Bancika JPM

Background

As you probably know by now, I am somewhat of a fan of John Petrucci. I’ve always wanted an Ibanez JPM, but they are getting harder and harder to find at reasonable prices. My father had an original Ibanez RG2570MZ body with Edge Zero routing lying around for years, so we got an idea to build a neck for it from scratch and turn it into a JPM homage guitar, but with few minor twists, as usual.

Specs
  • Basswood body with a maple top and JPM control layout.
  • Ibanez Edge Zero II tremolo.
  • DiMarzio Illuminator pickups. I was going back and forth between the period correct Steve Special + Air Norton pickups and some of the modern pickup sets that go with Musicman JP models, and eventually decided to go with the covered Illuminator set.
  • 500K volume control with treble bleed circuit.
  • 500K push/pull tone control tone control that splits both pickups.
  • 3-way Les Paul-style switch.
  • 5-piece quartersawn flame maple neck with two mahogany stripes for extra stability.
  • Bound Macassar ebony fingerboard with offset JPM-style dots.
  • Jescar FW57110-S, stainless steel jumbo fretwire.
Body Work

Even though we started with a brand new original Ibanez body, there was a ton of work needed to change it to a JPM-style body. Unlike most of the RG models, JPM model has a distinctive control layout that Petrucci kept more or less intact through his Musicman range of guitars. One way to move the controls around is to just drill new holes and try to cover up the old ones, but we wanted to do it properly. We took some 6mm of the wood from the original body and installed a maple top that was routed with the new control layout.

Another issue that we needed to deal with is the front tremolo routing. Edge Zero II fits the original Edge Zero cavity just fine, but it is noticeably shorter than Edge Zero which leaves a significant gap behind the fine tuners. Luckily, this was an easy task, since we already placed a new maple top, we just routed it with a smaller cutout for the tremolo.

Unfortunately, I lost photos of this stage of the project, so the earliest photos that are available are ones taken when all the work was done and the primer was applied. Looking at the neck pickup cavity, you can get a sense of how thick the maple top is.

Neck Construction

For the fretboard we picked a beautiful piece of Macassar Ebony with very uniform pattern. It’s not as dark as the conventional ebony, it’s more brown-ish in color with very pronounced red-ish streaks. I originally bought a piece of rosewood for this project, but after seeing this piece at my father’s place, I swapped my rosewood for it 🙂 .

The neck is constructed from three pieces of best quartersawn maple we had with nice flame pattern and two 5mm strips of mahogany. The profile and dimensions are identical to my 2007 Ibanez RG2550EGK. I’m used that neck and it’s very comfortable to for my hands. The headstock front is covered with a piece of maple veneer.

Finishing Saga, Part 1

I was hoping to apply some sort of a finish that would be a clear homage to the JPM style, but would still be one-of-a-kind. After much deliberation, we set a goal to do candy apple red finish, but have the JPM Picasso graphic show through the candy red coat. I got a candy apple red finishing kit that comes with the metallic base coat, the main candy red coat and a clear coat to add that nice deep look.

Since I didn’t have a real JPM in person to try to trace, I used photos from the internet and trace the whole design in vector format, so we can make a PVC foil mask on the CNC cutter. We applied the metallic silver base coat for the candy finish and when it was set, we masked the Picasso design with PVC foil and applied a coat of gray primer. It’s relatively similar hue to the silver base coat, so we were hoping that it would produce a subtle 3D effect once the candy coat and the clear coat are applied.

In case anyone needs it, my vector JPM Picasso trace is available for download here. It’s not super accurate, since it’s traced from a photo, but it’s good enough for me.

So finally we applied the candy coat and results were very promising.

The Picasso design was barely visible or very pronounced, depending on how the light hit the surface. The red was nice and deep and the sparkle of the metallic base coat gave it nice depth. It was very cool.

Alas, few weeks after it was done, the finish just cracked all the way through and was permanently ruined. Needless to say, I was pretty disappointed after all the work we put in.

Finishing Saga, Part 2

So after the fiasco with DIY attempt to finish the guitar we stripped all the candy apple stuff from the body and took it to a local car body shop. I opted for a rich yellow color that Mercedes uses on some of the newer sport models. We found a guy who agreed to spray it for cheap, but the results were less than spectacular. The shade of yellow was not at all what I was hoping for and the quality of the work was very low. There were quite a few visible dust specs and bubbles and together with the milky-yellow shade that is not punchy at all, it was another round of disappointment for me. I won’t even bother posting a photo.

Finishing Saga, Part 3

The third time is the charm, as we found another car body shop that wasn’t as cheap but seemed much better. This time I didn’t want to risk it with Merc yellow, and opted for a much more attractive Porsche Acid Green color (Porsche paint code 2M8). This time it turned out perfect. The finish is done much cleaner and the shade is just great. Very 80s and very in-your-face.

The black hardware and black knobs help the finish stand out even more.

Without the Picasso graphics, it’s down to the offset dots and control layout to keep the spirit of JPM, so most people won’t realize the connection. But true connoisseurs will 🙂 .

For the headstock design we opted for a black plastic plate for the background with chrome foil label applied under the clear coat. I used Ibanez logo as a starting point, extracted the “ban” part and traced the remaining of the “bancika” logo in vector format.

The back of the neck is finished with Tung oil and is very smooth to the touch and the headstock is clear coated. Unlike the original JPM neck, my version has a volute for reinforcement at the meeting point between the neck and the headstock. Also, the original (as most Ibanez guitars from that era) has a headstock that is glued onto the neck. Ibanez moved away from that approach in recent years and has been making the whole neck out of the same slab of wood multi-piece wood. We followed the same approach here.

How Did It Turn Out?

After few weeks of fine tuning and getting it broken in, this guitar proved to be the easiest to play and THE best sounding shred-style guitar I own. We finished the frets the same as they do on Ibanez Prestige guitars, so it feels very smooth and fast to play.

One of the things that needed addressing was the noticeable spring noise, both unplugged and plugged. Unlike regular Floyd Rose and Ibanez Edge tremolos that typically have 3 springs, Edge Zero systems have 5 springs in total – two main springs, two thinner springs for the zero position bar and one for the thumb wheel. They all resonate at different frequencies and add noticeable reverb effect even unplugged. And they are all close to the pickups, just from the other side, so pickups will react to these vibrations. Under heavy distortion things get much worse because all that reverb gets distorted and makes the sound lose focus.

I wrote a separate article on Taming Tremolo Spring Noise, but the general idea is to use foam to prevent the springs from resonating. The result is below.

How About The Sound?

I love how Illuminators sound. Compared to the previous generation of pickups I have in my RG (Crunch Lab and Liquifire), these are clearer and a bit sharper sounding. It could be a combined effect of stainless steel frets, ebony fingerboard and maple top, but the difference is there. They are high output but still very usable when turned down. It can get nice classic rock and hard rock tones. Coil split mode helps a lot with the clean sounds.

Comments
3 Responses to “Bancika JPM”
  1. But why oh why did the finish crack?! I have seen this happen on countless DIY guitars and its always such a shame. The guitar still ended up looking great but I wonder as someone with so much insight in building guitars if you know why this happens? Cheers
    Matt

    • bancika says:

      I have a suspicion that we messed up the clear coat application. Instead of spraying a few layers within couple of hours and then polishing the final layer, my father would spray one layer, wait a couple of days, sand and level, spray another layer, and so on for several weeks.

      • Matthew Cross says:

        Not entirely sure which method of those two is being suggested as the correct one? My guess would be the longer one (as usual with this kind of stuff!) but clarification would be much appreciated. I might try both in the meantime on some scraps to see if your suspicions are correct.
        Cheers
        Matt

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    The idea behind this site is to share my experience with Do It Yourself approach to guitars, amplifiers and pedals. Whether you want to save a couple of bucks by performing a mod or upgrade yourself instead of paying a tech, or want to build your own piece of gear from scratch, I'm sure you will find something interesting here. Also, this is the home of DIY Layout Creator, a free piece of software for drawing circuit layouts and schematics, written with DIY enthusiasts in mind.