This is only an idea, I don't have the funds for this project right now but I think it has potential... Chime in with your thought.

Epiphone SG Special (As of right now $179 new)

- Pick-ups upgraded to SD Black Winters or Classic 57's with either w/ chrome covers
- Knobs changed to classic top hat style knobs for a vintage look.
- Slightly scalloped fretboard?
- Fit Kluson tuners to add to the vintage look?
- Sand off the "Special" gold lettering on the headstock
- Complete fret leveling and set-up from a quality luthier...
- Pot upgrades? Electronics? Wiring?
- Maybe a custom inlay at 12th fret?
- Engraved pick guard/neck cover.
- Maybe, MAYBE try fitting a Maestro Vibrola?

I can't think of anything else. Seems like an incredible starter guitar I'd say slightly better than a Squier.

Make that hell no.
IMHO, that's a cheapass bolt neck "Christmas" guitar that will likely be even cheaper the day after Christmas.

1. If you're going to use an SG, at least find one that's a decent set neck, and DEFINITELY find one that's not neck heavy.
2. Have you spoken to anyone about what it takes to put in a custom inlay on the 12th fret of a neck that's already fretted?
3. What difference does it make if you sand off the "Special" on the headstock? As soon as they see it's a bolt neck they'll immediately understand that it's one of the cheapest SGs on the planet, and it's an Epi besides (as in "not a Gibson").
4. Switching knobs doesn't make it look more or less "vintage," since pretty much everyone swaps knobs on guitars for all kinds of reasons.
5. A "slightly scalloped" fretboard really doesn't make sense -- start with extra jumbo frets and you likely have the same distance from the top of the fret to the fretboard beneath. DO play a scalloped fretboard before you start taking your dremel contour sander (the right way to scallop it, by the way) to it.
6. If you've got reasonably good tuners to start with, you can just change the buttons to the cheap junk plastic "vintage" ones that Klusons came with.
7. A Complete fret leveling and setup from a competent tech won't do you much good if the frets pop up when it turns dry. Have your frets superglued at the same time.
8. "Engraved" pickguard? Engraved with what?

My best suggestion: If you've got to start with a cheap guitar, STAY with the cheap guitar until you can pack away the money (by NOT upgrading a POS) to buy a good guitar. When you finally have a few really good guitars, THEN amuse yourself by tarting up a junker.

Just my extremely Humble Opinion, mind you.
i despise the sg special , I really admire your enthusiasm but the SG special epiphone is one of the worst guitars I ever played and I've played a lot of cheap guitars. Whatever the body was made out of was absolute crap. you can get such better guitars used on local classifieds. An LTD viper around it's price range on the used market I'm sure will sound better and have the extra 2 frets. I'm mentioning the viper as it's also an SG style shape.

Oddly enough I did scallop an SG special , but you're going to spend so much money on this guitar i'd get a higher end guitar than a 200$ (new) guitar. Fret leveling , re-wiring , new pickups , new tuners and all the extra work would probably get you even a nice used gibson SG special instead of epihpone.

grover tuners if it's 10mm holes, grovers do have the vintage look if you'd want
graphtech tusq nut , brass or bone nut is three suggestions

wiring I can give you a ton of ideas, but I'll save everyone the trouble, CTS... THEY GOTTA BE CTS as everyone will say. I don't find a big difference with USA vs import 3 way toggles. Switchcraft input jacks. 0.047uf capacitors I like for high output pickups like the distortions or the black winters ,material wise , orange drop everyone goes with because it's balanced but paper in oil USSR surplus is my go to (use heat sinks) or malory has some really nice ones i forget what they are called but they are yellow.

shadow kill pots are one suggestion, easy installation and you get the killswitch you want

honestly I'd get an SG-400 used and all the money you save spend at the tech, 4 knobs give you almost endless posibillities, the other pro, no series on it.

a kahler tremolo or bigsby also come to mind, check out guitar fetish they have some options. I love the kahlers but no locking nut makes life hard

copper shield the guitar , it's a cheap but worthwhile investment to improve clarity

seymour duncan triple shots will make the guitar extremely versatile without major soldering skills. Each pickup gets 4 sounds because the switches are mounted to the pickup covers and then you can have as many push pulls as you want inside the guitar

pickguard material? you've got a ton of options , usually my go to place is either axetremecreations.com or IKNMusic if i want a boring pearloid pickguard. I think either WD Music or dragonfire you can get anodized and metal pickguards.
I've got nothing against modding junkers, but I mostly do functional things, like pickups and wiring, and I certainly wouldn't pay to have someone else doing anything for me on a cheapo!! - Especially one with a not-very-good reputation. It is all virtually a complete loss in terms of resale value.

I your particular example, I would stick to pickup swapping - if I could perceive something wrong with the current ones - and maybe series/single switching. If the frets needed doing, it would be DIY, since I have the gear, or not at all.
No its a stupid idea to put so much money into such a cheap and crappy guitar. If you want to get the most bang for your buck, get a guitar that's already good.
Roses are red
Violets are blue
Omae wa mou

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