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Old January 14th, 2010, 01:54 PM   #1 (permalink)
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1959 Les Paul Build

Last month I had the opportunity to do a rather complicated fret job, it was an original 1959 Les Paul Standard. The frets needed to be replaced and the owner wanted to keep the original neck bindings including the little bumps that "frame" the fret ends. I don't do repairs any more and if it wasn't a real burst I would have probably refused the job and said "no and good luck"...
but naturally, I couldn't pass the rare opportunity.
My old Les Paul templates came from a mix of measurements and drawings I took from 50's LP's over the years, but never had the chance to have a burst for a big long repair with the option to measure everything and do a full accurate set of templates. So I did.
I couldn't run it on the pin router to cut a direct body and routs template of course, so I did it all slowly by drawing and copying everything to paper and had it scanned and blueprinted. I now have a super accurate blueprint in a 2D format.



Compared to my old templates and measurements there were a few differences, most are minor but a few were important improvements.
For the first time I witnessed first hand the fret scale and placement issue. It doesn't compute to any known scale so I simply copied the fret locations as they were. The other "big" issues were the PU routs, channel size and location, headstock, neck angle, inlays shape etc....
Anyway, the important thing was that I managed to finish the blueprint and all the measurements before it was picked up by the owner.
You probably noticed that I was offline for a few weeks (-;

OK, regarding a build.... Since I now have those blueprints, I have to do a proto build to make sure it actually works (-;
Many of you requested a LP build documented in TDPRI but I was too busy with the pre-CBS line and didn't feel like changing the machinery and the shop for a Gibi build.... I just needed a little push and this burst was it.

The first thing I wanted to do before the actual woodworking was to investigate the PAF's and setup to build them here at my shop. I have 3 paf's left, one nickel set and a single gold pu. I decided to keep the set for comparison and use the gold for specs.

I'll get into more PAF details when I'll get to that stage in this build...







I also know this issue was discussed too many times in so many forums and threads... so I'm not going to use any terms such as "I nailed it", "I found the secret", "I can build a PAF to sound just like the originals".... etc... We all know this is nonsence... no such thing as a PAF tone... they all sound different, some great and some really bad. What I did manage to do was to get all the specs from this one gold PU that was a great sounding example (to my ears) before I destroyed it (-;
I found that the typical great warm "snarly" character of this PU didn't result from the hardware at all, it's in the magnet wire and the way it was wound.
I proved this to myself and I don't wish to argue or start WW3 over this... this is just my own opinion and I really proved it by changing all the parts, one by one, nothing changed the tone... even the magnet had a very minor effect. I'm now setup with the correct wire and the correct weird tension.
I don't have a winding machine with a traverse mechanism but I managed to rewind the real PAF to sound pretty much the same as it was before the "damage".
I find this important to mention because building a burst without a correct set of pu's has no point TMHO. It will be like a 64 Mustang with a new Toyota engine. I had the same issue with the pre-CBS pu's duplication that I posted here a few times... gotta have the right sounding pu's for those golden era instruments... it's simply a must.


Last edited by preeb; January 14th, 2010 at 03:07 PM.
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Old January 14th, 2010, 02:04 PM   #2 (permalink)
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Next thing is getting the "right" wood. I still have a lot of very old lightweight quarter sawned neck blanks that produced killer guitars in the past but I was out of lightweight Mahogany for the body.



I always believed all 58-60 LP's were built from Genuine Honduran Mahogany rather than African... I was dead wrong. I don't believed a 8.x Lbs LP can be made of Honduran because it's too heavy. The minerals percentage even in the lightest Honduran is always higher than the light African. African can get very heavy... but it can also get much lighter than the lightest Honduran. I may be wrong here so please don't take this as granted... but I know for a fact that there are papers from that period indicating Gibson ordered African Mahogany in big quantities (I'll post it if I'll find a copy as I don't remember where I saw this).
Assuming Honduran and African are still the same species as they were 50 years ago, I can tell the difference easily looking at the lumber in the yard... and... the burst I had here was, to my opinion, made of African Mahogany, at least for the body. So I found a real nice Log in the yard that was kiln dried 3 years ago and just sat there because it was too big for the local carpenters I guess.
It's medium-light weight which is good. I don't want to go extreme on a proto...
So now I got tons of that stuff after cutting the log to blanks... but it's a really nice, clean and dry wood, very stable.



For the maple top... Luckily, I have no problem in that regard. I bought a lot of figured Eastern maple over the years for necks, tops etc... so it's just a matter of selecting the right looking top and matching it to the body after the frequency test. If the body it bright enough I can use a little darker maple and the other way around.

Here are a few samples that may be used on a repro 59



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Old January 14th, 2010, 02:06 PM   #3 (permalink)
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this is going to be cool...
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Old January 14th, 2010, 02:06 PM   #4 (permalink)
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The above are all super 3D with a typical Eastern flame pattern. They also got those mandatory tight grain lines of course. All the samples were photographed dry (no naphtha or water wiped...) and will produce a super deep nice top once finished.

Which one do you like best?
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Old January 14th, 2010, 02:16 PM   #5 (permalink)
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Sweet!! Am going to enjoy this!!

Thanks Gil!!
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Old January 14th, 2010, 02:16 PM   #6 (permalink)
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The rest of the woods are QS Brazilian RW for the fingerboard (I got about 200 to those after sawing the last shipment from Brazil...) - No problem there.
The headstock veneer will be cut from Holly, I don't have any but I'll order it shortly.
I already spoke to a few suppliers but still need to pick the nicest one (-;
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Old January 14th, 2010, 02:19 PM   #7 (permalink)
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Thanks, Gil! Been waiting for this!

Very cool.
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Old January 14th, 2010, 02:21 PM   #8 (permalink)
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All Right... lets make some dust.
I printed full size copies from the blueprint



... and created a detailed project plan so I already know exactly what the schedule of jobs is and what tooling, jigs and templates are needed.





I'll start with the body templates... there are quite a few...
The outline is cut first

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Old January 14th, 2010, 02:26 PM   #9 (permalink)
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Glued to the 1/2" HDF board



I repeat for the 4 body templates that need a full outline and set them on the board to save HDF material (this stuff is expensive)



The board is attached to the table



and very roughly cut around the outlines

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Old January 14th, 2010, 02:32 PM   #10 (permalink)
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Like that



Quick trimming on the band saw



like that



Next is spindle sanding exactly down to the outline

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Old January 14th, 2010, 02:35 PM   #11 (permalink)
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Which one do you like best?
I like this one, last one of the pics.
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Old January 14th, 2010, 02:37 PM   #12 (permalink)
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I like this one, last one of the pics.
+1
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Old January 14th, 2010, 02:40 PM   #13 (permalink)
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The outline needs to be 100% smooth without any bumps and such... I feel it with my hands and smooth it further until perfect. This is the most important stage in the template making.



Done. I'll use this first one to cut the other templates outline.



I install attachment screws (on this template only) in the mortise and pu cavities areas



and rout the diagonal channel

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Old January 14th, 2010, 02:46 PM   #14 (permalink)
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template #1 is attached to #2



And #2 is flush trimmed using #1 as a template...



#2 is the control and switch cavities template so I clean up the areas by drilling with a forstner bit first



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Old January 14th, 2010, 02:50 PM   #15 (permalink)
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I complete the job on the spindle sander by bringing it down to the line...



Nice and clean



I now place #2 on top of #3 (plastic back covers template) to verify they align properly





It's 100% accurate. All is well.
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Old January 14th, 2010, 02:52 PM   #16 (permalink)
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I like this one, last one of the pics.
That's my favorite, too.
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Old January 14th, 2010, 02:54 PM   #17 (permalink)
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Same process for #3 template. I drill "on" the line first right where the straight lines end



and the switch cover too (nice flower)





I now clean up the control cover and rout the straight lines with a fence (attached with double sided tape)

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Old January 14th, 2010, 02:55 PM   #18 (permalink)
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Cool thread Gil. I've always had a les paul around and primarily am a Gibson Guy. I built a standard clone a few years ago. Other than the carving of the top, the rest of it was a lot easier than I thought it would be. I used my home built CNC router and a digitizer to scan one of my Gibson bodies, and then I routed it out on some bookmatched hard maple. This sounds like a piece of cake, but I actually only had the machine scan every .25 inches. What I ended up with was something that looked like Gibson's rough carved tops. I sat on the deck for a few days with a violinmakers plane to smooth it all out and progressed to a scraper and sandpaper. It was an excellent experience. I started 4 more bodies and 4 more necks and never went any further with them and here's why. I bought a choice piece of Fiddleback maple on Ebay for one of them. It ran me about 100 dollars. During one of the top rout extravaganzas, the router dropped down and drilled a hole down where a bigsby might be. That took the wind out of my sails. I constantly look at the parts left and think, " I should get back to these". It just doesn't seem to happen.
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Old January 14th, 2010, 02:57 PM   #19 (permalink)
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Like that



Corners are completed on the spindle sander...



Like that



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Old January 14th, 2010, 03:03 PM   #20 (permalink)
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Template #3 is done



and placed on top of #2 to verify alignment. No surprises here.





The basic body templates are done. #4 is not a part of the historically correct build and is for the chambered option in case someone wants a 7 lbs LP... I know I do (-; But I'll continue with it tomorrow.



That's it for now. Many many more templates and jigs to build before the actual guitar build... But I thought it would be nice to show the complete process.
Take care and stay tuned.
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