Brendan’s Ibanez IC400 project

The incredibly patient Brendan from Sydney has been waiting a ridiculous period of time for me to get to this…

He found this unfinished project on line, and had it sent directly to me from Pensacola, Florida…

There was an issue with Customs and they opened the carton that it was sent from Florida in and informed us that the consignment needed to be fumigated at quite some expense, which Brendan duly authorised.

When the consignment arrived in my workshop, I was greeted by two very much alive earwigs, all the way from the US of A…

I appropriately despatched the hitchhikers in my rubbish bin at no additional cost…

It’s a good example I suppose, of never believing everything that the seller of guitars half a world away would have you believe. The work that had been done is at best ordinary but nothing that can’t be put right if the guitar is to be given an almost complete restoration.

The fret board is quite good and won’t require any major work.

However, the Iceman has been given a new top and although it’s quite a nice book-matched piece of figured maple, the new pickup routs, the routing for the inlaid bridge and the new holes for controls leave a bit to be desired…

Also, to fit new binding when the neck is still in place is challenging for an old pro like me and the previous owner has experienced the same challenge, but with perhaps not quite the outcome he was hoping for…

To compound the problem, there’s some serious gaps below the new binding…

…and there’s a large piece of wood missing on the treble horn.

The sides of the guitar aren’t quite square, either.

Initially, I suggested to Brendan that the binding should be replaced but I’m inclined to think that a better outcome can be achieved by keeping the existing very thick binding but reducing the thickness to about 2mm instead of the current thickness.

I’ve started by using the bobbin sander in places I can reach to re-square the sides and I’m going to reduce the thickness of the binding to a uniform 2mm thickness in the process.

There’s also a section of binding missing from the inside of the treble horn (there’s a picture of that, above), and fortunately I’ve got some of the exact same binding.

First, I’ll address the large gaps below the binding and because the guitar is to be refinished, I’m using some serious filler to do the job.

The next day, the polyester filler is levelled using a cabinet scraper.

Next, I’ll address the missing section of binding in the treble horn.

I’m fitting in a whole new piece and the binding channel isn’t quite deep enough here, so I’m using a small cutter on my Dremel to even out the depth…

…and I’ve also removed the partial piece of binding in this area because it doesn’t match anyway.

With a clamp or two and the heat gun, the new length of binding fits nicely into place.

There’s also an awkward gap at the rear “point” and that needs fixing.

I’ve thinned a piece of binding so that it’s a neat fit in the gap and glued it in.

When the glue dries, it’s filed flush with the binding…

…and the gap disappears.

Back to the new section of binding in the treble horn- with the glue well dried, the binding is scraped and sanded level and the corner is tidied up…

The pencil line that indicates “square” is just visible. There’s still a bit of a gap below the binding and I’ll use conventional wood filler for that…

The rounding of the back edges has been lost while I’ve been straightening the sides of the guitar and the simplest way of re-rounding the edges is with a coarse file…

…and then sandpaper.

But I do have another major issue that I hadn’t foreseen.

Because this guitar has been fitted with a new carved figured maple top, and because the bridge is not the usual type of bridge, nothing is going to line up!

The IC400 originally had a flat top, not like we now have.

And while the top looks very Les Paul, that’s not how the guitar was designed.

Laying a straight-edge along the frets indicates where the height of the bridge has to be.

And this is what happens…

A careful measure suggests that the bridge is going to be at least 7mm too high…

The bridge measures about 13mm high and I only have about 7mm…

I initially thought that the solution to this discrepancy would be to set the bridge into the top by around 7mm, but I doubt that would solve the problem because of the tailpiece and the loss of appropriate break angle over the bridge.

This is how the tail piece and bridge are designed to work…

Now I’m thinking that what needs to happen is for the top to be reduced in height by about this amount…

The next issue is- how?

I’ve noticed on StewMac’s website their Safe-T-planer (something like that) and I thought a bit of research with my friend Kevin at his power tool shop might yield results, but no- they don’t seem to be available any more.

Kevin suggested that it might be possible to use a router bit in the drill press but neither of us really expected that to work all that well…

But there was nothing to be lost by at least trying the concept and trying it with a piece of scrap made me think that it might work. So setting the drill press to its highest speed and with a sharp 19mm router cutter- and an acute awareness of where my fingers were, I gave it go…

Checking as I went, the top arch is reduced by 7mm and now the bridge will sit at the correct height and the correct break angle of the strings over the saddles is now possible.

While the top is flat, I’ll rout for the inlaid bridge block. (The underside of the bridge and tailpiece indicate the intended curvature of the guitar’s top…)

The routing that’s already been done unfortunately isn’t quite straight and I’ll rectify that as much as possible…

I must be doing something right here- the screws in the bridge block drop straight into the original screw holes.

And even better; when I marked out where I thought the studs for the tail piece should go and drilled the holes- again straight into the originals. Unheard of…

Anyway, with the bridge in place, now the straight edge says that everything is now just where it should be.

Now to reshape the top…

The body is looking more Ibanez Iceman than Les Paul…

Unfortunately, reshaping the top has exposed a small imperfection in the otherwise very attractive tiger-stripe top and all I can do here is to fill the blemish, along with the other dings and holes that have appeared..

So I’ve filled the imperfection but I really don’t like the look…

What needs to happen, I think, is to thoroughly rub wood glue into the area and hopefully “stabilise” the movement in the wood.

I’ve also clamped the area with a piece of perspex and I’ll let the glue dry before I continue on…

From what I can see through the perspex, it looks promising…maybe.

Perhaps I’ve used my quota of miracles for the month…what I suspect I’m dealing with is something like this:-

It’s not visible or even predictable from the top, but sand down to it and the options become limited.

I’ve opened the cracked area as much as possible and again put as much glue into the area as possible and clamped it until tomorrow.

Some of the cracked area has, in fact, closed up.

This morning, I removed the clamp and sanded the area and it seems to fit into the “minimise rather than disappear” category.

While drilling for the output jack and switch holes, it occurs to me that with the blemish stabilised, the sunburst shading covers some of the area…

All might be ok after all, if I do a similar sunburst on the IC400 as I did on the IC210…

Sanding sealer applied…

…and the sunburst.

With the masking tape removed and the binding scraped…

…the clear coats are sprayed and the blemish has thankfully, all but become invisible.

Now I’ll let the paint harden until next week…

Actually, a couple of weeks but now the IC400 can be rubbed back and polished and the finished result looks pretty good.

Now to assemble the guitar…

Brendan has supplied me with all new hardware, including a new set of “Flying Fingers” Ibanez pickups…

…and fortunately, everything has fallen right into place.