Reader Guitar of the Month: Stripped SG Special

A Virginia guitar tweaker strips down and tricks out a late-model SG.

Name: Kenneth Masser

Hometown: Yorktown, Virginia
Guitar: Stripped SG Special

I do awful things to guitars that most folks just don’t understand. I believe we build much better guitars today than any time in the past. I’ve been fixing friends’ guitars for about 12 years now and doing upgrades and builds for myself.

This is a refinished, rebuilt 2014 SG Special. It belongs to my friend Chuck Norris, a scallop-boat captain. I removed the paint from the neck as soon as I got my grubby hands on it and sanded it to about 800 grit. This guitar is completely finished in tung oil, with Planet Waves tuning machines, Dunlop Straploks, Cleartone strings (.010–.046), a Graph Tech Tusq XL nut, Babicz Tune-o-matic-style bridge, fancy grip speed-knobs, a metal toggle-switch cap, and Fralin Pure P.A.F. pickups with standard A4 magnets.

I removed the logo from the headstock, which is going to get some kind of art eventually. The guitar is wired series/parallel with push/pulls, and its home is in an SKB iSeries case. Lastly, I took it to master luthier Kenny Marshall, who put some jumbo stainless-steel frets on it and did the final setup. I redid this guitar for $300 labor, not including parts or the fret job.

I’m pretty much strictly rock ’n’ roll: Zeppelin, Rush, and UFO would be at or near the top of my list. The whole removing the paint from the neck thing started when I wore the paint off the neck of my 1981 Les Paul Custom (which I got for $400, half of which I borrowed from my grandmother… thanks Nanny!) and a paint chip cut my hand. So, I followed some stuff I read about one of Zakk Wylde’s guitars and sanded and tung-oiled my Les Paul. Now I prefer to play guitars that I make myself. But I started out as a Gibson guy. And back in the mid ’70s, if you didn’t buy a new guitar, you were nobody.

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