Why The Earlier (pre-96) Mik Epiphone Sheraton Is A Quality Instrument

Discussion in 'Other Guitars, other instruments' started by deytookerjaabs, Mar 9, 2016.

  1. deytookerjaabs

    deytookerjaabs Friend of Leo's

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    No, it's not a 335, but it isn't so intentionally!

    Let's start with a couple pics:



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    Firstly, the neck pocket will give us some specs. It's a real 5 piece neck, which is by no means a "cheap" thing, after all that's a main feature on the coveted and expensive Gibson L5 Archtop. As we see, it's a very clean pocket as well. The tenon goes to the rout and the spliced heel beneath extends further below just like you'd see on a vintage ES335 guitar, here's a 62' ES335 as an example:



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    Next, take a look at the fretwork and the board itself. The board is about as dry and quality as a good piece of rosewood from any domestic supplier, no cheap faux darkened waxy thing going on here, just a quality board. The MOP and Abalone? Same deal, no plastic there, that's the real stuff to most anyone who's seen the difference in person. Add to that, old fashioned nibbing where the binding (which is also on par with domestic suppliers) is filed and seals the fret end.

    The top: it's a 5 ply Maple/Birch/Maple/Birch/Maple laminate which was a feature on vintage Rivieras and Sheratons also built in the "golden era" along with the Mahogany center block. Once again, not a corner cutting feature as some like to claim.

    The Hardware: It's steel, and DURABLE heavier steel at that! Now, I'm not a fan of the fat bridge but there's no pot metal happening there, the tuners are as strong as the best grovers out there too. The pots are quality mini pots and need to be mini because another addition to the Sheraton: bound F-Holes, which make fitting a standard size pot in there near impossible without filing. Add to that, the 3 way switches seem to hold up much better than those on brand new domestic guitars.

    The Pickups: Okay, with all the options today I'd say "meh" only because they're definitely more on the modern end rather than hip vintage spec.

    The Finish: I'd guess Polyester but might be Polyurethane. But, it's thin, or at least not pooling up at the seams or creating what looks like a glass countertop as the wood grains still shows quite well. It's also very uniform on all the early sheratons I've seen too. So you know it's applied well, given quality sanding between coats and obviously buffed beyond my standards.


    Now, why 96? Well sometime around then things start being less consistent across the board. No more fret nibs plus varying wire profiles, the hardware starts to change/cheapen, the rosewood looks more like a typical low end import, the neck pocket changes and the top changes as well, here's a few pics:



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    How to tell if the guitar is Pre 96' MIK?

    Well, two main clues, it's a guarantee if it has the "Epiphone by Gibson headstock" firstly.



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    Second, often but not exclusive to Pre 96' was the regular Epiphone headstock but the truss rod cover reads "Gibson" after Gibson was taken off the headstock.



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    As far as I've seen, none of the earlier MIK sheratons have the "E" truss rod cover like they started to put on in the late 90's which looks like this:


    [​IMG]



    So, although I'd say it's a different guitar than a 335 the earlier MIK Sheratons are a very well made guitar, with attention to detail, and very few (arguably, if any) corners cut compared to many similar imports. Aside from not being lacquer and perhaps the pickups, there's nothing that separates the guitar from a quality domestic build, it's very "high spec" without just being fancy-looking.

    Oh, and they bid for $300-$400 on ebay.
     
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  2. Jakedog

    Jakedog Doctor of Teleocity Ad Free Member

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    I had one. I miss it. Absolutely wonderful guitar. Head and shoulders above anything Epi is making now. But then, I feel that way about pretty much the entire MIK manufacturing period. When Epi moved out, Epi became pure junk compared to what they were making in Korea.

    I'm with you on the pickups. I put a pair of 70's Gibson T-bobbin pickups in mine. Made it into a real killer.

    At the time I had it, I also had an '89 LP Studio that was over the top amazing. Those were my only two electrics. A power surge smoked some PA gear at a gig, and I had to replace the next day. I had next to no money to work with, and if the gear didn't get replaced I'd have been out the work, which I definitely couldn't afford. So the Sheraton went toward the replacements. I went back a week later to try and get it back and it was long gone.
     
  3. Obsessed

    Obsessed Telefied Ad Free Member

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    My post '96 MIK Sheraton II is my goto guitar and if I didn't love it soooo much, I'd be hunting down a pre '96 from what I just learned from your post. So, I'm not quite sure if I should thank you or not, but knowledge is usually a good thing.;)
     
  4. GigsbyBoyUK

    GigsbyBoyUK Friend of Leo's

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    I played a fairly new Sheraton a while back and it seemed to be very well made: played and sounded loively. Wish I'd bought it.

    Most new Epiphones I play seem to be well made too. My Wildkat is a wonderful guitar.
     
  5. deytookerjaabs

    deytookerjaabs Friend of Leo's

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    Sold mine too, only gripe I could have was the sucker hit the 10 pound mark and would cut off some circulation in the legs when I played sitting down for long periods. After I wrote this up I can say... another (8lbs) is on the way!

    But, even on first glance you could see the obvious details, but after looking inside I was pretty impressed as I'd seen a lot of sloppy import semi's come through the shop where I used to work and place where I apprenticed as well guitars I've personally owned.


    Well there's craftsmanship...and then there's what works. I dig quality craftsmanship but can't count the well built guitars I don't care for and have definitely played some cheaply built guitars that for whatever reason surprised me.

    I think it's the fact that the Samick guitars were really the first foray into outsourcing for Gibson and it looks like they copied some of the same methods that were used in Kalamazoo/Nashville.

    When I think "cut corners" it's not really the specs sheet on the manufacturers pamphlet, it's all the little details that start at the factory. Ideas like...well if we build a universal neck tenon we can cut back on training/machining for various instruments. Maybe it does or doesn't make a difference..but it is intended to save money at the end of the day.
     
    Last edited: Mar 9, 2016
  6. jayyj

    jayyj Tele-Afflicted

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    I have an '89, along with a Tereda made Casino and a couple of older Gibsons. I agree that there are aspects of the build of the early Samick guitars they were great, particularly the quality of the fretwork and inlay work. The neck fit is mine isn't as neat as a Gibson join but it's a decent enough join. Mine has a lovely neck profile and is a pleasure to play. There's no question they're very good guitars.

    The big thing I don't like about these Samicks is the shape, which is a long way from anything made in Kalamazoo particularly in the horns, and the centerblock which is nothing like a Gibson block and often not very well fitted with voids between the block and the top. On a 335 the centerblock is a flat Maple block with kerfed Spruce spacers fitted accurately to the top and back tying the elements together. In the Samicks it's a single Mahogany block shaped top and bottom to roughly the same shape as the top curve. Much quicker and cheaper to do but not as elegant as the Gibson design. When you put a Tereda made Epiphone from that era up against a Samick one there's a big difference in quality and you can easily see where Samick cut corners. That said, the Tereda stuff was several times the price then as it is now - and you do get a lot of guitar for your money with the Samick.

    Despite a few negative points they were good guitars in their day and they're great value on the used market - particularly with the range of aftermarket pickups available.
     
  7. deytookerjaabs

    deytookerjaabs Friend of Leo's

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    Honestly, can't say I agree with you on the shape:

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    Original ^^^

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    Sherry II ^^^

    I think it's pretty darn close to the original shape and I know through my own mistakes that it certainly DOES NOT fit in a 335 case, haha.

    I'm not 100% sure if the original had the solid mahogany block without a separate kerfed spacer but I'd like to find out. The fancy US made reissue had the mahogany block iirc. I think consumer studies/watch is probably why they chose to forego the mini bucker & tailpiece though.

    As a former Japanese Emperor owner...oh man, that was a 100% REAL L-5.
     
  8. jayyj

    jayyj Tele-Afflicted

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    To me the outlines on the guitars above look totally different! Gibson (and Epiphone) changed the shape of the horns on the 335 family fairly regularly so there isn't a single little unique to all 335s, but if you look at a Samick or Peerless Samick head on they don't match any of the 60s variants in the horn shape. The ears on the Samicks are rounded a bit like an early 335 but don't curve inwards again in the same way, and they don't have the same top contour, being more or less flat on the Samick. The modern Chinese Sheratons are much closer to the early production US shape.

    The centre blocks of '59-'69 Kalamazoo Sheratons were Spruce/Maple and the necks one piece Mahogany - so you could say the laminate neck on the Korean guitar is an upgrade!
     
  9. deytookerjaabs

    deytookerjaabs Friend of Leo's

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    Here's where we can nerd out with our bad selves!

    The early Sheratons, I'm not sure for how long, still used New York made Epiphone necks (left over from the purchase?)

    [​IMG]

    And, in the same vein, had a different horn shape too (along with the 335)

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    I'm still looking to find out about the internal specs though from an owner, because the information on the net is completely misleading. I'd have to think there's no reason for them to be built with a solid un-spaced mahogany block if it isn't an "ode" to prior design (just like the neck) in some manner because the maple/spruce is used on the cheaper samick 335's of the same era.

    Gotta remember, the Sheraton in it's inception was the most expensive & highest spec semi hollow under Gibson's wing.
     
    Last edited: Mar 9, 2016
  10. jayyj

    jayyj Tele-Afflicted

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    Yeah, I must admit, I was thinking after my last point if I can date a 335 by a millimeter difference in the curve of the horns I'm probably spending too much time looking at guitars!

    Thanks for sharing the neck photo, I've never seen that before. The handful I've played have all been Mahogany including a fairly early one although I've never seen one with the New York pickups in the flesh.

    The horn shape on the sunburst is identical to a 355 from '59-'62. They look different to 335s from the same era but they're not actually different in outline, it's just that the multiple binding layers on Sheratons and 355s makes them look a little off. The blonde you posted earlier looks like a later one - the horn shape is the same as my '65 330.

    It would be interesting to know the original retail prices of the Sheraton and ES355. I seem to remember Charlie so runs the www.es-335.org blog saying the 355 was nearly double the retail of a 335 in 1959, but I've never seen a retail price quoted for a Sheraton from that era.
     
  11. Blazer

    Blazer Doctor of Teleocity Ad Free Member

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    Allow me to go against the grain, I owned several pre-1996 Epiphone Les Pauls as well as a Firebird VII and they were terrible: shifting tuners, microphonic pickups and faulty electrics which buzzed and hummed like crazy, even switching out pickups didn't help at all.

    Their later Unsung made guitars were much better.
     
  12. PumpJockey

    PumpJockey Friend of Leo's Ad Free Member

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    Impossible to generalize, I think. I had an Indonesian (?) 2003 Epiphone ES-339 that was a solid, well-made instrument. Not a fan of the neck so I sold it for what I paid for it. I had a mid-90s Samick Epiphone Nighthawk where the two maple top veneer pieces were totally mismatched. Played OK but who was the production line inspector that day?
     
  13. deytookerjaabs

    deytookerjaabs Friend of Leo's

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    The original post is about the Sheraton pre-96', not any other Samick guitars, and I tried to stick to actual specific details about the build quality rather than just "felt cheap, tuners don't work, waren't no good" etc....

    Now, if you want to contrast that with a Sheraton from that decade which doesn't reflect those details I listed...be my guest!
     
  14. Coop47

    Coop47 Poster Extraordinaire

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    Great post/thread. I have a 2005? Samick Sheraton that I like a lot, but I'll be on the lookout for a pre-96 to try!
     
  15. StrangerNY

    StrangerNY Friend of Leo's Gold Supporter

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    I've got an '89 LP Custom from Korea, and it's an amazingly good guitar. A friend's got an '88 Gibson Custom and we compared them one day. The Epi wasn't as good as the Gibson, but it was damned close.

    - D
     
  16. Lutz Beyer

    Lutz Beyer TDPRI Member

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    7B85922C-08B1-4BF5-925F-7F1A199EE4BC.jpeg F547DC21-905F-4155-B838-4BE062E59AB9.jpeg 6E45F225-637D-437D-B807-9A42F5078F15.jpeg I allready have a ebyg-headstock Sheraton and just bought a 1995 mik Sheraton, because it was a bargain. The 95 is in better shape and i like the feel of the Neck. Feels more Sturdy. But on the other Hand i really Adore the light Brown fingerboard of the older one. The Inlays Are also Much more appealing.
    Maybe i have to keep both...
     

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