-Bridge Magnet-Alnico 2



Bonus Stage-

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This guitar at one time had two stickers on it, which we want to clean off. how do you do that? Just like how we cleaned the black dog demo guitars case. Soapy water and a micro-fiber rag

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"Thats it. Another cool shop build. If you see us hanging around your local guitar store, or at a local guitar event, come check out how amazing this guitar truly is."
 


Like these Shop Build Series? Check out our other builds. Or, if you are looking for something else try out our "Tech Talk Series"


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