As a friend of Meshuggah, I sometimes field questions about their excellent custom Ibanez guitars from LACS (Los Angeles Custom Shop). On a recent maintenance trip to their studio in Stockholm, I took some pics of some of the more curious aspects while doing work….
These guys work their asses off while playing and with that comes major sweating. The sweat is naturally corrosive to hardware – particularly screws and pickup pole pieces. This rust and corrosion can sometimes make adjustments problematic, and the screws must therefore be removed and cleaned or replaced. Being expensive to replace normally, we try to clean the threads and retain as many as possible.
Removal of the bridge reveals the routing which was clearly done by hand using templates as opposed to CNC routing on normal factory production instruments. Dual bridge leveling anchors on the custom Lo-Pro FX8 bridges differ from the normal production Edge III-FX8 bridges with one anchor.
A closer look at the custom-made Lo-Pro Edge FX8 bridges that were specially made by LACS. Apparently made by fusing two cut-up 6 string Lo-Pro Edge FX6 units, these were utilized on the custom 8 guitars from the first two batches made in 2003, 2005 and later used as the basis for two piezo equipped custom RG8′s from 2006.
The underside of the Lo-Pro FX8 shows the inner construction and an interesting steel ‘L’ beam for added strength.
As previously mentioned, these bridges were custom-made from two individual units. As such, the radius of the saddle ramps that were incorporated into the base plate now had to compensated by adding steel shims where needed.
Here is the underside of the piezo-equipped Lo-Pro 8 trem in Fredrik’s 2006 LACS RG8-Piezo. The low 7th string’s piezo hot wire was disconnected and promptly fixed. Piezo equipped trems can be damaged by overtly vigorous trem usage, as the wires connecting them to the summing board (before the preamp) are quite delicate.
In the earlier days before the Edge III-FX8 bridge & lock nut, units were commercially made on the 2007-released RG2228. As with the Lo-Pro bridge, the lock nut was also fashioned from melding two separate pieces together.
These bridges and pickups cleaned up rather well after some work.
In keeping with the overall simplicity of these guitars, this also extends into the well-shielded control cavity with basic 500k Alpha pots and a Switchcraft barrel jack.
The four LACS IC8M’s are very cool guitars and offer a few interesting design differences between them (more on this in the archive coming shortly).
Finally! Dual truss rods – and a cavity big enough for ease of adjustment! I remember mentioning the benefits of this a number of years ago, and it’s nice to see it come about. You see many 6 & 7 string basses with dual truss rods to help with relief correction on wide necks, why not with 8 string guitars? Now, in a perfect world, I would want two dual-action rods, and for them to be spaced just slightly farther apart….
On a separate note, tour tech Kent Krune came up with this very cool idea as an anti-ring, string dampener. Instead of using bits of foam or velcro under the strings on the headstock (which always fall out or rip), he glued some thin rubber to the underside of the string retainer tree. Always there, works well, and looks super clean without bits of stuff hanging onto the headstock.
Yes, you’re seeing this correctly. I was just as surprised to find out that the IC8M’s also have 14-16″ compound radius fingerboards!
Due to the standing-position balance issues with the Iceman’s, the strap pin was relocated on Fredrik’s first issued-instrument. Mårten later requested that LACS construct a slightly more compact model with an inward-shifted neck and bridge (more on this later in the archive).
Sighting the neck on Mårten’s main touring workhorse, prior to making adjustments. This is the 2005 model.
After measuring the action and determining the amount of relief, the truss rod is carefully adjusted. Fortunately, the truss rods on all but one of the LACS guitars operated smoothly and without issue.
Mårten’s Eir Omega 8 has an unusually thick, high-gloss nitrocellulose finish, and it was showing lots of pick and finger scratches. This was treated with some buffing compound and a few minutes of good ol’ elbow grease.
This guitar was one of the few that had the covered version of the excellent Lundgren M8 pickup. These are available for guitars with EMG 808-sized cavities and are for those who want the passive goodness of the stellar M8.
Another interesting guitar was Fredrik’s “Motherbucker” LACS RG8. Unlike the roadhorses, it was in near mint condition save for this small chip on the face of the lower horn. My eye kept being drawn to this very conspicuous spot, and it bothered me so much that I just had to use some black dye (Fiebing’s, same as the makers use) and a Q-Tip to carefully touch it up.
Almost all of the LACS customs had excellent, level fretwork, save for the “Motherbucker”. It had quite a number of lifting frets in random areas, thereby requiring a full fret dress. This meant that the guitar had to be strapped into one of the most important tools in my shop: the neck jig.
All measurements and adjustments are initially made in the upright playing position.
Final tweaking is always done with the guitar in the playing position, and with the right string gauges tuned to the intended pitch. When the neck is perfect, the caliper dials are zeroed and locked, then the jig is clamped back into the horizontal working position.
The neck support rods are put into place, the strings removed, and the fingerboard and body are masked-off before starting on the fretwork. The random arrows shown in marker are where the high, problem spots are.
For more on the fret-dressing process in detail, please see my repair article covering this.
Repair Update: 25/06/2012
Next into the jig for a complete fret leveling and dress, was Mårten’s “MH” RG7. Again, you can see where all the high spots are marked on the frets for reference. There were a lot on this guitar.
Before & after cleaning/setup on Mårten’s “MH”. The bridges are always taken apart and the corrosion or rust is removed.
Next up was Fredrik’s 25.5″ scale “33″ RG7, which also got a thorough fret dress.
Dressing the fret ends. Bolt-on neck guitars are always easier to work on, for the most part.
The “33″ RG’s upper strap pin was completely stripped, and wouldn’t tighten properly. There was wood and paint chips missing, so these needed to be filled and touched up.
The rust and corrosion on the 27″ scale baritone “33″ RG was quite bad.
Fredrik requested the bridge on the baritone “33″ to be blocked. I installed my AVH Stop Bars. SOLID!
The two LACS 27″ RGT7XL’s were suffering from severe dehydration after being unused in storage for quite some time. You can see where the finish is separating from the fingerboard due to shrinkage and being pushed out by the protruding fret ends.
A close-up showing the finish damage. This is a seriously dry fingerboard! This is unacceptable, and will be attended to right away.
And here are the end results afterwards.
The fingerboard of the RGT7XL was severely dry.
And after conditioning…
It appeared that the truss rod had never been adjusted in the entire 9 years of the guitar’s life…
And sure enough, the rod cavity on this guitar was too tight to allow the nut driver access. We need to enlarge this, as we need to be able to adjust the truss rod without hindrance.
The brass nut is removed and the cavity enlarged.
That’s more like it, a perfect fit.
The shaved cavity is then touched-up with black lacquer….
And then the brass nut is cleaned up and put back with a touch of teflon for smooth operation.
To be continued…
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