guys, trust me, the only mod no one except Joe can have is... the foam in the pickups cavity!
that's an impossible mod to do at home because of patent issues and too much skills involved in the making process. forget about it, no one can't do it!
ps: seriously, i think better wood choice and an extensive re-build job by a "guy" named Gary Brawer are the "only" mods in Joe's JSs. oh and probably he's got DiMarzio components in his electronics.
I've recently had a JS
guitar set up by Gary Brawer to Satch's specs and spent some time talking to the man about Satch, his guitars and setup, so what follows is straight from the man that sets up Satch's guitars. Gary seems like a very decent guy - happy to do what it takes to get things right for you. If anything else takes place with Satch's guitars, I don't know, but this is what I've been told happens:
1. All of Joe's guitars go to Gary for setup. The profile of the neck and fingerboard in the JS
's is untouched from factory; it's the same for Joe. He gets' Edge trems in all guitars and likes the Mo Joe and Paf Joe in them too.
2. He now has his guitars 'Plek' fret dressed. Before this, Gary used to fret dress by hand. I don't think the plek setup is some magical thing that can't be done by hand, I think it is just done for consistency in the fret dressing and for speed. Gary says that he and Joe spent a long time way back when trying all combinations of fret sizes, dressing (flattening the radius of the frets the further up the board you go - which is what this fret dress does), saddle shimming (such as putting an extra shim under the high E bridge saddle to remove buzzing from bends in the middle of the neck with a super low action - however he never liked the feel of this so they didn't go with it), bridge adjustments (such as radiusing the bridge to match the radius of the board) etc etc until they found something that worked for him. I guess the programme he has in the Plek machine is the 'Joe' setting for the fret dress and it gets used on all his standard setups. Joe prefers the feel of small frets. Gary said the radius on my bridge was pretty much perfect - nothing to be done to it really.
3. To get the low action he likes on a JS
(which now ranges from 4/64ths of an inch at the 12th fret to 3/64ths of an inch - it starts off higher at the start of a tour and then gets lowered as time goes on as he gets fatigued), he puts up with a lot of buzz (for the 3/64ths setup). The guitar will buzz a lot and be setup to the point of choking on the top E on a full bend, but you don't hear it when the guitar is amplified and - particulary when playing with distortion. For studio - he will use whatever he needs (low setup, or the higher one). He used to like the action set at 2/64ths of an inch back in the day - this is very low! I've tried it on my guitar (it's possible), but it was too low for me and the high E was choking out all over the place.
4. Even though the strings may buzz, the fret dress allows bending without choking out across the length of the neck. If you hit the strings light, you get minimal buzzing - but not everywhere - more so on the low E and A- hit them with medium strength and you get a bit of buzzing, hit them hard and it sounds more like compression than buzzing - it's a weird effect!
5. Now that he is playing more 'bluesy' than he used to, he is preferring the higher action generally - as it gives more sustain, but goes low for the reasons I mentioned above.
And that was about it! I don't think there is any magical setup here, but it has been well worked out between Joe and Gary to get something that works perfectly for his style and needs. The setup certainly isn't for everybody and there is a compromise between super low on the JS
necks (for which you have to put up with buzzing, but it works out for Joe) and higher action (which is still pretty low to be honest) but is more of a standard setup.
Hope that sheds some light. I was great to chat about it directly with Gary - top bloke!