1986 San Dimas King V Time Machine

This is the story of the full restoration of my Jackson King V which has taken me 10 years.  There were essentially two restorations, a largely unsuccessful one which began in 1997, followed by a fruitful one which began in 2006. 

July 5, 1997: Doc Holliday’s Pawn Shop

My friend Don, who knows that I desire a Jackson King V, calls and informs me that he has spotted one in a pawn shop in Greenville, SC.  I make the trip down there from Charlotte, head over there with Don, talk the guy down to $200, and walk out with it.



 The guitar is basically a wreck, and has the following issues:


  • It is a dark Mustang red which has been touched up by a rattle-can (hideous).
  • The bridge pickup (a J50B) stops working immediately after the purchase.  The neck pickup is a J50N and works ok.
  • The headstock has clearly been snapped and repaired.
  • It has a beat up OFR which appears to have been retrofitted on there.  I later figure out that the guitar originally had a Kahler tremolo, and the Kahler routes were filled in.  The locking nut appears to possibly have been replaced as well.
  • The truss rod cover is a cheap aftermarket plastic one.
  • One of the pickup rings is buckled and cracked.
  • The headstock has a few dings on it, but it’s not bad.


I have a great time rewiring, setting up, and playing the guitar.  I replace the bridge pickup with a SD “Custom Custom”.  This is my first wiring job, and many mistakes are made.  It needs a real setup badly.  No photos exist of the guitar from this period of time.  Of course I would rather have a minty new USA Jackson, but I do not have the financial means.


August of 1997: Refin #1

A local guy in Charlotte, NC who has experience “painting vans” offers to refinish the guitar for a very reasonable rate.  Originally I wanted a green and yellow sunburst, but he convinces me to let him “go wild” and do his own thing with it.  He uses high quality automotive flip paint and puts a lot of work into it, however the results are disappointing.  Think white and grayish blue stripes and flowers and quasars (!)  The binding is a peeling mess and you can still see traces of the Mustang red.  Definitely not metal, but it is still an improvement.  I do learn that the wings on the guitar are poplar from this project.
December 27, 1997: A.C.’s Guitar Shop

My friend Joe puts me in contact with A.C. Lail out of Hickory, NC (now retired) to get the guitar set up.  Any old skool guitarists from this area may have heard of him, as he made quite a name for himself as a guitar tech.  A.C. got the Floyd dialed in nicely and did a fret dress.  The guitar plays beautifully except for one terrible issue: the Floyd that was retrofitted on the guitar provides for very little fret margin on the low and high E strings.  Those strings constantly fly off of the fretboard if you aren’t extremely careful, and it is an issue all the way from the 1st fret to the 22nd.  Apparently Kahlers have a narrower string-spread than Floyds, and this doesn’t appear to be easily solvable.  The fret shoulders look normal to me.


1997 – 1999: On Tour

The fret margin issue continues to dog me.  I do a few gigs at local bars with the guitar, but am skittish about playing it live.  A low E string flying off the fretboard through a cranked Marshall pretty much sounds like the end of the world.


Sometime around 1999: Tragedy!

The guitar tips from a resting position against the couch, and land strings-first on the carpet.  While not a hard fall, the original headstock repair fails and the headstock snaps yet again.  I take the guitar to Ari Lehtela of LA Guitar Factory to be re-repaired correctly.  Ari is very thoughtful and runs a series of experiments using different woods and glues.  Eventually he decides on Gorilla glue, and does an excellent repair job with a minimal amount of destruction to the finish on the back of the neck.  The wound is still clearly visible, however.  What a shame, something like that just tears your guts out.


1999 – 2006: The Closet Years

In addition to the fret margin issue, the guitar has a terrible hiss to it.  What I don’t realize at the time is that I have used low quality THHN unshielded wire where high quality shielded wire should have been used, and the pickups cavities have become ungrounded by the refin.  The paint on the neck is falling apart and scrapes my hand when I play.  Somewhat disgusted with the whole situation, I relegate the guitar to mostly closet detail for the next seven years.  Ari’s headstock repair holds up well, but I start to steal parts from the guitar. 


Mid 2006: San Dimas Fever

Hmm…what’s all this hoopla about San Dimas Jackson/Charvels?  I dig the King V out of the closet and run the serial number.  J1940…it’s a 1986 San Dimas!  I am kind of a hardtail kind of guy, so I start to think seriously about converting it to a fixed bridge ala Dave Mustaine.  By this time I have acquired many Floyd guitars, but few hardtails.  The paint has seriously degraded by this time despite being played only infrequently (the points are down to bare wood).


December 3, 2006: New Bridge

I ordered a Kahler 7330 from Wammi USA (now Wammi World).  The correct bridge for a 90’s Mustaine King V Pro is a Kahler 3310 with steel saddles (the 3300 has brass saddles).  Neither of these is currently manufactured, but Kahler does offer the 7330 which Wammi claims is “identical” to the 3300 for $119.  This seems the best choice, as the old stock 33XX’s are going for over $200 on eBay.  I later learn that the 7330 is a stamped part, unlike the 33XX’s which are milled (not a big deal).  Another petty difference is that the 7330 says “HYBRID” on it.  All are made in the USA.


December 26, 2006: Goodbye Floyd

I take the King V back to Ari Lehtela of LA Guitar Factory to have the Floyd routes filled in, the Kahler 7330 installed, and a 1 11/16” graphite nut made with the fret margin tuned precisely to my liking.  The shoulders on the frets look fine and are not an issue.  I could probably have it refretted with slightly wider frets, but fear getting the “railroad track” feel.  The 6-way adjustable bridge saddles on the Kahler should be a godsend.  There will be two maple patches needed, front and back.  The current Floyd routes will be routed out to match Ari’s rounded rectangle templates in order to form perfect shapes for the patches.  No filler is used, only some glue and sawdust.  The direction of the grain is cut to match. 



Ari tests the truss rod, and it is working correctly (no obstruction from the earlier repair).  These Jacksons apparently had one-way truss rods.  In one direction, the truss rod screw got tighter and tighter, as the neck got more and more backbow.  In the other direction, as the backbow lessened, the screw just got looser and looser forever instead of passing neutral and tightening up again.  Heavy bottom 10’s (10-52 gauge) are going on, and the nut is cut accordingly.  Ari does a great job on the nut.  He starts with a graphite / Teflon blank that is built on a custom ebony platform.  The Kahler is installed.  The total cost including a basic setup was $200. 





January 16, 2007: Bridge pickup cavity

The bridge pickup cavity is obstructed by the rear patch.  Ari reforms the cavity in a similar fashion as Jackson did the neck cavity: with a drill and not a router.  Little details like that make all the difference in a restoration project.  He re-drills the neck cavity wire tunnel as well.  One really cool retro aspect of this guitar is the neck angle to the body, it is quite dramatic.  When the Floyd was on there, it was non-recessed (which you don’t see much anymore).  However, the saddles on the Kahler can barely get high enough using the provided set screws.  The hunt is on to find slightly longer #4-40 screws so more threads will catch in the bridge and provide better stability.  The high angle of the saddles is actually a good thing as well as far as stability goes.

January 19, 2007: Intonation

The output jack wire tunnel is blocked, and Ari re-drills it.  The Kahler fine tuners are locking up under the tension of the 52 gauge strings.  I applied a single drop of 30-weight “Cat Oil” to the threads of the fine tuners and that freed them up nicely.  Ari sets the intonation and also shows me a cool trick where you run various intervals (roots, thirds, fourths) up and down the neck while listening carefully for pitch defects and making corrections.  The original three-way switch appears to be problematic, so I hard wire the Duncan Custom bridge pickup that is now in there to the output jack.  I realize that the Custom trembucker has an incorrect pole piece spacing for the Kahler.  The Kahler has been tweaked for a Gibson-like spacing of around 2”, which is what the neck seems to be asking for.  There is now plenty of fret margin.  I play the mocked-up guitar like this for a week, and am very encouraged.  Acoustically, the Kahler makes a kind of “clucking” sound, but through my amp it sounds awesome.  After a few days, I decide to get some quotes for refinishing the guitar.  I have been thinking about this for a few weeks, and think that a Ferrari-red finish ala Robbin Crosby will be the best compromise and will keep the cool 1986 vibe intact.  Robbin “King” Crosby is really the guy who I associate with the King V, even more than Mustaine.  His guitars were actually the larger “Double Rhoads” size, but who cares?  This project is now officially re-christened the “1986 King V Time Machine”.  I manage to find long set screws. 


January 23, 2007: Big Head Guitars

I contact a few paint shops about refinishing the guitar.  I do not want to experience a reprise of the first refin fiasco, so I spend some quality time researching the process and writing a detailed spec:


1)     The guitar will arrive already disassembled

2)     The remains of the white paint job that is currently on the guitar should be stripped off.  The guitar will arrive with the face and back of the guitar body and part of the neck already partially stripped (the result of repair work), and fresh shielding paint in the pickup cavities and tape over various grounding locations.  This shielding paint and tape should not be removed.  The neck, headstock, and binding will NOT be taped off by myself.

3)     Great care should be taken to not change the signature beveled edges on the shape of guitar through sanding, so chemical stripping should be employed where possible.

4)     The signature binding on the neck and headstock should not be lifted, damaged, removed, painted, clear coated, or deformed by chemical strippers in any way.

5)     The front of the headstock should NOT be refinished.  It should be lightly scuffed and re-clear coated in order to look new and match the rest of the guitar.

6)     The guitar should be painted "Ferrari Red" in the spirit of a 1986 USA Jackson/Robbin Crosby/RATT "Big Red" guitar.  The paint should be polyester or polyurethane with a clear coat.  All materials used should be as correct as possible for the period.  This link can be used as a reference :

7)     A primer should be used that is consistent with a 1986 USA Jackson and accentuates the red color.

8)     The primer, paint, and clear coat should completely coat the pickup and control cavities (except where I have taped them off).

9)     The paint near the binding should be detailed if necessary to provide a crisp factory look.

10)  The thickness of the primer/paint/clear coat should be consistent with a 1986 USA Jackson and represent a reasonable compromise between durability (very much an issue with pointy guitar paint) and guitar tone.

11)  The locations of all of the existing screw holes (pickup rings, input jack, etc) should be marked and clearly visible through the final paint job.

12)  The guitar will require a bit of additional leveling on the face and back of the body after it has been stripped

13)  The headstock has a few nicks and dings.  Since it will be scuffed and re-clear coated, it may be a good idea to try to touch up the paint a bit. 


Lee Garver at GMW wants no part of the project on account of all the requirements.  Michael Charvel was pretty cool on the phone, but priced me out of working with him.  Paul at Big Head Guitars was excited about the project, and even caught a few mistakes in the spec (mostly regarding the binding).  He uses DuPont Chromabase color and DuPont Chromaclear, which are both urethane based.  I like Paul and we agree on the terms ($380 shipped and 6-8 week lead time). 


January 28, 2007: Cavity cleanup

I dismantle the guitar and bring it back to Ari to be prepped for paint.  I've been wrestling with getting the paint out of the pickup cavities.  There is already like five layers of crap on there, and I didn't want to layer on more paint (what a mess).  Ari lightly grazes the pickup cavities with a router, and it comes out nice and clean.  This should make the shielding paint job go smoothly.  He also fills in two of the bridge ring holes with small dowels and glue, as the original locations were misplaced enough to warp the ring.  Cost: $80.



January 29, 2007: Headstock repair inspection

Ari strips the headstock repair area and inspects it thoroughly.  I'd hate to have cracks or pits or defects form on the repair after it's been repainted, but maybe I'm just being paranoid.  The repair has held up great.  Ari tests the neck joint under stress, and does not observe any movement or issues.




January 31 - February 2, 2007: Graphite Paint

I put three coats of graphite paints in the pickup cavities, with 24 hours of dry time between.  Many manufacturers don’t even bother with shielded cavities, but it’s not a lot of work and worth doing in my opinion.  I cleaned up the ebony fretboard with food-grade mineral oil.  Looks nice!  One issue I am seeing is with the pickup cavities.  The original rings don’t quite cover the cavities, and a small gap is visible.



February 3, 2007: Off to Big Head

The Time Machine shipped out today!


May 15, 2007: Big Head Update

Paul has sent pics of the work in progress.  Looking pretty good!  These shots give a rare view into the construction of a San Dimas-era Jackson.  One odd thing that is apparent about this guitar is how the headstock is a flame maple, while the neck is not.



I am concerned about the control cavity still having the original paint on it, but Paul has indicated that he has already gone ahead and stripped that as well.


June 27, 2007:

I received the Time Machine today!  There were many delays, but I am glad to have it back.  Overall the guitar looks awesome.  The binding is very crisp.  The headstock has been nicely touched up.  The Ferrari red color is stunning. 





June 28, 2007: Frets On The Net

I need to replace the pickup rings.  I buy some tall angled rings from the Guitar Center, and quickly realize that the screw hole pattern is too small.  The ones on this guitar are a little smaller than Charvel oversized rings, but a little larger than standard rings.



Left = standard, middle = King V, right = Charvel oversized.  I contact Dave at Frets On The Net, and place an order for custom black rings.  The Guitar Center rings actually had perfect dimensions as far as the height goes.  Because of the way the neck angle is on this guitar, I feel it would really benefit from tall angled rings (even if they are not “period correct”).  I send Dave the dimensions, and add an extra .10” to the width to cover the pickup cavities nicely.  I also order a B/W/B truss rod cover and control cavity grounding plate.


July 28, 2007: Final Stretch

I need to ground the Kahler.  On most fixed-bridge guitars, they just jam a wire up into the base of the bridge.  I applied some shielding tape under the bridge and soldered the ground wire to it.  I ran it all the way across to the base of the Kahler to hit the exposed conductive brass part nicely.  I don't know if anyone else does it that way but it worked out pretty nice (I checked it with an ohm meter of course).



I have installed the Kahler and original Gotoh tuners.  The wire channels were all blocked by primer and paint, but I got them opened up again.  I love a nice quiet hiss-free guitar, so I went ahead and shielded the cavity with shielding tape.  I put a Full Shred neck version in the neck and a standard-spaced JB (again ala Mustaine)  in the bridge.  I used the original 500 K audio taper pots, the original 220pF cap, and the original black knobs.  I was able to get the original 3-way switch working again with contact cleaner.  On the wiring, I never use electrical tape as heat shrink tubing makes for a cleaner install.



July 30, 2007: New Rings

Dave at Frets On The Net got the parts to me already!  The rings fit perfectly, and cover the gaps on the side nicely.  The tall rings are going to hold the pickups at a perfect height level with the strings, and they won’t be protruding rudely like they were from the original short rings.  The truss rod cover and grounding plate look great too.


August 9, 2007: Fine Tuning

I picked it up from Ari’s today.  There were various setup and stripped screw issues that he fixed.  Buzzing is minimal while the action remains pretty low.  Intonation is dead nuts on.  I made some further adjustments to the string spacing.  I want the maximum spacing possible without getting into those godforsaken fret margin issues.  I think its right where it needs to be now (basically Gibson spacing, more or less). 


August 17, 2007: Arrival at Final Destination: 1986!

I brought the KV in today to Ari for some tuning of the nut.  The 1st string needed an adjustment of the angle, and we got it worked out.  There was some binding going on with strings 4-6, and the 1st string was kind of dead sounding when played open.  Ari got it straightened out.  There were two more stripped pickup ring screws that I fixed with toothpicks and superglue.  The guitar is just a joy to play; it is very lively and just draws you in.  The JB has a ton of bite, and makes for a great lead sound.  It’s a shame that they don’t make these with the poplar wings anymore.  In conclusion, I couldn’t be happier with the way the project turned out.  It has really been a joy, and has made me a huge Jackson King V fan.  Enjoy the pics!