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Thread: Hetfield Uncle Milty (Iron Cross) Les Paul Custom Replica

  1. #1
    Member CascadiaGuitarGeek's Avatar
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    Hetfield Uncle Milty (Iron Cross) Les Paul Custom Replica

    So I figure that it's time to start tracking the progress on my attempt at making the Gibson Custom Shop signature model that never was: the James Hetfield Uncle Milty / Iron Cross. The original is a modified 1973 Gibson Les Paul Custom with Sperzel locking tuners, customized EMG 81/60 pickups, reconfigured electronics, some aging and drunken scratching on the finish, decorative iron cross and gold vinyl racing stripes.

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    The guitar started making appearances around 2001 during the recording of St. Anger (apologies) and was used often live until around 2009. At this point James was trying to work out a signature model deal with Gibson, but they couldn't come to terms on it so he ended up doing a version of it with ESP (this just doesn't seem right though).

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    I was excited when I came across a LP custom kit that had the full on 7 ply body binding and 5 ply headstock binding with legally questionable shaping.

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  2. #2
    GAStronomist stan's Avatar
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    Nice start - enjoy a cool tribute build

  3. #3
    Mentor Kick's Avatar
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    Looking good. Except the inlays in the small images are not the same...
    Nr 1: Red Widow LP-1MQ (Finished) ->Diary<-

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    Member Thigg88's Avatar
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    I think from memory the esp have there flag shape inlays on there signature editon thats probly the one in the little photo. I think i like the block style myself. So many cool Lp builds in the works

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    Member CascadiaGuitarGeek's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Thigg88 View Post
    I think from memory the esp have there flag shape inlays on there signature editon thats probly the one in the little photo. I think i like the block style myself. So many cool Lp builds in the works
    Exactly. I just included the ESP model photos for comparison. I'll be doing the original Gibson version with block inlays.

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  7. #6
    Member CascadiaGuitarGeek's Avatar
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    When the kit arrived I gave it a once over and noticed a few issues. Luckily they weren't going to affect the finished product. The flame maple veneer had the joint line skewed and off center, but I'll have a solid black finish so no big deal there. The binding work was rough around the cutaway. This was easily scraped down though.

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    The shape and binding on the headstock looks pretty good. I straightened the neck and checked the frets, which were pretty level. That was a relief since my last LP kit took a whole lot of work to get playable, and even still has to have high action.

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  8. #7
    Mentor Kick's Avatar
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    Looking very nice!
    Nr 1: Red Widow LP-1MQ (Finished) ->Diary<-

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    Member CascadiaGuitarGeek's Avatar
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    So I needed to get a few additional parts to supplement the kit for this build. I found some gold vinyl racing stripes that looked to be about the right size that will go on after the finish is applied. I'll be replacing the stock tuners with satin gold Sperzel locking ones as per Mr. Hetfield's preferences (and mine too, now that I've used locking I don't think I can go back!). Not pictured below is the 'Custom' headstock decal that will go unnamed for now.

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    I think the trickiest parts of this build will be replicating the Iron Cross and pickup modifications. I decided to use a piece of black pickguard material to cut out into the cross shape. Then I will spray paint with a metallic iron, followed by a clear coat, followed by a metallic gold paint. Then I'll sand back the gold to simulate the aged metal plating look of the original.

    So before EMG started releasing their pickups with metal covers, James had a set of EMG 81/60s modified to look like vintage gold PAF humbuckers. This isn't as easy as it seems, since the EMGs have an epoxied on plastic cover that is larger than the inside dimensions of a standard humbucker cover. The solution I've seen on other forums is to sand/grind back the stock covers to fit inside the humbucker covers. Then cut the heads off some pole piece screws and epoxy them into the holes in the new cover. We'll see if I can do this without wrecking the whole lot.

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  10. #9
    GAStronomist Simon Barden's Avatar
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    Nice target to aim for. You'll probably need to use some amber-tinted clear lacquer coats as well as standard clear lacquer to get the aged yellow effect for the binding.

  11. #10
    Member CascadiaGuitarGeek's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Simon Barden View Post
    Nice target to aim for. You'll probably need to use some amber-tinted clear lacquer coats as well as standard clear lacquer to get the aged yellow effect for the binding.
    Absolutely. I'll need to go over the headstock "inlay" as well to replicate the vintage look. Have you played around with that at all? I assume that it's a bit tricky to get the right amount of amber in there so that it looks aged but not comical.

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