I have recently come into possession of a new electric guitar for my wall. I got a bargain through eBay of a used and slightly bruised Vintage V100 guitar. It’s main problems were that one of the machineheads (or tuners) was missing it’s tip. It was the plastic green snot type tuner and the plastic and had obviously been bashed / broken off at some point. Also there were fairly large gouges on the back of the guitar body. Everything else was fine such as other common mistreatment and accident areas such as the headstock ends, lower body edges, neck, strap pegs and pickup switch. No electric faults either. So I was happy to bag this bargain.
I’ve owned a couple of Les Paul type guitars in the past and I didn’t have one at this time, so I wanted something with some beef available to me to play rock and distorted sounds upon. I’ve played this guitar quite a bit now and I’m happy it fills it’s role well. I prefer it’s distorted and overdriven bridge sounds to that of my hand made Parts-a-caster with humbucker. Also I find the neck position is brighter and more usable, to me, than those neck positions in the Tokai LS85 (Japanese) and Epiphone Les Paul Custom (Korean) models I have owned previously. Talking to Mike, at Gemini Pickups, he spoke of the Vintage V100 sounds as being somewhere between those of a Les Paul and an SG rather than just a clone of it’s obvious influence – the Les Paul.
The current specs of the V100 models are as follows;
Top: Solid Carved Mahogany (GT/ WR/ TSB/ BB/ AW)
Flame Maple Veneer (HB/ CS/ IT)
Neck: Mahogany – Set Neck
Fingerboard: Rosewood, Scale: 24.75″/ 628mm, Frets: 22
Neck Inlays: Pearloid Crown
Tuners: Wilkinson® Deluxe WJ44 Chrome (GT/ CS), Gold (TSB/ BB/ WR/ GDL)
Pickups: V100TSB/BB/CS Wilkinson® Double Coil x 2
Hardware: Chrome (GT/ CS) Gold (TSB/ BB/ WR/ GDL)
Controls: 2 x Volume/ 2 x Tone/ 3-Way Toggle
I’ve said current specs because, the above don’t seem to tally with my own example. For instance I think I have a Tobacco Sunburst model but the top looks like a piece of wavy maple to me. Also the top is one piece, there is no join, it’s definitely a continuous slice of wood. Also because the back was badly scratched I decided to sand it down, I kept going, and going, and going and got to the mahogany, it was originally a pretty uniform brown gravy colour. As you see in the picture the back also seems to be a single piece of mahogany! That’s a bit of a surprise and a shame it was covered so thickly with the treacle coloured varnish.
I’ve read in various places that these guitars are made in Vietnam, though there is hardly any sign of serial numbers, model or any manufacturing data anywhere on the guitar. The pickups are supposed to be of a design imparted by the original Gibson PAF designer Seth Lover to Mr Trev Wilkinson of Vintage. They couldn’t say that if it wasn’t true, I think these pickups will be staying in the guitar unless I have some test pickups come in that would be comparable in nature. If I think they are a bit bright I can always use the tone control on my amp!
I managed to get a replacement machinehead from Peterborough Music, which is an excellent, friendly and helpful guitar shop. It’s easy to find near Peterborough Market in the city centre and they have an online store and blog etc. Now I’ve got the new machinehead and don’t have to tune up using a pair of pliers I have got round to changing the strings to a heavier gauge (I think it had some 9’s on, felt too much like little elastic bands). This has broadened the tone and, as always, new strings just ring out and twang so much nicer. The new machinehead is also a Wilkinson, matching design, but I asked for chrome, forgetting I had a gold set!
I’ve also fixed up the guitar action a bit, lowering it and adjusting a couple of frets with some files to remove fret buzz. I’m happy with that now but I feel that the fret ends, whilst polished and smoothed nicely are a little bit square in profile for my taste. I definitely feel it’s noticeably notchy compared to my other guitars so I might have to get my files out again to make them less square and more round. With these mass produced lower price bracket guitars you should be prepared to do a bit more work to make them fit your own preferences. For the pickups I’ve lowered them a little bit in their mounts but heightened some of the pole pieces to fit my chord work. For my bridge pickup the main adjustment is that the A string pole piece is the tallest, I like it that way for riffing about with power chords.
The cosmetic finish was very good on the guitar, all the blemishes were caused by the previous owner! I am very happy with the top and back and the mother of pearl inlay in the headstock is wonderfully refractive. I’ve had the control plates off the back, when I was sandpapering etc, the electronics seemed tidy with 500k pots. The pots themselves seemed to be half the diameter of any I’ve seen and installed myself which was a bit of a surprise again. Though I have no issues with the workings of the volumes and tones, they are as good as any other analogue controls I’ve used on a passive guitar before. Another thing I had to do was file a scratchy little plastic node off the pickup selector switch! I’ve read that someone else did this on their V100. Took about half a minute to smooth it, indivisibly improved, but feels better now!
Overall I think this guitar is a very fine player, it’s filling in the position of classic rock guitar in my modest collection. It does indeed feel less refined or sophisticated than the Tokai LS85 I had (that cost lots more $£$). It’s hard to say exactly what that difference is but I think it’s probably a lot of small differences adding up. Mainly I would say if I cut the nut a little more and filed those fret ends to a more rounded profile I’d start to feel this guitar has more panache than it does right now. I’m going to do that and I’ll let you know if it gets there. If it doesn’t that may be more my fault than the guitar’s though!
So if you’re hankering for a Les Paul a-like then I’d definitely give a Vintage V100 a go. As with all guitars you can pick up several of the same model off a shop wall and they will all give a little different feeling, so it’s good to go to the store to buy if you can.
Let me know what you think of your V100!