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[RLC-60] New old Burny owner / (kind of) dating thread

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Homer J. Simpson

Joined: 19 Apr 2017
Posts: 2
Location: Germoney

PostPosted: Wed Apr 19, 2017 7:29 pm    Post subject: [RLC-60] New old Burny owner / (kind of) dating thread Reply with quote

Hi everybody! [/Dr. Nick]

I'm now the new (kind of proud) owner of a black RLC-60! Since my brother brought a (loaned) Ibby set-neck black beauty home in 1977 I always wanted a MIJ Custom, and now, only 40 years later I could finally afford one. After some research I found out that the closest thing to the real deal is said to be an 80s Burny, that also took a while because Burnys are still pretty unknown around here, and only got washed up a bit with the increasing "vintage MIJ" craze. Then it took only a few more years until I was checking eBay Classifieds just at the right time.

It was offered as "mid-80s" model, which appears to be true, and I had to do some real quick pre-purchase research on those, because Burny LPs in general are being offered only, well, when hell freezes over on a soaring hot Christmas holiday here in Germany, let alone Customs, for a split diamond model Christmas needs to be on the same weekend as Easter, and that one was only 100km away. IOW I just had to buy it really fast.

Thanks to the information I gathered from this fine forum and the other known resources and questioning the seller I could roughly verify its coarse built period to be "somewhere between 1982 and 1987":

- Proper split diamond headstock inlay
- Proper TRC
- Green caps (replaced by PIO caps by seller)
- Grey PU wires (more on that below).

Back home I got bitten by the "guitar archeologist" bug and wanted to find out more about the manufacturing date/site/shoesize of the guy who routed the PU cavities and... y'all know what's coming.... dating those RLCs more precisely seems to be pretty much an exercise in futility. The only additional information I could consider "safe" is that it's Fujigen made (right hand drilling in control and neck PU cavity).

- No production number to be found in the neck PU cavity (it's sprayed black with lots of white crumbs on top (where the hell did that come from?)). There is something that looks like a stamped "2" but you know, if you stare long enough you see Lester Polsfuss' face in there.

- The guy at the finishing plant was so nice to not spray all of the control cavity, so I can see the top is mahogany. The bottom seems to be 2 pieces.

- Oddly, it has "Noble 15A"(+B) 500k pots (some consider this a sign of "very early" and some as "totally late/90s" build year). Anyway, no pot dates on those.

- The PUs look like...well... L8000s and VH-3 (grey wire, brass colored base), both PUs have the same pole piece spacing (appears to be a common flaw in some early and late Burnys) and measure neck-8.1/bridge-7.9kOhms (yes, kind of reverse, like some of the guitars Otto checked). That could point to L8000s I thought, but unfortunately, according to jacco's long Burny PU thread on, both L8000s and VH-3 resistances seem to be pretty much all over the place, although I think there is some trend towards higher resistance in later years.

So what's the point of this post? I spent a the past 10 days scouring the interwebz for information and pics and so on, studied endless threads, and wanted to summarize what I think I learned about the RLCs on the way, and check with you guys if I got my facts correct. Also, maybe someone has some more/new insights for me to consider, so this could become an RLC identification guide thread.

1980s RLC timeline:

1982 - Introduction of the RLC-60
1984 - Introduction of the RLC-65
1987 - winged TRC introduced (possibly earlier)
1987 - Yellow caps (instead of green)
1989 - Thunderbolt headstock inlay introduced (possibly earlier on some models)

Pickups used in the 80s:
1982: L8000 (grey wire)
1983: L8000
1984: VH-3 (black wire? grey wire?)
1985: VH-4 (black wire) possibly erratic listing in catalog table, also erratic data for RLC-65: "VH-4Nx1, VH-4Bx1"

1986-1989: VH-3

- More exact dating of a "split diamond" RLC-60 is only possible via the pickup version, which in turn can be identified at most by removing the cover because L8000 and VH-3 look exactly the same on the outside - if you find black or zebra bobbins with 2 holes = L8000, correct 3-hole PAF bobbins = VH-3. Opinions on whether the former or the latter sounds better, or whether the VH-3 has ceramic or alnico magnets vary a lot.

- There seem to be both L8000 and VH-3 with both black and grey wires, so the wire color doesn't really help.

- IOW, if you consider that a TRC and caps can be changed so easily, any RLC-60 that doesn't come with an original receipt can't be dated more precisely than "between 1982 and 1989"with a 100% reliability. If you find L8000s in it later, that would be "between 1982 and 1983", being the rarest of them all, if they're VH-3s, that would be "between 1984 and 1987" at best.

- 1980s RLC-60/65 never came with VH-1 pickups, no matter how many eBay sellers insist on their "80s" RLC having those. 90s models came with a much hotter VH-1, not the same well-reputed PAF-fy VH-1 people may expect.


- Black RLCs come with a mahogany top, the other colors with maple cap. There seem to be later black RLCs with maple top, or they were just refinished color models.

- The only RLCs that kind of have a "long tenon" are the Matsumoku made ones (?). Has anyone seen a early/mid 80s RLC that was not made at Fujigen or Matsumoku?

[To be (hopefully) continued...]

Of course, all that dating stuff is only important from a collector's POV, or interesting to know for everyone else. But I admit, I'm having the impression that split diamond Customs are pretty rare (no surprise, the collectors among the forumites here own probably half of the entire production run ) and that gives me a fuzzy warm feeling, considering how many Gibson Customs are floating around (despite the fact that it's not an overly popular model).

From a player's POV, I was immediately impressed how well it was built, and how close they tried to stick to the original. The only build quality flaw it obviously came with is 1mm of missing bone material on the treble side of the nut, on the plus side the slots are placed and sawn perfectly, some property that not all of the originals I saw had. It is an incredibly well made and precise guitar, not only for the friendly 60,000 Yen it cost back then (pre-1985 that was like $300 or something?).

Or should I say "it was", because it does have some issues - some butcher tried a fret dressing on it and probably got scared by the binding nibs so he skipped the recrowning, causing some minor playability issues and it does have some dead spots I hope to get rid of later on. Luckily I have done a few fret jobs on bound fretboards in a former life and I have the required tools, so that should soon become a top notch player again.

More on the bright side, it really isn't just a lookalike, it sure has that authentic chunky Custom sound (with some more top end I think) and the natural "relic" look tells me that it has been played a lot in those 3+ decades. A little chip between the binding and the top shows how thin the poly finish really is, and the clear coat has yellowed so much that the binding looks like the teeth of a chain-smoking Englishman. If you consider that this thing is now as old as the instrument it was "reviving" so marvelously back then, you get an even more authentic instrument with a genuine, non-fake "vintage" feel for much, much less money, and at least not "baked" dog poo or something for a fretboard. No surprise that the prices for some MIJ instruments are painfully skyrocketing now.

Obviously, they are not that easy to dig up and having scored one is pretty rewarding, that sounds much like a drug to me.

(Sorry for the crappy pics)
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Guitar God

Joined: 27 Jun 2011
Posts: 67

PostPosted: Thu Apr 20, 2017 6:22 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Looks like you've nailed it, except to say split diamond Burny's are actually fairly plentiful...
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Homer J. Simpson

Joined: 19 Apr 2017
Posts: 2
Location: Germoney

PostPosted: Mon Apr 24, 2017 7:37 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Hi J.E.M,

Thanks for replying! Well, there may be a lot of them, but the impression I got was that (unlike the post '89 models) they're not being offered much, in particular not here. Currently there's one SD Custom on and another one was on but it looks like the seller got some deal elsewhere or changed his mind and ended the auction. Of course one has to check constantly, worldwide (which I didn't) but the only other RLC i saw for sale in Germany so far was a thunderbolt, like 2 years ago, with a quite inappropriate price tag. Some local vintage dealers have a few Burnys too, but no RLC, not even a thunderbolt one.

Anyway, who cares, what counts is that I have one, now I'm on a hunt for a nice MIJ strat of the same age and quality.
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