Just had a beautiful guitar come through the repair shop for a set up and pickup swap, thought i would share it with you.
A New customer of mine had just picked it up, and in his own words, didn’t have a clue what type it was, and said he bought it on looks alone!
He had however already decided to change both of the standard humbuckers for ones he prefers in his guitars. It was also requiring a set up as the Floyd Rose bridge was at a very strange angle. ( this is quite common when a unit of that type is destrung completely, than tuned back string by string, as such its always recommended to string a Floyd one at a time to keep tension on the tremolo springs)
Installed pickups were DiMarzio DMZ units. The replacements were to be a DiMarzio ‘Air Norton’ at the neck position, and a BareKnuckle ‘Nailbomb’ for the bridge. Also to change the look of the guitar, both new units were zebra covered (black/cream) in a change from the factory black units.
Guitar is perfect ! No really, it is possibly the most unmarked, unplayed example of a 2nd hand guitar i have ever seen. I inspect all guitars i am repairing for wear and damage so that i can offer repair solutions, and also to make the owner aware of what is there already, so I cant later be blamed for damage.
I sight the neck for any obvious warping/twisting. I then measure the neck relief and the current action/string height, so i know how it was set up before. To be honest, Ibanez instruments very rarely have neck bow problems, especially the high end Wizard necks, as their multi piece construction makes them extremely strong when compared to a Fender or Gibson.
For this particular guitar i decided to do a serial trace and find out as much info as possible before doing any work.
As I suspected, this was no ordinary Ibanez factory model, but a hand built top spec one, made in Japan by the Ibanez custom shop ( J Craft ) It has a beautiful sculpted thru neck with deeply shaped body joint, quilted maple top. Simply gorgeous guitar.
Serials are great if you know where to look. I not only got the exact model and colour, but the original list price, place of manufacture, year made, even down to the month it was built.
It’s an RGT – 320QRBB ( 320 series Quilt top in Royal Brown Burst )made in 2007. List price was £2600!
The current owner paid £1200 which is itself a big chunk of money.
If unknown, I like to date and fill in history on all guitars I handle so the owner knows what they have.
First is to remove the strings. Before i slacken any tremolo equipped guitar, i put a piece of cloth or foam etc underneath the back edge of the bridge, so then when you do loosen them off, the bridge will pull down onto that rather than the top surface of the body. Floyd Rose bridges are under alot of reverse tension from their springs and it will dent into the lacquer.
With the strings off, I remove the rear trem cover and control cover to take a look at the wiring. Whoa! This guitar features one of the most serious 5 way switches I’ve ever seen. The two humbuckers are both 4 wire types and are connected to pcb strips at each end of the switch, which are also interlinked at various points to each other, the tone pot and the volume pot. 4 pcb ends, each with 6 tabs, 2 holes per tab, making a total of 48 available solder points !
Out with the old
Removed both the humbuckers and the 5 way from the body.
Installed the new neck pickup first as the 4 core from it actually feeds through a hole and underneath the bridge unit to the control cavity. This is a direct swap unit on an Ibanez so no probs here.
Test fitted the Bareknuckle and hit a problem, literally. The pole piece screws were far to long for the very shallow routes on the guitar and it simply would not sit in position. Decided the best option was to mod the pickup rather than route the body deeper. The pickup cavity is coated in shielding paint and this would then have needed repainting, plus the guitar would be forever altered. It makes no difference to the pickup having the bottom of the screws taken down, it’s just a pain of a job as they are stainless steel.
After fitting both pickups and pulling the cables from each through, it was time to rewire the 5 way.
Thanks to tracing the serial and model number, I was able to get hold of the factory wiring diagram, though this had to be altered due to the conductor colours on the bridge pickup being different. Got the correct info from BareKnuckle and got stuck in!
Wiring was complex on this, due to the mid switch positions providing not only coil splits but also phase reversal. Each 4 core plus shield were wired into the 5 way, which then has various interconnect links. These also include the ground and control wires from the tone and volume knobs.
Though a simple 2 humbucker setup, the rewire took a good hour on this guitar due to the switching, and also the tightness of the control cavity space and shortness of the factory wiring.
With the new pickups in and rewire done its time to restring. Before that however i rubbed the rosewood fretboard over with 0000 steel wool and naptha spirit to get any grot out, polishing up the fret tops as I go. This guitar needed no more than that as it is so unplayed and well made. Rub finished the wood with some fretboard oil and a mix of wax and linseed I use to bring out the dark colour.
Customer supplied a 9 gauge set of strings so I installed these into the locking saddles and under the locking nut one at a time, using under wrap knots on the wound strings and tie knots on the 3 high strings. Guitar is tuned to pitch then the nut clamps are tightened down, transferring tuning duties to the bridge fine tuners.
One good trick for retuning/stringing a Floyd rose guitar that’s been completely destrung is to pop in the tremolo arm. It takes some practice, but I use the arm to bring the bridge to its proper float position, then pull the strings through and into the tuner post and kink them before starting any windings. This takes a huge amount off the slack it would have if the bridge was just rested back (2 – 3 inches of string you don’t need), and takes a big chunk off the time it takes to bring the guitar into final tune.
I then set action height and proper string radius before setting the intonation. I use a strobe unit to first put the guitar in accurate tuning, then to set string intonation at the 12th fret harmonic position.
On any other guitar type these adjustments would also involve the measure and adjustment of the nut height. However on a Floyd Rose instrument this isn’t needed as the locking nut shelf unit are factory set when routed and installed to a standard 0.010 of an inch above the first fret.
With the guitar all tuned and set, the last thing to do is adjust some relief into the neck using the truss rod. On these wizard necks though it is a tiny amount at best. This one was already at 0.003 ( virtually flat ) and playing with no chokes or buzzes, so it was left as is. I use an extremely accurate relief dial tool for this measurement which is capable of reading in 0.001 of an inch movement. To put into perspective how flat this neck plays, as an example, a new Les Paul will be factory set with .012 - .014 of relief at the 7th fret.
After all the set work is done and I’m happy with how it plays I give it a nice polish and wax over before it’s put away, ready for its owner.
Nice guitar this. New pickups sounded stunning, and overall its quality blew me away. It has changed my view on Ibanez guitars totally.
Hope you enjoy seeing it too
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