A Tale of Two Gibson SG Husks - My first expedition into refinishing

Record83

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A quick background: I began fiddling around with guitar building/finishing in 2010. My previous expertise was audio recording, so I spent most of my early years focused on my recording studio and video editing. I never was, nor never profess to be any kind of woodworker, craftsman or luthier. It just wasn't around when I was growing up. My Dad's line of work was sales. He provided an excellent living for his family, but "handyman" was not in his repertoire. Either it was fixed with duct tape, not fixed at all or we called the professionals. I never learned the basics of woodworking or finishing. I couldn't even screw two boards together properly when I started. All of my knowledge has come from experience, books, how-to's, forums and incessantly nagging guitar builders (some of which have been kind enough to let me bend their ears quite a bit). So, that being said, I've come a long way in my expertise, but I still feel like a babe in the woods in the world of guitar work.

OK, now that's out of the way: my main focus is finishing. I love finishing. I love nitro. Gimmie those fumes... I have finished a decent amount of guitars from scratch, but I have not yet tackled any refins. As much as I love seeing folks on this forum widdle a Telecaster out of a tree stump and carve their name intricately out of exotic hardwoods and create an absolute masterpiece (and I bow down in reverence to those talented individuals), I just can't resist the allure of an antiquated, big-name guitar company producing the same old model in a perceived-to-be-rare solid color and slapping an egregious price tag on it. "Lookie here! This one is Frost Blue! Dah-yum, it sure looks purrrddyyy."

I told myself no more projects. It's time to finally get out of bad debt. Don't take on more than you can chew...then I went out and bought these:

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I purchased two "husks" from the Stratosphere, originally Gibson model# SG61W00VENH1, which is stripped of everything except that wonderful sideways Vibrola and the ABR bridge with posts. I have nick-named them after their Serial #s: the one on the left is "O-25", which has the better grain of the two and the Mahogany tone of the body and neck matches more closely, more suitable for a transparent refin; the one on the right is the "Triple-20", which has a slightly miss-matched body and neck and the grain isn't as fine (has a heart-shaped knot above the bridge pickup route) and would be more suitable for an opaque finish:





For years I've wanted a "custom color" Gibson SG. I have recently achieved that by purchasing a Kirk Douglas Signature SG in Inverness Green. As much as I love that guitar and love that finish, I never play it and can't afford to have it sit in its case. So I am selling that guitar and justifying my wanton lust for custom colors by telling myself that these SG's will be WAY cheaper than a Pelham Blue Murphy lab when I'm done with them.

One of my inspirations comes from a very close friend of the family, who was a working musician in a former life. In 1965, when he was a mere teenager, his parents gifted him a Gibson SG Standard in Pelham Blue along with a Fender Concert Reverb 4x10 amp! That was quite the rig for a High School kid!!! He said he played all the "sock-hop" and local school dances with that rig. (The guitar and amp are LONG GONE, so don't even ask...) There is even some silent 8mm film of him with the guitar. Excuse the poor screenshots, but take a look at the blue on that thing!!!:






Ever since I saw those blurry photos, I've really wanted to replicate vintage stlyed, Pelham Blue SG. The problem is even though I love Pelham Blue, I am an absolute nut when it comes to guitar and car colors and my imagination is running wild...is there a cool color that has NEVER been done before on an SG??? There are just too many colors to choose from!

Interestingly enough there is a seller on Reverb right now with this same model doing almost exactly what I intend on doing to these husks. Basically converting them into a more accurate '61 era Les Paul/SG with a locked-down Vibrola and in a cool custom color:



Please join me on this refin adventure (or possible miss-adventure). I may ask for some input and tips along the way. PLUS I'm always open to someone buying these husks from me before I desecrate them, to save me the hassle of dealing with these projects! (But then where would be the fun in this thread???)
 

stratisfied

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Those look way too classy to spoil with a spray bomb paint job. I would do one with a black pickguard and one with a cream pearl pickguard, HB's in one and p94's in the other or get a custom guard and do Strat singles in one of them. You could do a black guard and use black closed covers for the Strat singles reminiscent of the early Melody Makers.
 

Record83

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The first line of business with these SG's is to "reconstruct" them and string 'em up to make sure everything is in working order. I'd hate to spend all this time and money on a refin only to find out the neck is messed up and the truss rod doesn't adjust.

But first, I couldn't help myself to strip down one of the models to see what the inner-workings of the Sideways Vibrola looked like. I took apart the "triple-20":

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Woah! Look at the inner-workings of this medieval torture device! Looks like something you'd find inside an Iron Maiden (and no, not that Iron Maiden...)





So, this is Gibson's re-designed Sideways Vibrola. I believe this first appeared on the '62 Reissue LP/SG in 2013-ish (which I did own). I'm no engineer, but the design *theoretically* looks operational, but I'll give you all one guess on its actual performance...

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I don't know about you, but there is something calming about watching the up and down lever motion of this vibrola. It kind of reminds me of those early morning Beach Workout programs that they used to run on the sports channels in the '90s that I intently watched in my Jr. High years:

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After inspected the inner-workings of this primitive device, I proceeded to remove the hardware and inspect what kind of drilling and markings are left on the body

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I ended up buying the Sideways Vibrola husks because they became available and I figured this was my only chance to get into some refins at a decent price. However, this was the model I was hoping to find:



My first intentions was to do a '64 era SG with the Lyre-engraved Vibrola. I was hoping to maybe sell or even swap the sideways unit for a Lyre, which would cover the holes left behind. I am still open to that idea, but now I am kind of liking the idea of keeping the art-deco sideways piece on there and locking it down, because after all it does look totally rad.

Without any of the hardware on there, just as a "husk" this one weighs just over 5 lbs:

 

Record83

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OK, so up next I have the "O-25" on the bench. I want to make sure everything is in working order and check out how it plays and sounds before I get to stripping.

If you think you have problems, I've got problems of my own. Humbucking problems...




Got several pairs of potential pickups for both of these builds (and even more sets on the way!!!). My first pickup test will be with a pair of Seymour Duncan Antiquities that I've had around for other projects.

BRIDGE: Antiquity II HB (w/cover, Alnico 2 magnets)
NECK: Antiquity Jazz (uncovered, Alnico 5 magnets)




Next I got to get some tuners installed. I am trying to stay true to the '61 Les Paul/SG design. I have ordered two sets of Kluson Deluxe single-lines with double-ring Keystone buttons. These started to appear on Gibsons in mid/late 1960 until the double-lines appeared in '64:




Now, these reissue '61 SGs all use these modern Gibson Deluxe tuners which are a mix of vintage and modern design. They look like old Klusons from the back, but they have the modern hex-nut, screw-in bushings with washers on the top. This is TOTALLY UNACCEPTABLE. All the guitar-guys at the blues jam open mic are going to totally notice the historically incorrect tuners and make fun of me all night long. I can't bare that shame from my baggy jeans, black XL T-shirt wearing brethren. I have to go all in with the right stuff.

However, this leaves a slightly larger hole (a little under 10mm) and the standard vintage-sized bushings are too small to fit:






There are two ways I could go about this: I could drill out and then re-patch with some dowel rods and re-drill to proper vintage push-in diameter, or I could fill the holes with epoxy and drill it out (but who wants epoxy in their Gibson???) OR I could use a conversion bushing.

Unfortunately, WD music is out of stock and currently back-ordered on the exact bushing that in need in Nickel:



I need the 1/4" internal with 10mm+ outer. The only place I can find these in stock at a reasonable price is Real Life Relics for $20:



So I pulled the trigger on two sets. Yes, I've overpaid and I may not need them relic'd, but gosh durnit these guitars need to be finished ASAP. I don't think the guys at the open mic will notice these bushings, so please, let's just keep this a secret between you and me...



I first "broke" the edge with a file to avoid chipping and then I carefully reamed out the tuner holes so they were just large enough to press in those conversion bushings:

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Then I strung her up and wired a temporary 2 volume only setup to test the pickups:

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It's a bare-bones setup, but she's all strung up and ready for a test drive!





 

tintag27

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Very impressive presentation! And a lovely brace of SG's - nice work!
Can't add much to the conversation, except to mention that I eventually took my Maestro Vibrola (Lyre) off my 70's SG Standard...
Sadly I could never grow to love it...

For inspiration here is a pic of the Elliot Easton signature SG in Pelham blue - yes it is gorgeous
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Record83

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PICKUP TEST #1: SEYMOUR DUNCANS...

I have many pickups lined up for this project. I'm probably getting in over my head. Between my '01 LP Classic and these 2 SG husks, I'm trying to find the "perfect" pair:




So far in the mix for all of these guitars, I have these sets:

1) Seymour Duncan Antiquity II PAF and Antiquity Jazz (not a set, but close enough. The "JB" model is supposed to go with the Jazz).
2) OX4 Limited Edition 2020 "Rollin' Man" set (repro of the famous Greeny/Moore/Hammett LP pickups).
3) Gibson BurstBucker 61R/T set (the set that comes with the '61 RI models).
4) Gibson Ceramic 500T/496R (intended to "restore" the '01 LP Classic, but I may stick them in one of the SGs just to hear them).
5) ReWind Electric 10th Anniversary Creme Brulee's (loaded in the LP)
6) ReWind Electric PAF1 set (not pictured, on their way to me next week)

But first, let's listen to that Gibson Sideways Vibrola in action!!!



As you can hear for yourself, this vibrola works perfectly...

Obviously, I didn't purchase this guitar because I thought this thing was going to work. I bought it because it looks totally rad. But you can't even wiggle it for a slight vibrato. You have to "yank it" to engage and then snap it back. It doesn't return to its starting point by itself. It's really poor execution. They should just make it a fancy stop-bar tailpiece in my opinion, but what do I know...

I have every intention of locking it down with the Mojo Ave VibroStop:





Not only does this unit lock it in place, it pulls the arm up out of the way of the controls and sets the unit closer to the body for a better break angle over the bridge. Mojo Axe doesn't have a checkout on their site, so I sent them an email to purchase:



Bummer! Everyone around the world is having the same issues. I doubt it will be a month. I'll wait to see, but is anyone here good with CAD? I may widdle something out of wood or I can have these 3D printed perhaps?

Now let's hear a little but of these SD's. Playing through my buddy's hand made Stonecutter Amp and cab and a Fender '68 Custom Deluxe Reverb Reissue. And yes, this is what a middle-aged, guitar freak loner looks like: wearing sandals and shorts in has basement, rocking out with a fog machine....

 

Record83

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Very impressive presentation! And a lovely brace of SG's - nice work!
Can't add much to the conversation, except to mention that I eventually took my Maestro Vibrola (Lyre) off my 70's SG Standard...
Sadly I could never grow to love it...

For inspiration here is a pic of the Elliot Easton signature SG in Pelham blue - yes it is gorgeous
View attachment 985811

I thought they only did those Elliot Easton SG's in white! Now I have another guitar to buy...
 

CCK1

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The first line of business with these SG's is to "reconstruct" them and string 'em up to make sure everything is in working order.
Very good point! I once bought an SG for a very good price, but at the time of purchase, it had no bridge, stop bar, and of course, no strings. After stringing it up, I found that the bridge post holes were drilled about 5/64" too close from the factory, so it would not intonate. Had to pay a luthier to plug the original holes, and drill new ones in the right place.
 

Record83

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NOW FOR THE FUN PART: COLORS, COLORS, COLORS!!!

OK, so I've narrowed down my choices for the refins to about 57 colors...

I've got two SG's to finish here. I have a hard enough time picking out one color (I LOVE custom colors) and it will be twice as hard picking out two. I have a very close friend (who is a guitar/piano phenom) committed to one of these SG's. I discussed the final cost and he said he has the funds and is down to purchase. He told me he would love an SG in a metallic Emerald green. I jumped for joy because I was almost certain I wanted one in Sherwood Green Metallic (which was a Fender custom color). Although, when I get to the finishing stage I am going to go over some color choices to see which one he likes the best.

So, I'm about 99% certain one of these SGs will be some sort of green, but that leaves the other husk. I've narrowed down my choices to 4 different categories:

1) 1960's Fender Custom Colors - This includes car colors from the mid-50's to mid-60's featured on their color charts from 1961-1972.

2) 1960's Gibson Custom Colors - These were intended ONLY for the Firebird series, but of course they found their way onto other models

3) Other Car Colors from the 50s/60s - There are hundreds of colors from this time period that are great contenders for a guitar finish, but many that have not been seen on a guitar.

4) Original/Specialty finishes - This includes, but is not limited to: hand-mixed original colors, transparent finishes (the Gibson "TV" type finishes: yellow, white or black), Fender "International" series colors from '81, sparkles, bursts, repro's of one-off's, etc...

CATEGORY 1: FENDER CUSTOM COLORS

Here are all the choices from the original color charts. They started using these colors in about 1958/9, but the first "official" chart did not come out until 1961. Shell Pink was replaced with Candy Apple Red at some point in '64 and in '65 post-CBS the chart changed again updating about half of the color choices.

1964-era chart:



Late '65-'69 chart:



And yes, I'm a huge nerd, so I made a chart of approximately when these finishes were offered by Fender (not that it matters, but for historical purposes):



Sherwood Green Metallic is high up there for one, but I am not opposed to Ocean Turquoise (I'd love a dark, "UV'd out" version of this color on an SG). I also think Surf Green or Sonic Blue would look really neato.

I took a promo shot of this '61 SG and tried to do a low-rent Photoshop job to adjust the original Cherry finish to an approximate shade of a refinish. My photo editing skills are basic, so these look super cheesy, but gives you an idea.

An approximation of Sherwood Green (obviously, the metallic look isn't simulated):



An approximation of Surf Green, but kind of in-between with the darker Foam Green or Gibson's Kerry Green color:



An approximation of Sonic Blue, but is probably closer to the darker Daphne Blue or Frost Blue from Gibson:



I also think Fiesta Red would look great on an SG! This is somewhat close to Gibson's Ember Red:



Of course, I pretty much think ANY of the Fender colors would look unique and awesome on one of these SG's. I wouldn't be opposed to picking one at random just for fun, but I'll leave that craziness to my 12th refin or so...

CATEGORY 2: GIBSON CUSTOM COLORS

These colors were only intended for the Firebird/Thunderbird series of guitars. We occasionally get to see original examples on SGs and ES models:




About 5 years ago I kept my eye on those Custom Shop LP Specials they were doing in all the custom colors with matching headstocks:



I just sold my Kirk Douglas Signature SG in Inverness Green, but I'm not opposed to shooting my own in that color:




It is very rare to see an SG from Gibson finished in anything other than Cherry or perhaps Pelham Blue, even the custom shop stuff. We see standards and customs in black or white, sometimes a burst, but how many Inverness Green SG's are out there? Frost Blue? Heather Poly? There have been special runs, but you rarely get to see those.

Coming up next: car colors and specialty colors...
 

Sea Devil

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I vote for Volkswagen Sea Blue, although there appear to be two different versions. I like this one:
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Record83

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I vote for Volkswagen Sea Blue, although there appear to be two different versions. I like this one:
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I wouldn't think to look at old Volkswagon colors, but now that you've showed me that blue, I'm digging it.

Maybe I should purchase a few more husks or some more necks and bodies. They're just too many colors out there that need to be on guitars ASAP. Who's with me here?
 

Spox

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I wouldn't think to look at old Volkswagon colors, but now that you've showed me that blue, I'm digging it.

Maybe I should purchase a few more husks or some more necks and bodies. They're just too many colors out there that need to be on guitars ASAP. Who's with me here?
Fly, my proud beauty, fly.

That's a great project you've taken on, far, far worse things you could be doing with your time.

I went into my local music shop today and put a deposit down on an early 70s SG Standard, I'll try to make up the difference selling four guitars.
 

nathan5782

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I got a honey burst Les Paul classic on the way from stratosphere, I just ordered it on Sunday. I also have an Explorer that I got from them in 2019. Refinishing is too deep a dive for me I'm just going with the factory finish.
 

Record83

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Fly, my proud beauty, fly.

That's a great project you've taken on, far, far worse things you could be doing with your time.

I went into my local music shop today and put a deposit down on an early 70s SG Standard, I'll try to make up the difference selling four guitars.

Thank you. I always try to convince myself that what I am doing "isn't so bad" but it always feels like I am doing something wrong when I dedicate myself to guitars so much. Shouldn't I be day-trading or making NFTs or something???

Congrats on your SG purchase!
 

Record83

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Something I'm dye-ing to try on an SG ebonizing the mahogany with the process outlined here using bark powder and rusty vinegar: https://www.popularwoodworking.com/finishing/ebonizing_wood/

View attachment 987081

Speaking of automotive colors... Glasurit Blutengelb would certainly be a standout from the typical TV yellow!

View attachment 987082

The "Ebonizing" looks great. That should look rad on an SG...the Yellow would be wild too...

I used General Finishes Oil-based stain on Mahogany for a Dog Hair/Silver fox finish that came out pretty decent:


 

Record83

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I got a honey burst Les Paul classic on the way from stratosphere, I just ordered it on Sunday. I also have an Explorer that I got from them in 2019. Refinishing is too deep a dive for me I'm just going with the factory finish.

Nice! I've been stalking The Stratosphere for an Explorer husk for years now. The last time I saw one was probably 2019 (probably one of the husks you purchased!) I've been looking for an Ex husk to do a '58/'63 leftover Explorer conversion on.
 

Hodgo88

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I am KICKING myself for not getting an Explorer HP from Stratosphere. The ultimate basis for a Skwisgaar-esque shred explorer.
 

Record83

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CATEGORY 3: OTHER CAR COLORS FROM THE 50s/60s

Now here is where things get tricky. I have been pouring through paint chip samples and color codes and I keep seeing finishes that I really like. The possibilities are endless!

For convenience, I do have some Automotive Touchup Urethane base-coats on hand. On the Left is a 1966 Corvette color "Milano Maroon Metallic" and the right is a 1969 Pontiac GTO color "Liberty Blue Metallic":




I have a pint of the Maroon. I originally purchased this to finish a guitar in my "Cars to Guitars" series on a '66 era Tele or bound Custom Tele build to replicate my Dad's '66 corvette:




Even though I'd still like to reserve that paint for the Tele project, I think it would look pretty cool on the SG. Close to Gibson's Sparkling Burgundy, but a little darker:



I also have about a pint of the Liberty Blue leftover from my '69 S-style build. I tried to replicate my Dad's '69 GTO and I think it came out pretty nice:








Also would look great on the SG. Close to Fender's Lake Placid Blue and a bit darker than Gibson's Pelham Blue. What do you think?



My buddy Tony is really pushing me to do one in silver. I also think that would be rad. Of course, in my mind I have to tie this into cars. My Dad's current car is a '65 corvette. He *thinks* it's Sateen Silver, a color available on the Corvette from '60 thru '64, but found on the early '65 models. This changed to "Silver Pearl" officially for '65. That's my old man driving his "baby" for the moment (if you can't tell he likes cars. He buys/sells them like I do guitars). The guy slumped over in the passenger seat is the guy who had the Pelham Blue SG in the 60s. Looks like they were having fun. This must have been post-round-of-golf action. Boomers being boomers...




Very close to Gibson's Silver Mist Poly normally seen on the Firebirds:



Looking at the 1960 Corvette chart we can see Sateen Silver on there...buuuuuuuut...hmm, yeah, I'd be cool with spraying pretty much any of these finishes:



Here is the 1965 chart. To my eye the Sateen Silver above has a slight blue tint to it (which I like) and the Silver Pearl has more of a gray hue. I think my Dad's Corvette is probably the Silver Pearl:



Just for fun here are the 1960 Cadillac colors. Take note of some of the original Gibson custom colors:



OK, let me see what a quart of this stuff costs in acrylic lacquer from TCP Global....WHAT??? $200 BUCKS?!?!?



This is barely scratching the surface. There are so many car colors out there. I think I may need to buy a bunch of raw Strat and Tele bodies and just start spraying everything I can. If there is something this world needs its more partscasters...

Not to tempt fate, but anyone else got some fav car colors to suggest???
 




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