I decided to spend a few £s upgrading the old SG. Not that there was too much wrong with it, but it needed some tweaks and let’s be honest – messing about with guitars is fun.
First, it needed a proper set up. The guy who had it before me strung it with 9s and had a ridiculously low action (it was more or less unplayable) so I went up to 10s and then 11s but it was still buzzing and there were dead spots all over. The other big issue was the intonation. With a wraparound bridge it’s always a compromise but the one that was in there made very little effort to compensate, and it was quite noticably crap. I took it to Richmond Guitar Worshop (Andy and Andrew – the guys that used to be in the workshop at Chandlers in Kew). Ive had all my repaires and set ups done by these guys since about 2003. They are total wizards. They dressed the frets, sorted out the neck and, importantly, replaced the crappy stock bridge with a compensated Gibson Lightning Bar. It’s still not perfect, obviously, but I could do a gig on it now and not get shouted at for being out of tune!
The second step was to replace the Gibson 490 pickups. The bridge one was ok but the neck one was a bit dull. Having always used Seymour Duncans for humbuckers, I thought I’d maybe see what else was around. Had a look at Bare Knuckle, which are pricey (though worth it, generally) and a few other “boutique” makers. Amongst them, one that I thought was pretty interesting: The Creamery. After a bit of research I was unable to find anything even resemblining a slightly negative review, and what’s more they’re really well priced. Less than Bare Knuckles which seem to run at £200 + per set but not so cheap as to arouse suspicion like, say, Iron Gear. They are hand made by one guy (Jaime)and they are fully customisable, from the covers to the magnets. I had to wait about a month, but they’re great! I went for the Creamery ’59 set, I wanted better versions of the 490s with a tighter sounding neck. He suggested these with alnico II and IV magnets in the bridge and neck respectively. I’m really pleased with them – and for £150 (with nickle covers) you basically can’t go wrong, they compare very favourably to the Seymour Duncans that I’ve owned (Pearly Gates, Duncan Custom, Jazz, and JB). Well worth a look, as there is a huge range of stuff available!
So… you know, I’ve spent about as much again on upgrades as I did on the guitar itself. But it’s personalised now, whilst still cheaper (and as far as I’m concerned, better) than an off the shelf SG standard. So there.