On the left is a photo taken at the Jackson Custom Shop when the guitar was completed. The hang tag photo I took when the guitar arrived in Finland and I opened the case for the first time. What a day that was!
My motivation for this custom order was my favorite band - Therapy?. I wanted a Jackson that would be suitable for playing their style of music. I took some features from Andy Cairn's guitars as the basis and put them on a Star body shape which is a personal favorite. It felt natural with Gibson specs cause it's based on the Explorer. Also Andy played a black Explorer in the "Screamager" video which was the first time I heard the band. I had this vision that short scale neck would make a neck thru Star body proportions just perfect and as far as I know it was the first time this had been done. Initially I took the tribute thing a bit too far but later settled for more Jackson style looks especially with hardware color. White binding was something I thought would add needed contrast and in this case work better than the classic ivoroid.
The build quality is naturally very high. However it's not like it was in the 80s. The inlay work seems more machine made and the bindings are a bit harsh looking at certain spots. The mahogany woods are lightweight and resonate very strongly. The sound is punchy and fat and very articulate. The guitar is loud acoustically but still balanced sounding. The response from the guitar is strong and can be felt in both playing hands. Natural sustain is long and it has that mahogany "vroom" to it. The fretboard wood is dark, even and dense looking. Overall it seems only the highest quality woods were used for the guitar. The neck is one piece with scarf joint. I was actually adviced by the CS staff to go with a 3-piece for more stability but since the neck was so fat I knew it would be fine. The body wood is so similar to the neck wood that the joint lines are hard to see. It almost looks like one piece of wood. I ordered Duncan 59 pickups from the factory but I knew from the start I would end up changing them to something older. My choice was a pair of pre 86 Jackson J50s (J50B & J50N) with black pole pieces. They have a warm dynamic PAF sound and also look cool. The original Gotoh TOM (JT390) was good but I like the feel of the old Rhoads TOM and Dave Wescott from www.fretsonthenet.com built me a replica for my custom. I think the brass saddles add a nice touch to the look of the guitar. The guitar came with a chrome 3-way switch with black tip. I thought it looked kinda clumsy so I changed it to an older black one.
The color I speced was dark trans red which is not a standard finish option. I was hoping for Dr Pepper (another favorite) can color and it was a nearly a perfect match. A problem I have with new guitars is that they are so damn clean. This problem can only be solved by playing the guitar and giving it some action. I loaned the guitar to Jannika B studio sessions and to one metal cover band gig so it got something besides home use. I've been using it myself in rehearsals, studio and live ever since founding Dice of Fate. Now it's starting to look like a real guitar!
Worth noting is that due to the TOM with stop-tail bridge option the body is larger than on "normal" Stars. The "V cut-out" is not as deep. I personally prefer this look and of course there's more wood left. :)
Mistakes by the custom shop:
- Wrong logo size - I speced 80% and got 100%
- Not enough neck angle - there isn't much room to adjust the action lower. This isn't a problem for me but it's clearly a risky manufacturing mistake and for some players could be a big issue.
- Minor finishing issue - laquer was missing from the top corner of the headstock. Might have been a buffing accident.
- G&G case - a positive surprise since I speced the cheaper SKB case... :)
Things I should have speced differently:
- No custom shop logo. I originally wanted it there so it would be clear it's a custom order instrument. But lookswise a cleaner headstock is a lot better.
- Smaller frets. The jumbo frets are so tall that when playing hard intonation is a problem. They should be levelled lower or just be smaller to begin with. I originally speced normal fretwire but changed later to jumbos for purely cosmetical reasons. Not a good decision.
- no interaction during the building process
- loooooong delay before shipping
- overall customer service
- neck profile
Did I get what I ordered?
Yes and no. I had to tweak it but soundwise I got more than I could have asked for and I'm very happy they nailed the neck profile. No matter what you spec it doesn't mean anything unless you bond with the guitar. To me it's more important to have a good sounding and playing guitar than to have all the little details as I speced them. In that sense I got very lucky.
The road from a dream to reality is often long. Here's a summary of events related to this order:
06-12-2005 First spec draft sent for quote
16-12-2005 First quote received
26-12-2005 Signed spec form
17-08-2006 Final Inspection
14-02-2007 Arrived at the store
23-02-2007 Received from UPS
Above are the final mockup I made before ordering the guitar and a live photo taken 3 years later when I played the first ever Dice of Fate gig with it. And of course we had to do a cover of Screamager! :)