Mod Squad(2)

This column features my Mod Squad—a crew of up-and-coming guitar techs who work in my shop. These young techs and I will show you some cool modifications to your guitar that you should feel comfortable doing yourself.

This month, I’d like you to meet Mod Squad member and resident punk Erick Coleman. Erick traveled around the world, playing bass in bands including the Queers and the Beautys, before leaving the road at age 38 to enlist in the Mod Squad. A skilled guitarist and bassist, Erick appreciates weird used guitars, and he particularly likes guitars he feels comfortable practicing difficult maneuvers on—such as “Gigi,” a Mosrite-inspired GPC. GPC stands for Giorgini Precision Craft—a short-lived Seattle guitar company that was owned and operated by Flaviano Giorgini, guitarist for the band Squirtgun.

Erick bought Gigi new in 2001, and he had already refretted her with my favorite fretwire (Stew-Mac #0152, measuring .093" wide and .048" tall), made and installed a bone nut, and installed TV Jones TV ’Tron pickups, a Les Trem whammy bar, and a Wilkinson roller bridge. He had finished the job by setting the action to play like butter. Then, knowing that I’d never even seen Gigi, he laid her on me as a surprise: “Here, dude, I thought you’d like this. It’s you, man.”

Well, I loved her! However, Gigi’s hard maple body was too heavy for a little guy like me. One more modification was needed to complete her makeover—she needed to lose some weight! With the neck and hardware removed (other than the bridge and tailpiece bushings and the two strap buttons), Gigi’s body alone weighed a hefty 5.9 lbs. So I asked Erick to perform “Lite-O-Suction” surgery on her. Lite-O-Suction is a relatively safe and simple operation that involves drilling large holes through the body to diminish some of a guitar’s mass.

[1] I scratched Xs into the finish (marked by arrows) to indicate where I thought the holes would look cool, and Erick drilled small, 1/8" pilot holes entirely through Gigi’s body. The pilot holes guide the larger drill bits, allowing you to drill from both the front and back of the guitar. That way, the bits only have to drill halfway through the body, and the holes meet in the middle. “Drilling holes deep into hardwood causes the drill bit to heat up, which makes the cutting tougher, as well as producing a horrifically loud chirping sound,” says Erick. “I should have worn my hearing protectors!”

[2] For safety, Erick clamped Gigi firmly to the table each time a hole was drilled.

[3] We used Forstner bits for the big holes, because they have a sharp center spur that can center and drill on curves and uneven surfaces, such as the body bevel shown here.

[4] After drilling the holes, Erick painted the exposed wood white, using water-base brushing varnish colored with white, water-based pigment. A mini-paint roller—minus its handle—is the perfect choice for painting the holes.

[5] As Erick put Gigi back together, he controlled the screwdriver tip with the index finger and thumb of one hand—keeping the screwdriver tip from slipping off the head of the screw and onto the glossy finish—and worked the screwdriver with the other hand.

[6] A view of the “Lite-O-Suction” holes—they look cool, and, man, Gigi was sooooo much lighter after her “surgery.”