Route 59: The Desolation Of Smaug

Discussion in 'Standard Guitars' started by TimSE, May 19, 2021.

  1. TimSE

    TimSE Tone Chasr Contributor

    Messages:
    4,600
    Likes Received:
    1,484
    Joined:
    Dec 19, 2007
    Location:
    Hampshire, UK
    Route 59: The Desolation of Smaug

    *ominous intro theme plays*

    Gibson’s love of gold has grown too fierce! When this happens, only bad things can follow…

    The first they heard was the noise like a Humbucker coming over from the East! Their amps growled in the hot, dry gain!

    He was a Tobacco Burst from the East! SMAUG HAD COME!

    Such shred was had that day!
    For the Brand of “Gibson” means nothing to Smaug! His eye was set on another prize!

    For a Tone Chasr will covert tone with a dark and fierce desire.

    Gibson was lost… and a new KING UNDER THE MOUNTAIN has arrived!


    *CINEMATIC INTRO!*

    It’s the year 1960: The 2-year-old Gibson Sunburst Les Paul Standard model has given the Les Paul name a small boost to its declining sales numbers, however it was not enough. Gibson now make a decision that would set in motion a sequence of events that would be talked about for generations! They discontinued the Sunburst Les Pauls.
    The “Bursts” were lost…

    The Les Paul model would not be made by Gibson again until the late 60’s. Even when they did come back, they were never the same again. Even today, Gibson still don’t make the bursts exactly right, using 100% Hyde glue where the original Bursts used fish based glue for the headstock logo and a different epoxy-like resin for attaching the maple cap onto the mahogany bodies. The depth of the neck tenon is smaller and even the front dip/carve isn’t quite the same.

    The Bursts were the first solid body electric guitars to have figured maple tops visible! Something I think we all take for granted today. They would see the worlds first introduction of the Humbucker aka the “PAF” or “patent applied for” pickups. Introduction of the carved top electric guitar body. Introduction of the tune-o-matic bridges that can be adjusted for intonation aka the ABR-1, named after “adjustable bridge”.
    Lots of amazing technology came into play for these guitars. These build styles would unknowingly become a standard for all electric guitars for the next 60 years and counting!

    For years, artists would look for these strange and beautiful instruments, and some would end up in the hands of some upcoming super stars. Eric Clapton, Jimmy Page, Peter Green, Billy Gibbons to name a few. And not only that, but these guitars would also end up being played on some of the most iconic albums in history. From the bands these artists played, even to artists such as Steve Lukather of Toto, who as well as the Toto albums, would use his ’59 Burst on Michael Jacksons Thriller album!
    These guitars became part of rock history and over time, have started to fetch quite a hefty price tag…

    The most well-known Burst is undeniably “Greeny”, Originally owned by Peter Green, which is where its name came from. It would end up with his guitar student Gary Moore of Thin Lizzy, and in more recent years, has found it’s way into the hands of Metallica’s very own Kirk Hammett.



    The rumour is that Greeny cost $2million! Well, this has been denied and Kirk himself has said it didn’t even cost $1m, however it likely wasn’t far of that impressive $1 million mark…. Which is pretty insane, still.



    BUT WHY!? Why are these guitars so sought after? They are just strings and wood, right? Well, yes but something magical did happened in the late 50s.

    After WWII, America had become a powerhouse of manufacturing. During this time, a lot of stars aligned for Gibson.
    Excellent craftsmanship by the luthiers at the Gibson Kalamazoo Factory, excellent quality and OLD wood from various parts of the world and America, which are extremely rare these days. We are talking Brazilian Rosewood boards which has been an endangered species and firmly on the CITES list since 1991, east American curly maple (this is why a lot of old Burst have dark lines in the maple. These lines are mineral deposits from the area the trees were grown!), Solid 1pc bodies and 1 pc necks of old hondourus Mahogany.
    Even some of the unknown details like the red aniline dye used on the ’58 and ’59 models, which were UV sensitive, and would fade in direct sunlight. Gibson would change this during 1960 but this is why Bursts can look so strikingly different from one another. If you happen to see a 58/59 with a ton of red, you can bet it’s spent most of it’s life in its case. Some bursts had faded before even leaving the shops, like the burst known as “red-eye” which retained its red spot due to the price tag hanging from the guitar while near the window in the music shop it was sold from. A fun thing to do is to check under the “poker chip” and you’ll see its original red finish!

    1959_gibson_les_paul_standard_9_0821_ts.jpg

    Some Bursts would darken over time too. This would happen when the red dye was applied on thicker than normal. Usually done to cover any imperfections in the wood top, and this is what happened to Joe Perry of Aerosmith’s Burst, which would end up being bought by Slash for $8000 in the late 80’s, and is THE guitar used in the November Rain video.





    … But they were all of them, deceived…. For another guitar was made. In the far East, a company called Fernandez has built in secret, a MASTER BURST! 1 Burst to rule them all!

    :lol:
    Well, not really but this is a really fascinating part of the story!

    The reputation that Gibson had built for themselves managed to reach Asia during the 60s and demand for the Gibson Les Paul models were growing rapidly! However, Gibson chose not to do anything about it… As a result, to get a Gibson in Japan, was VERY expensive due to shipping and import costs. They essentially priced themselves out of their own market.
    So in the late 60’s a few companies were founded and started making Gibson clones and the very early ones even used the Gibson name and logos! This would quickly change, and these brands would start making these guitars with their own names: Tokai, Greco and BURNY!

    Tokai are probably the most well-known, as they have made MANY guitars in their time. Greco have really gained some market presence these days and the earlier version of these Gibson copies can fetch prices into the thousands. And then there is Burny… Burny are just slightly left-of-centre and as a result aren’t as well-known as the others. But those who DO know, know how great these guitars are and are considered by many the best of the bunch! In 1995/96, Burny would move their manufacturing over to China and these Chinese models are a bit puke so make sure to get yourself a Japanese made model. That’s the key. That’s the secret!

    These 70s/80s/early 90s made in japan model Les Pauls are considered truly excellent examples of a Les Paul guitar, and at a fraction of the price of some of the high-end CS Gibsons.
    Not only that, but the world is also still sleeping on them and I have no doubts that these guitars will soon follow Greco and be worth far more in the future than they are today, but that’s just like my opinion, man.

    Imagine an early era Gibson Les Paul but made to Japanese quality standards! The Japanese are hands-down the best manufacturers of pretty much anything in the world. And given that by the 70s/80s, Gibson had started to really struggle and were implementing cost-cutting manufacturing methods, the best Les Pauls you could buy were coming from Japan.
    These clones would gained and to this day, maintained a reputation as “Better Gibsons”. These are the guitars that would cause the “lawsuit era” for Gibson.


    So a few days ago, THIS BEAST kicked in my doors, ate my people and sacked my homeland! The new KING Under The Mountain was home!

    fdxv5hctoacywcgnycbe.jpg
    ktbnujntfiepmhzikzsu.jpg lvudlrqrwczsydwppb1t.jpg jrvq9mmer99avhvzg6jn.jpg caxa1qn0iz1sbtkvmoil.jpg
    gkphuolkhmafkjaaioco.jpg nogpx6bixbywsx7dcrcg.jpg ynnzey4dqo5zywzaye5y.jpg

    FLAME IN THE DARKNESS!

    Seriously though, this thing is nothing short of stunning! Both in looks, feel and tone. My god, these pickups are soooooooo smooth, creamy and a nice crunch on 10 to the sparkly top end. It’s actually kind of mind blowing how good this thing is.

    I’ll put up some videos on it soon! My recent wrist pain is getting better so I’m not far off being able to play properly again. Not a moment too soon either!

    And for the record, none of this was planned, the whole LOTR story thing. Im just winging it :lol: The guitar, trading my Gibson a week after I got it, discovering Burny/MIJ guitars and getting this one.
    I knew it needed a name as we must respect our elders. And even though it technically a tobacco burst, this doesn’t feel like tobacco to me! This is all Blood Red Fire! This makes me think of a flame in the darkness.
    Being a huge history/lore buff and loving long deep stories like LOTRs, and coincidentally naming my first thread “An Unexpected Journey”, I have decided to name this guitar after the greatest Dragon of the 3rd age!

    Chiefest and greatest of calamities: Smaug!
     
  2. TimSE

    TimSE Tone Chasr Contributor

    Messages:
    4,600
    Likes Received:
    1,484
    Joined:
    Dec 19, 2007
    Location:
    Hampshire, UK
    Now here’s where the fun begins!
    DATING this sucker. Because the more you look into the Burny line of guitars, you realise its actually pretty hard to pinpoint their origins the further back you go.

    Smaug was originally listed as an 1989 RLC-65 when I first saw it. This is definitely wrong as the Standard clones were known as FLG and later would change to RLG. The year could be correct, however the best way to date a Burny is either with a serial number or codes on the pots, assuming they are original. Sometimes you can get into more detail with types of wires used, logo/script positioning and finish.
    It is quite common for Burnys to be labelled incorrectly given they had a less-than-ideal way of serialising them, as the serial number is simply the date they were made.
    The “-XX” number refers to the PRICE they were sold at, at the time. An RLG-65 was sold for 65,000 yen. As inflation and time creep up, so does the price, so as the years went on the model number increased with no real changes to the guitar.

    Fortunately the catalogues of these guitars are uploaded here

    Without boring you all half to death, I will summarise my findings in the top comment below

    Smaug was built in the Dyna Gakki factory between 1986-1989. I know this because the Dyna cavity routes are different to all the other factories, and from 1989 onwards, the logo/script position on the headstock changed.
    Unfortunately for me, Smaugs pots are not coded but here is the interesting thing, THEY SHOULD BE!
    All Burny models between 1981-1991 used the same pots that had dateable codes… Except mine. We know mine still has original pots as the braided hookup wire is very uncommon, and this detail was found on the very early 80’s models.

    I am very confident these are a variant of the VH-1. Not the original VH-1s as they had braided wires, but these are still VH-1s. Mostly because I happen to find THIS picture from a 5-year-old listing for THIS guitar.

    bwua2kulo6cmxavplcoj.jpg sx8wlgzeh20ljibyc5hc.jpg xg2xd2yka9rrbqa761im.jpg

    The key detail is the VH-1 sticker on the Neck pickup mount ring. This sticker is no longer on the guitar.

    So here is a super cool detail. This might very well be a 1987 model. I have been looking up EVERY Burny For Sale listing I can find, past and present, for the last couple weeks. I found something very interesting on some of the 1987 models. They had codeless pots as well! The same as Smaug and neither of these guitars should have had them!

    Here is my simple theory:
    Some point in 1987, the normal supply of pots ran out and they had to use reserve/old stock. They grabbed some pre-81 pots (the very same that Smaug and the ’87 listings had) and used them while they waited for the next delivery.

    Now here’s the REALLY interesting part… I was born in 1987! I might have accidentally bought a birth year guitar! I’ve not been able to confirm yet, but I have 3 pretty good reasons to believe it.
    They are:
    1. Dyna Gakki factory built = 1986
    2. Headstock logo/script positions = before end of 1988
    3. Other 1987 Burny listings share same uncommon pots = 1987!
    Very cool if true! Hopefully I find a way of confirming this one day.


    A quick TLDR of Smaugs spec features:

    Very possibly from 1987 – my birth year!
    1pc Mahogany neck
    Rosewood board
    1pc Mahogany body
    15mm thick maple top with flamed veneer
    Old Gibson ABR-1 style Bridge
    500k pots with paper & oil caps
    Original frets, although I expect a refret isn’t too many years away (Not yet though!)
    Deluxe kluson tuners
    ’59 neck profile
    24.75” scale
    No chambering of any kind!
    VH-1 PAF clones

    So far, this is the closest I have come to a 1959 Les Paul! 1 missing detail is the lack of Brazilian rosewood and this guitar looks too damn good for me to want to make any mods to it. I mean it’s over 30 years old! I can’t be doing that to this beautiful thing!
    We have amazing sounding PAF pickups. Old wood and super high build quality. It’s rare and has battle scars. Importantly it has the old style ABR-1 bridge that mounts directly into the maple top, not into recessed mounts like all modern Gibsons do. VERY important to me, on my Route 59 journey.
    Stunningly dark rosewood. Lovely natural aging. Lovely everything! This Guitar is nothing short of incredible.

    But soon others will look to the Mountain! I fear something big is preparing itself, hidden in the shadows….

    There is a War coming…

    TO BE CONTINUED!

    For refs, I have taken a lot of details from these websites, for those interested:
    japanguitars.co.uk
    FERNANDES Catalogues

    And here is part 1 of this story, for anyone who missed it
    Route 59: An Unexpected Journey
     
  3. budda

    budda Do not criticize as this Contributor

    Messages:
    28,223
    Likes Received:
    10,607
    Joined:
    Jan 22, 2007
    Location:
    Earth
    I am not reading all that :lol:
     
  4. TimSE

    TimSE Tone Chasr Contributor

    Messages:
    4,600
    Likes Received:
    1,484
    Joined:
    Dec 19, 2007
    Location:
    Hampshire, UK
    I know :lol: But its pretty damn interesting if you do change your mind ;) You might be glad you did, being a man of culture, and one who enjoys LPs
     
    budda likes this.
  5. MartinMoyan0

    MartinMoyan0 SS.org Regular

    Messages:
    7
    Likes Received:
    8
    Joined:
    Jul 13, 2009
    Location:
    Rosario, Argentina
    I read all the post, altought LPs are not my cup of tea I learnt a lot.

    Lovely guitar, congrats!!!
     
    TimSE likes this.
  6. budda

    budda Do not criticize as this Contributor

    Messages:
    28,223
    Likes Received:
    10,607
    Joined:
    Jan 22, 2007
    Location:
    Earth
    I was at work, very risky business :lol:
     
    BenjaminW and TimSE like this.
  7. Mboogie7

    Mboogie7 SS.org Regular

    Messages:
    213
    Likes Received:
    243
    Joined:
    May 12, 2016
    Location:
    Iowa
    I dig posts like this. I’m admittedly horrible when it comes to les Paul knowledge, but do find it fascinating.

    great looking guitar! Congratulations!
     
    TimSE likes this.
  8. TimSE

    TimSE Tone Chasr Contributor

    Messages:
    4,600
    Likes Received:
    1,484
    Joined:
    Dec 19, 2007
    Location:
    Hampshire, UK
    Thank you kindly! Glad I have at least helped open the door to this stuff. Blows my mind!


    Ahhh fair enough! :lol:
     
    budda likes this.
  9. TimSE

    TimSE Tone Chasr Contributor

    Messages:
    4,600
    Likes Received:
    1,484
    Joined:
    Dec 19, 2007
    Location:
    Hampshire, UK
    186479542_855116545080798_7802928403951752852_n.jpg
     
    budda, BenjaminW and CM_X5 like this.
  10. Frostod

    Frostod SS.org Regular

    Messages:
    354
    Likes Received:
    272
    Joined:
    Mar 30, 2012
    Location:
    Germany
    Your guitar was most probably made in 88 or 89 if the PUs are the original ones. These are not the original (super expensive) VH1 clones, but the "new" ones that sound like the old VH2 and VH4. These should be higher output.
    Grey baseplate, grey wire = new VH1
    brass/gold baseplate, braided or grey wire = old VH1, VH2 or VH4
    The PU cover however throws me off

    The trussrod cover has no wings, these came around 88, maybe a bit later. The headstock script shifted around 88/89 as you said.
    Somehow I don't think that these electronics are still original BUT there were transition guitars and I am sure that they sometimes worked with what they had in the factory so anything is possible
     
    TimSE likes this.
  11. Ben Pinkus

    Ben Pinkus SS.org Regular

    Messages:
    532
    Likes Received:
    411
    Joined:
    Oct 12, 2016
    Location:
    London
    For someone who knows relatively little about older LP's that was very interesting, and enjoyed the LOTR theme continuation from your last thread.

    Glad you've found a pretty unique piece!
     
    TimSE likes this.
  12. TimSE

    TimSE Tone Chasr Contributor

    Messages:
    4,600
    Likes Received:
    1,484
    Joined:
    Dec 19, 2007
    Location:
    Hampshire, UK
    I think you are spot on! I think these are actually VH-3s as they have the nickle base plates. I know there were labelling all their pickups VH-1s at this time and pretty sure these do have a hotter output, although I havent measured them yet.

    Also this guitar did have the winged TRC that was swapped out by an previous owner. Found some old pictures with the original TRC.
    I think I do have a cross-over year guitar cus of the unexpected parts used. Only small bits but Script position, hook up wires, pots etc. I have my fingers crossed for '87 cus of birth year but it's a late 80s model at least for sure.

    Thanks for the input :D :yesway:


    Thanks my man! I didn't really care or know much about LPs until this year. I've been fascinated by their history!
     
    Frostod likes this.
  13. Andromalia

    Andromalia Pardon my french

    Messages:
    8,200
    Likes Received:
    2,277
    Joined:
    Dec 24, 2009
    Location:
    Le Mans, France
    For the longest of times I thought it was "Bunny".
     
    TimSE likes this.
  14. Furtive Glance

    Furtive Glance "Bite my glorious, golden ass!"

    Messages:
    1,461
    Likes Received:
    766
    Joined:
    Feb 13, 2010
    Location:
    Nevada, USA
    *throws imaginary rep points due to post effort
     
    TimSE likes this.
  15. TimSE

    TimSE Tone Chasr Contributor

    Messages:
    4,600
    Likes Received:
    1,484
    Joined:
    Dec 19, 2007
    Location:
    Hampshire, UK
    I bet so many people call it that too. I did until I started looking up video reviews on them :lol:
     

Share This Page