DIY | Unplayable guitar restoration – PART 1 : Intro, Sanding

My first electric guitar, an Epiphone Les Paul 100, hanged on a wall for 15 years. It had become unplayable with a horrible intonation (somebody told me at the time the neck was warped, I tend to think now it was mainly because the frets wore out). It wasn’t a great axe at all but it was the cheapest one I found at the time (in 1997) that looked like Slash’s Les Paul !

I recently decided to restore it and to put a whole bunch of features I always dreamed to have on a single guitar. To sum it up :

Electronics

  • Humbuckers switchable to single coils.
  • The ability to invert the phase of one pickup to get the Peter Green / Brian May tone (Spoiler alert: the inverted phase works as intented but I still sound desperately like me).
  • And a killswitch cause it’s funny.

Other

  • Neck and body with an oil finish (Bye bye polyurethane finish… no kiss thanks).
  • A straight string pull headstock, it’s supposed to improve tuning stability.
  • Charred neck and body inspired by the japanese technique called shou sugi ban.

I break the suspense right away with the before/after photo (how original) :
BEFORE Broken Epiphone LP-100 | AFTER - Charred wood custom guitar

The guitar was in a horrible condition : varnish full of scratches and chips, half of the pieces were missing cause I put them in other guitars, stickers residue, fingerprints, some scotch instead of solder (hem… the great era before I had a soldering iron !) , etc. I also cut the end of the neck/fingerboard to have one more fret on my dobro.

To top it off, I tried to burn it (yes I have a problem in my head) for the needs of this videoclip.

So I had some work… Here are some other pictures of the remains :

Sanding

After removing the neck and all the electronics from the body, I started sanding.

I did most of the sanding by hand because my sanding machine wasn’t holding the paper very well anymore. However on some places like the cutaway, there’s no choice, unless you have a specific machine. I used 80 grit sandpaper first, then 220, 400 and finished with a 500 grit. I spent several whole evenings for this job.

It was long and hard but the end result is there (I just received the new neck too) :

The initial finish covered completely the wood grain on the edges, here the 3 mahogany pieces of the body are pretty distinct. And still no traces of the maple top unlike Epiphone’s nowadays models, I really had a crappy model 😉

At this stage I already enlarged the hole for the killswitch (a Sanwa arcade button) but had’nt sanded the small part where the neck lies yet.
I also filled the two little holes for the screws of the initial pickgard with a mixture of wood dust from the sanding and wood glue.

PART 2 here (neck & headstock)