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

 
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Homer J. Simpson
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Joined: 19 Apr 2017
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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 mylespaul.com, 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.

Construction:
---------------

- 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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J.E.M.
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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
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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 auctions.yahoo.co.jp and another one was on eBay.ca 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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Homer J. Simpson
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Joined: 19 Apr 2017
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Location: Germoney

PostPosted: Wed May 03, 2017 5:35 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Hi guys,

just having picked up some unspecific statements that the RLCs are known to be the most accurate representation of a 1959/60 LPC, I was curious how close they really are. Long story short: they are just awesomely close! Here's the tl;dr:

To begin with, all sources state that '59/'60 2-PAF models are a particularly rare variety of the Custom, as most of the 1957-60 models had 3 pickups, so availability of close shots of those kind of reflects that scarcity. Modifications and replacements over the decades can make the originals less "accurate" than the copies! One source of detail photos was a thread at mylespaulforum.com, where someone took pics of a 1959 2-PAF that sports Kluson tuners (that are said to have been generally replaced by Rotomatics by 1958) and slotted ABR-1 bridge posts (either a replacement or the whole guitar is just a well-made fake lol). However, I used said '59, a '59 3-PU model and for comparison, a rare pre-Norlin reissue from 1968 I found nicely photographed on oliviasvintageguitars.com.

Largely known among the forumites here are the obvious things, split diamond headstock inlay, exact headstock shape (not even the slight variation you'll find on some other 80s MIJ brand models), correct 17 headstock angle, no volute, correct 7-ply and 5-ply bindings where they belong, fret edge binding, correct "bonnet" knobs...

The bodys of the first black beauties were allegedly made out of a single block of mahogany, but considering that they had changed that to mahogany body with mahogany top by 1958, the Burny's construction seems to be done for the most part correct in most (if not all) pre-'89 models, before black RLCs with maple top seem to come up, which is not "historically correct" anymore, but still "Gibby correct". The only things to nitpick about the Burny's construction are the choice of rosewood instead of a ebony fretboard, but I think that would be asked way too much for a 60,000 Yen guitar, and of course the short tenon. But then again, there were Gibby reissues with rosewood fretboards (and short tenons I think) too, today's non-CS-Customs don't even use wood for a fretboard anymore. And what might be closer to the original, a short tenon, all mahogany guitar or a maple top and maple neck with a long tenon?

In fact just about everything is really spot on on the RLC-60/65, and I find it easier to point out the little differences:

[Headstock]

+ Comparing the exact position and composition of the split diamond inlay on various Customs, I noticed some variations and I initially thought the Burny is a bit off. How could I? The position varies a little indeed on the various knock-offs (most prominently those made by Gibson beginning in 1968) but the placement on the Burny is spot on again for a 1959/60 model. While I was at it, I noticed that the "open book" profile on top varies a little in shape even on original Gibson remakes. - The one thing to nitpick here is the miter joint of top and sides bindings on the headstock, which is not as beautifully crafted as on the originals.


[Plastic parts]

TRC


+ The white frame around the TRC first appeared to be a tad too wide first, but it looks pretty much the same on the '59 original. - it may lack a tiny bit of precision on the Burny tho. If you want to fix that - Eddie Vegas has offered an original 1959 Gibby TRC for a mere $499, bargain!

Binding


+ Hard to tell from the pics but the binding can look just the same kind of yellow as on my Burny, I'm not sure if they used a slightly tinted clear coat back then or if it just naturally yellowed that much over the past 30 years (it likely did). Anyway, the binding is entirely just like the original all around the body.

- But the binding also hints to another tiny difference: All guitars have the upper/left) body rounding hitting the neck at the bridge side of the 16th fretwire, but the Burny seems to have the radius of the body rounding deviating a bit, so the outer edge of the binding touches the 16th fretwire a bit (maybe 1mm) higher. On top of that, the '59 has the 17th fret dot a bit closer to the 16th fret, so that half of it is already floating above the edge of the body binding, IOW the dot is not quite centered between the frets (the 19th and 21st fret dots are even worse on both '59 Gibbys). But the dots are all perfectly centered on the Burny, hence the 17th fret dot sits another millimeter more towards the bridge, compared to the two '59ers. The '68 reissue's dot placement is somewhere between the '59 and the Burny. The body shape at that spot varies a tiny little bit on Gibbys too, for example I saw a '76 Custom where the binding hits the neck even lower to the bridge than the older guitars, almost behind the 16th fret.

Pickguard

- One more nitpick-able thing I could find is the bevel of the pickguard sides, which appears to have a different angle so that the white layers of the 5-ply plastic (often stated as being 4-ply, but they didn't count the thin black 5th layer on the back) don't stick out as much as on the original, when observed straight from the front side. OMG! We're all going to die!


[Knobs]

+ The knob pointer washers seemingly always point straight up 90 on the original Customs, and so they do on my RLC. Not sure but I think there's a small batch of RLCs having 45 angled pointers, those may be off by 45. Yup, "anal" is the right word here. You have to be when trying to find any notable differences between the original and the RLC!


[Bridge]

+ The bridge is an exact copy of the ABR-1 with the historically correct 73.6mm post hole spacing. The post spacing seems to vary a bit [74, 74.2mm...] on the different copies and original LP models, this one has the exact dimensions of what Gibby used in the late 50s. That means direct vintage replacement/upgrade bridges like the TonePros AVR-2 should fit precisely. But...

- As far as I could find out, the retainer wire on the ABR-1 was introduced in 1962, and the bridge on my RLC-60 has such a retainer wire, and it's rattling (the rattling being historically correct again). So this seems to be not exactly correct, however the alternative would be saddles falling off on a string change, so I take this as a small deviation that improves useability, a decision to not copy what's really crap on the original. But I guess that was just a lack of Gotoh hardware w/o the wire, that somehow survived the last 30 years on this guitar.

[Pickups]

+ What I wrote above about the coil resistance being all over the place also applies to some extent to the originals of course. Gibson determined the amount of windings by means of a timer rather than a counter until 1965, so the resistance of each individual coil can vary quite a bit. I found an article about those late 50s Customs, where the author measured 8.14kOhms on the neck and 7.98 on the bridge pickup of a 1958 3-PAF Custom, coincidentally that's pretty much the readings on my RLC, including the slightly hotter PU being in the neck position!

BTW, while PAFs were actually made with different pole piece spacing, that didn't happen to fit the varying string spacing on the same guitar - there was a narrower spaced PAF used on some archtop jazzboxes' neck position and the solid body guitars got the same wider spaced PAF on both the neck and bridge position, and they were not very anal about the screws sitting precisely under the strings in any way. This Burny has the same spacing on neck and bridge PUs, with the needed vintage inaccuracy on pole screws vs. string position.

[Screws]

+ The pickup height adjustment screw heads are slotted like on the original (that was changed to Phillips heads on 1990s Burnys), just like any other screw on that guitar does not deviate from the original, neither in looks nor in position, with the exception of the neck side pickguard screw, which looks a bit more recessed on the Gibbys. Of course they were not aged when the Burny was new, and they're metric of course. But now they're 30 years old as well and match their aged imperial counterparts quite well.

[Tuners]

- Lastly, the tuners. No doubt, they are very good, very smooth and all even after 30 years, and the guitar stays in tune - but apart from the tulip knobs they look much like the standard Gotoh copies of modern Schaller-made machine heads, and not like Rotomatics. Meanwhile I found a bit of information that claims Grovers were only an option during the late 50s, so there could be regular Klusons, Kluson wafflebacks, or Grover Rotomatics (with their bulgy covers) fitted to the original Customs, the Schaller type tuners can be found on 70s and later guitars only. Perhaps a question of availability, and/or price of getting wafflebacks or Rotomatics made at Gotoh, for a guitar in the mid-range price segment. Impossible to tell when you're not looking at the back of the guitar tho, and just the tulip knobs sticking out of the headstock sides, but probably the most glaring optical deviation of them all.

[Conclusion]

The '82-'87 RLC-60s/65s are really much more than lookalikes, they are for the most part historically correct replicas, on a detail level that even Gibby could barely match. In many aspects, the Burny seems to be closer to the real deal than most of Gibson's own attempts at reviving the legend. All their reissues made from 1968 onwards have a variety of differences ranging from "subtle" (TRC design) to "hurtful" (woods, materials, construction), with maple tops and necks, pancake bodys and 3-piece necks, the volute, contemporary pickups...

So the overall attention to the detail and precision these Burny Customs were made with is just stunning, you really have to go into "anal overdrive OCD" mode to notice any deviations or even flaws, and it's not like the original Customs didn't have any of those. The 2nd-cheapest way to get that much "Custom" in one package seems to be spending $nnnn to get a post-Norlin but pre-Richlite Gibby Custom.
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marcusnieman
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PostPosted: Thu May 04, 2017 8:02 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Wow... that's some manifesto!
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Homer J. Simpson
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PostPosted: Fri May 05, 2017 5:34 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Well, I couldn't find a resource anywhere that explains a bit why exactly people are saying that the Burnys are that "close" to the real thing, which could mean anything between "it's black and looks just like my 30 yr old recollection of a random Gibson I once saw in a Guitar store but didn't bother to touch because it was so expensive and what the hell are speed knobs?" and "I'm an effin expert, my second name is "Custom" and I know my ^&*(, I can tell a '57 from a '59 by the taste of the trussrod, and I say they're good!".

So I thought this would be the right place to post some self-congratulatory write-up with my findings, elaborating a bit on how much Fernandes actually bothered with making that guitar as true to the role model as possible while keeping it affordable at the same time (take a page from that book, Henry J.!), so anyone owning an RLC or considering buying one can appreciate that.

I didn't anticipate how rewarding buying a MIJ guitar from that era can be, you know, trying to date them from confusing resources and putting them into context is a lot of fun on top of having bought a great guitar! Also, I had a tendonitis from playing it too much and hence too much time on my hands.
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marcusnieman
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PostPosted: Fri May 05, 2017 6:48 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

My comment was not a slight at your post. One of the most spectacular pieces of organized details I've ever read. Well done!
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Homer J. Simpson
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PostPosted: Fri May 05, 2017 2:13 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

No worries, I didn't take it as such, and thank you! I guess I'm just a little horrified about myself, that I'm still capable of being that nerdy, I thought I was over it.
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jacco
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PostPosted: Sun May 07, 2017 1:41 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Homer, congrats with your new Burny!
You did a lot of investigating work mate. You could have made it easier on yourself by just posting pics
Based on the information you have given and the one pic, your LP looks like a 1985-1986 Mats made RLC-60.
Could you post pics of the control cavity and both pickups cavities?
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Homer J. Simpson
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Joined: 19 Apr 2017
Posts: 7
Location: Germoney

PostPosted: Wed May 10, 2017 4:24 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Hi jacco!

Thanks for chiming in! I tremendously appreciate the work you have done to help identifying these old Burnys!

jacco wrote:
Homer, congrats with your new Burny!
You did a lot of investigating work mate. You could have made it easier on yourself by just posting pics



Where's the fun in that? I enjoyed scouring the net to find the key hints quite a bit!

Unfortunately my attempts at making pics of the neck and control cavities suffered from my bad cellphone cam, my abysmal photography skills and the bloody black paint in those cavities. Also, I don't have a pic of the bridge PU cavity, one of the screws on the frame is pretty messed up, so I didn't feel like touching it, and decided to just play that guitar instead. I thought there's usually nothing to see in there anyway? Please educate me!

- Neck PU cavity:
There's no "gap" or "hole" routing behind the neck joint, also no Matsumoku extended tenon + bolt. The tenon appears to end exactly at the upper edge of the PU cavity.





- Control cavity:



Hard to see on the pic, but only the top 2 pots sit in a recessed routing to compensate for the top thickness. Round, right hand wire canal.

- Headstock:

I reviewed the pics on Burny dating threads here a bit more, and indeed, there are obvious differences in the exact placing (among others) of the split diamond inlay. This one has the inlay sitting just like the original '59 models, which is overall sitting a tad higher on the headstock so that the centerline of the middle bar of the inlay points to the B tuning peg.

Other Burnys have it a bit lower, similar to later Gibby reissues, where the corners of the middle bar align diagonally with the tuning pegs on both sides. Even though a tad less "correct", the factory doing those headstocks did a better job at the miter joints on the binding.
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