Handwired in small batches, the AxLabs Habanero-loaded pickguard system features all top-shelf components including USA-made Habanero Serrano Pickups from the legendary GroverJackson, a Pure Tone multi-contact output Jack, custom AxLabs switches and potentiometers, Orange Drop capacitor, and Gavitt cloth jacketed wire.

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Conceptualized by car designer Ray Dietrich, the original Firebirds had neck-through-body construction, fluid sculpture lines, a single-sided headstock, and special small humbucking pickups.

Photo by George Aslaender

This month’s guitar is a variation on the Firebird III, so rare that its production number is likely in the dozens.

As Gibson was about to launch its new, simplified “non-reverse” Firebird line in 1965, they shipped a small number of “reverse” I and III models that spring and summer with some eccentric features. In his encyclopedic 1982 book, American Guitars: An Illustrated History, Tom Wheeler whimsically labeled these as “Platypus” Firebirds, due to their oddity and rarity: Some had conventional guitar tuners, rather than the banjo tuners on standard ’Birds, and tubular plastic-tipped vibrato arms, rather than so-called “spoon handle” vibratos. So, naturally, I was intrigued. The subject of this month’s column is one of those rare ’Birds that I scored at the 1993 Great American Guitar Show in Philadelphia.

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Name: Terry Kempler
Hometown: White Marsh, Maryland
Guitar: Custom Yellow Active LP

A 6-string tinkerer found a guitar neck with a unique inlay design, inspiring this bright color scheme and some active-pickup experimentation.

It all started with this yellow inlaid neck I saw on eBay/Amazon from China. I loved the inlays and thought it would be fun to design a yellow-themed guitar.

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