About 9-10 days before this post was written, I was once again “seduced” by my Reverb.com feed (comprising a general list of ESP, LTD and Edwards gear). To say I wasn’t really looking for a Kirk Hammett signature series guitar of the KH series persuasion would be a downright lie, because looking back at my (on and off) guitar-playing life, I had always wanted one.

My first ever electric guitar was a plywood Korean-made black Epiphone Strat copy with an Explorer headstock. Its truss rod cover had ‘GIBSON’ etched on it, which is true as Epiphone is a company owned by Gibson. I remembered a metallic red Epiphone (by Gibson, of course) electric guitar which was procured by my then school in Seremban for the band club, and thought to myself, “Wow! A Gibson!”. Such naïveté. As a skint med school student, owning this Epiphone Strat was a really big thing on many fronts. It was a “Gibson”, the Explorer headstock was reminiscent of that used by Metallica’s James Hetfield, and the overall black super Strat look to this Epiphone meant it looked (a bit, and if you blur your eyes a tad) like Kirk Hammett’s ESP KH-2. So much so, I later even tried to emulate Kirk’s battered KH-2 by pasting a red piece of paper with the word “Krik!” just below the bridge next to the control knobs – anything to have a guitar that remotely resembled one of my guitar heroes in the ‘tallica.

The LTD KH-25 which I was alerted to was a second hand from a chap in San Sebastian, Spain (who said he was letting this go because he owns too many guitars – why does that sound familiar). He initially put it up for sale on Reverb.com for GBP500-ish. I shot my brother a quick Whatsapp message and kinda immediately agree that it was too much for a made in ‘Nam guitar. Interestingly, though, due to the limited nature of the KH-25, its original RRP was going to the tune of GBP669 back in 2012. Not too shabby, if I should say so myself. Another thing that kinda put me off was the pickup upgrade the seller had installed. He had replaced the stock active ESP pickups with the EMG Het set. Now, there’s nothing wrong whatsoever with these fantastic pickups, but apart from these set being the “wrong” choice for the KH-25 (it’s Kirk’s guitar, not James’), I already have three guitars equipped with the Het set. Nevertheless, I clicked watch.

The clincher came when Reverb.com alerted me that the seller had reduced the asking price to about GBP426 (he was selling in Euros, hence the odd pricing). I thought about the price issue discussed earlier but I am pretty good with persuading myself with reasonable arguments for and against buying this guitar. The Het set is easily GBP175-ish on the market. And since I can offer my own price, buying this at a price that is more than, say, 300 squids should be reasonable. I offered GBP400 for it and went around my business. The thing was, though, if he accepted the offer the rules on Reverb.com say that I had to buy it. I knew I would, though. Happy to say, I was greeted by an email of my offer’s acceptance the very next day. This was the Friday a week before this recent weekend. Fast forward to this past Friday, the courier had it delivered much to my surprise as the tracking was a bit useless to say the least.

The KH-25 was still in tune out of the box. The strings felt a tad heavy when I played it (the seller later messaged that it was strung with 48-11s). It sounds and plays gorgeous. But I had to restring the guitar with my usual wimpy 46-9s which also meant re-balancing the Floyd Rose trem. Both of these jobs are pretty daunting to me as most of my guitars are either stop tails or simple vintage-styled non-locking Fender trem systems. I had once balanced a Floyd Rose trem on the fly some time in 2008 which kinda boosted my confidence a bit. Nevertheless, I brought my iPad with me so that I could review the methods of Floyd Rose trem balancing in a video by my local guitar store.

Everything was going splendidly well until I reached to the part where I have to loosen the tremolo spring claw at the back of the guitar (which is what one does when restringing a previously heavy gauge Floyd Rose guitar with a lighter gauge because now the floating trem is not floating at all). One of the screws is now stripped. Looks like the previous owner prolly had been to overzealous when tightening the claw to accommodate the then heavier string gauge. Looked up tips on YouTube, and one of them suggested using a rubber band but no luck. My brother suggested I use a square-nosed plier and twist the stripped screw. This worked but it was slow. Regardless, it worked. Everything was all right and did a quick test. The fretboard was given the once over with the Dr. Duck Ax Wax and the strap locks changed to Schaller S-locks. The overall feel was now much more to my liking.

During this time the presence of the Het set pickups was bugging me again. I admit to looking at prices of alternatives on the net but it looked like I have to spend between GBP160-180ish for a KH-appropriate EMG set. Nothing much on the resale market. I even started a poll on the Kelab ESP Malaysia on Facebook, to see votes on the KH-BB set, EMG81/60A set or EMG81/81 set.

The KH-BB was tops when I checked the next day, during which time I mused to myself if only the EMG 81/60 set that was taken off Asami-chan was still around. I asked my brother if I had given him the set and he said every EMG pickups he owns is accounted for. This made me frantically search around buangruang3 (which I did a spring clean on last year) and I found the old EMG Het set box that contains the old EMG 81 and 60 pickups. There is a difference between the 60 and 60A, ceramic magnets for the former and the warmer Alnico for the latter – but it’s fine. I am better to concentrate on learning to play guitar solos from scratch first.

After a quick mee hoon goreng breakfast, I brought Krik! (yup – it’s still a Krik) downstairs for a second procedure. Thanks to my brother, I now know how to replace pickups without having to throw the strings away. The procedure went on like so (as documented in my Instagram post):

-loosen locking nut.
-loosen strings.
-retighten locking nut and release strings from saddle.
-unscrew bridge PU ring.
-JHb PU connection intact, positioning noted. Disconnect.
-81 PU connected. PU height at 2mm.
-bridge PU reinstalled w/ PU ring. Tapped w/ screwdriver and tap detected on amp speaker.
-repeat for neck PU. No issues w/ connection. Replaced JHn w/ 60. Reinstalled at 2mm height at low E and 1mm at high E; tap tested OK.
-all 3 PU positions working, and vol/tone responses appropriate.
-restrung. Issue w/ 3rd G strg, on review, replaced w/ new spare.
-tuned to A=440Hz; trem position remained balance following tuning.
-test run with amp; ALL PUs working.
-cut excess from new G strg.

That’s not the end of it. On Saturday, just before starting on the set up, I found a second hand ESP hard case online. Anderton’s in Guildford was selling it at GBP99 (RRP179 – and boy, have they shot up in price) and they replied to my query confirming that it is a CMHFF type ESP hard case. Talk about getting lucky this weekend – it’s alhamdulillah big time! To add to this joy, I bought it late Saturday afternoon, Anderton’s shipped it Sunday and the courier brought it to my workplace this afternoon.

I have gone on and on about the events surrounding this KH-25, but this is not the official blog post on it yet. So, watch this space. But, last and not least, have a look at Krik! in its snug form-fitted hard case and its accoutrements of an ESP fret protector and a box of Kirk’s picks: