Ace Forever guitar customization started with the question “What makes an Ibanez Jem so much better than a high-end Prestige or RG model?” After a bit of research and an “I think I can do that” attitude, two brothers armed with an original RG-570 and a few shop tools set to find out.
First, the decision was made that all original parts would be used, and if any hardware needed to be replaced, only original Ibanez equipment would do. There would be no cannibalizing of other manufacturers, and no “cheap” after market replacement parts to cut costs. Ibanez already had a truly superior design, and any modifications to the body, neck or headstock would be made based as closely as possible upon Ibanez blueprints. Modifications would only be made in an effort to enhance the visual appeal or the playability of the guitar. Hence - “Artistic Evolution of Superior Design.”
The most distinguished visual difference between an Ibanez Jem and an RG or Prestige model is the handle, affectionately called the "monkey grip" in Ibanez circles. After seeing a lot of botched grips floating around on Ebay and the likes, we consulted a few experts at Projectguitar.com
and the Ibanez Jem Blueprints. The finished monkey grip is as correct in size and position as possible and its finish is comfortably smooth.
Tremolo and Lion’s Claw Routing
The second most distinguished visual feature of the Jem guitars is the "Lion's Claw" routing beneath the superior Ibanez Edge and Edge Pro tremolos. This routing allows for some amazing tremolo bar techniques, most notably by artists like Steve Vai. Our Lion's Claw is initially routed and then hand carved and finished to achieve the same unrivaled playability.
The tremolos themselves are assessed mechanically as well as visually to be free of defects or flaws, and if needed, replaced with new. The locking Edge and Edge Pro tremolos stay in tune after much serious dive-bombing and pull-ups and are arguably the best tremolos ever made.
The ultra-thin 24 fret super wizard necks are assessed for straightness and action height. On the Sapphire Metallic
model, the fretboard was replaced with Madagascar Ebony. Madagascar Ebony is one of the darkest and densest most fretboard tone woods, and one of the most difficult woods to procure. The “disappearing pyramids” inlays are hand-cut and inlayed from Mother of Pearl and Blue Abalone from DePaule Supply.
The fretboard and inlays are then worked completely smooth and 3/32" side dot position markers are added. Dunlop 6150 fretwire is pressed in place and dressed. 6150 fretwire is wide like Gibson, but a little bit taller, and totally comfortable on the super wizard necks. Ibanez Gotoh tuners are featured on the headstock.
Each Ace Forever custom is completely unique. The finish is a 100% cotton quilting fabric that has been hand-selected for its appealing design. After completely stripping the original finish from the guitar body and headstock, the fabric is adhered, trim to form and sealed. Createx’s AutoAir Highlight Interference colors are applied on the sides and faded into the fabric to produce a seamless transition from paint to fabric.
A minimum of 24 coats of Xtreme KlearKote urethane clear are then sprayed onto the body and headstock. After sufficient drying and curing time, Meguiar's Professional Autobody Products are applied and hand polished to achieve a deep, glossy finish that is extremely durable, non-yellowing, and amazingly easy to clean and shine with a bit of automotive wax and a soft cloth. (Of course, Meguiar’s Hi-Tech Yellow Wax ##26 is recommended!)
Our customs are equipped with 500K tone and volume pots with a.33uF capacitor on the tone control and a 300k ohm resistor and 560pF capacitor on the volume. This allows for a particularly bright sound that “warms up” a bit as the tone and volume are backed off.
The Amethyst Metallic
model has a Seymour Duncan
(TB-4) JB humbucker in the bridge, and a (SH-2) Jazz humbucker in the neck. The center single-coil is a Dimarzio
Area58. In the Sapphire Metallic
model, a Dimarzio Evo2 humbucker is in the bridge, and a PAF-Pro commands the neck. The Dimarzio Area58 is the single coil of choice here too, for its hum-canceling, almost vocal-like Strat characteristics.
The selector switch is a 5-way mega switch that allows great mixing capabilities from the three pick-ups.
After re-assembly, each guitar is then sent to Crossroads Guitar Shop
in Bailey’s Crossroads, Virginia for PLEK Pro service. The PLEK PRO Complete Setup includes PLEK PRO Computer Scan, Truss rod adjustment, Computer controlled fret dress, action setting, nut slot cutting, tuning and intonation. More information about PLEK can be found at plek.com.
It is of note that even Gibson has started marketing their 2008 Les Pauls as being PLEKed. There are only a handful of qualified PLEK Pro technicians in the United States, and Vince at Crossroads is one of the best.
Finally, each Ace Forever Custom comes with a new Ibanez UV-1000 hard shell case that fits like a glove. The triple-locking combination cases feature an interior compartment and a super-soft lining for protection.
While there are many custom guitar shops that turn out hundreds of top-quality guitars each year, Ace Forever Customs are handcrafted through each step of the process. Depending on the level of customization needed, each guitar can take 4-6 months for completion, and the finished product is 100% unique. Many thanks to all of our friends below for sharing their knowledge and expertise, as well as some much-needed enlightenment along the way! Check back often for updates and pictures of newly customized Ibanez guitars. Currently in the works for full customization is a J Custom 1570.
Crossroads Guitar Shop
Randy Wood Guitars
Luthiers Mercantile International, Inc.