New Design Proto Build - Bone


Poster Extraordinaire
Vendor Member
Sep 10, 2008
Sonoran Desert
After 5 years of dedicating myself to the study of golden age models such as pre- CBS Strats, Teles, Basses and late 50's Les Pauls and ES-335's I finally feel comfortable enough to clear my mind and try to design something that I believe might bring some freshness into my work.
The big question for me always was "why invent something new when the old stuff is so perfect" and the truth is, no matter how much I struggled with the idea of a new design I just couldn't think of anything that will be seriously meaningful in tonality yet simple and different in a good way. Sure... I could have taken a '59 LP, change the outline, headstock, inlays... etc... and call it 'my own' but this is not good enough. Visual shape doesn't really change anything. On the other hand, building something that is way out in terms of construction materials, PU's and building methods might be a mistake for me because I'm still a vintage purist in my soul and my entire experience is based on the old guitars, be it the lumber, glues, shapes, PU's, methods... I find the old school stuff magical and consider it as a base for anything I do.
So... the recent idea was simple (as always). I made a list of the attributes I find important in an exceptionally good sounding guitar and another list of the things that I don't like. If I'll be able to suppress the bad and emphasize the good the outcome might just be 'my own'. Why 'my own'? because this is reflecting the way I, as a player and a builder, can control the result and create something that has roots in the past but is still different.

I'll be making a few new models but will share only one in this thread.
This design is called 'Bone' and will reflect my new take on a late 50's Les Paul.

It's common knowledge that not all of the original bursts sound exceptional. Some are great some are not so much but when you play one of the great ones you can understand why it has become an iconic instrument.
I've been doing my best to build my 59 LP replicas to the highest standards and I believe I gathered enough experience by now to be able to control the outcome and achieve consistency where every guitar that leaves my shop is great sounding (to me at least). Making a long story short... Here's the good and bad lists:

1) Tight balance of frequencies across the entire range
2) Even bass and treble response across the entire fingerboard
3) Strong and well defined midrange with depth and sweet articulation
4) Enough brightness but no harshness
5) Wide dynamic range
6) Perfect balance between PU's
7) Sustain
8) High resonance and high acoustic level
9) Low weight for comfort

1) Not very comfortably played while sitting down
2) Weight of the average LP can get a bit hefty
3) Some PAF's just don't cut it
4) Headstock gets broken easily
5) Inconsistency - some are killer some are not
6) Some design factors don't contribute to maximize tone quality

If I can make some changes to emphasize the good stuff and diminish the bad it would be a good starting point. The only question is how much emphasizing is just enough and not over the top?
This is where a proto build is needed. I'll be messing with the above attributes the way I see fit and judge the changes with my hands and ears... there's no workaround.


Poster Extraordinaire
Vendor Member
Sep 10, 2008
Sonoran Desert
Regarding the way it looks... well, I could go wild... but I don't believe in weird shapes or anything that is preventing perfect weight balance and playability, so I pretty much want to stay within the classic and simple borders.
The things I want to eliminate are pointy edges, unnecessary design elements such as big inlays and anything that takes away from tone.
I still want the controls and tuners to stay exactly where they are for players who are used to the old standards.

Here's the first revision:
1) Based on a classic clean outline
2) Wider waist area for much better comfort for playing while sitting
3) Enlarged beefier area above the neck joint to compensate for the enlarged cutaway
4) Deeper access cutaway (this will change soon in revision-2...)
5) Truss-rod access from body end to prevent the weak headstock area
6) More fluent and rounded headstock
7) Clean fingerboard without binding and with small dot markers
8) Very slightly thinner body section for comfort (1 5/8" instead of 1 3/4")
9) Figured maple carved top (of course)
10) Lightweight stop tail bridge with tight tolerance instead of the ABR-1 system


nothing new or exciting here... but the more important changes are under the hood (-;


Silver Supporter
Jun 22, 2010
Osaka, Japan
Scarf joint at the headstock? ;)

I'm interested to see what you do with the heel....

I like the Schaller bridge.


Doctor of Teleocity
Feb 3, 2010
Northern California
There is always that time when gifted people absorb all their teachers can provide and then take it to the next level themselves. This has been needed in the guitar community for a long time. I have taken my seat and am strapped in. Go Gil!


Friend of Leo's
Jul 16, 2009
fort worth
Very cool. I love watching you guys try new things. It definitely makes me more brave about experimenting!


Poster Extraordinaire
Vendor Member
Sep 10, 2008
Sonoran Desert
The most unique attributes of a great LP for me are the articulated midrange, honkyness and hollow tone. Without better words to be used... I'm talking about that dry throaty resonant magic that comes from mature "old wood". I will not get into heavy details about this but if you know what I'm talking about it will be easier to get the idea.
I found that this attribute is not reserved only to great Mahogany... actually, I found it in spades while using other types of lumber and the one specific type that has a lot of it (much more than Mahogany TMHO) is featherweight Japanese Paulownia.
The other type is Balsa. Balsa is usually horrible for guitars, it will kill sustain and high frequencies BUT!!! I found there are many different Balsa stocks from different sources and when the right stuff is used it's just awesome. I'm not talking about the light Balsa used for model airplanes but rather the heavier straight grained types that are relatively heavy for Balsa but still lighter than anything else used for guitars. I'll be using both Paulownia and Balsa for proto builds and base my final decision after testing both.
For this build I'll be using Paulownia.
It would be impossible to use the lighter material for the entire body and join it with hard maple top... the density differences are too big and this will hurt the tone. Another issue is the low structural integrity of light Japanese Paulownia that will not respond well to normal use and will not hold the neck and screws properly... so... here's what I came up with.
After testing frequency responses with the tuning fork set I found that a thick enough medium weight Mahogany "box" filled with paulownia is exactly what I'm after. When joined with a medium density red eastern maple top that thing is just perfect. Lots of low and high end with very dry and throaty articulated midrange. The Mahogany needs to be about 1/2" thick all around so there's no way I can bend the sides.. I have to use two blanks. but we'll get into this soon enough.

Here's some shots from the templating stage..

The usual stuff...




Here are the two templates for the Mahogany box and the inner Paulownia filler



A few pin router templates are made keeping the old school LP ways in mind.
I could CNC the entire thing... but where's the fun in that? (-;

The control cavity is close to the original 50's LP but I made some changes to have a more reasonable outline around the pots. The size and depth will be about the same because that void's volume has a lot to do with the LP sound!



I have nothing against the switch cavity so it stays the same (-;


A base for the pin router operations


Making sure it's very tight and perfectly centered with the outline templates... like this


And here's the hollow out template that will be used to create the box out of the Mahogany section


This also has to be a perfect tight fit with the Paulownia filler outline. No voids allowed here (-;





Guard. I chose the 5 ply classic cut (I'll use it for something else soon...(-;).

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TDPRI Member
Feb 22, 2010
Hattiesburg, MS
Wait...five-ply pickguard? As in the kind used for Les Paul CUSTOMS? What do you have up your sleeve, Gil? (Not that this isn't cool enough already!!!)


Poster Extraordinaire
Vendor Member
Sep 10, 2008
Sonoran Desert
As part of the idea of keeping it all as simple and clean as possible the lumber is still of the highest grade including the certified pre 1970 Brazilian Rosewood board which is dead dry that machines very nicely without clogging the abrasives (-;
Since I want to avoid every unnecessary removal of this rare wood there are no binding nor big inlays installed and therefore I select nicely grained boards for a more earthier appearance. When selecting the board for this model I don't want to use boards that are too dense because they tend to be a little far from the rest of the woods used on this design so I go for medium density which will retain the dynamics better. The harder ones tend to be a little more snappier and get earlier compression with more bass response (Think LP custom with Ebony board...). What I'm looking for here is keeping it all in the "middle" for a sweet warm sound.

cut down to size (releasing that great smell)


Thickness sanded and trued


I start with a full 1/4" thickness that will get slightly thinner in a minute


and make sure its totally straight after cooling down from the sanding


Outlined to 1 11/16" (nut) X 2 1/4" (body joint end)
I go against the normal routing direction to avoid any tearouts of this delicate dry board




12" radius is created on the swing arm jig which also brings the thickness down to ~ 5.5mm


Like this



Once again, I check for straightness or warpage


Fret slots are cut to exact tang depth to keep as much wood as possible on the board.
I find this important.


The 1/4" dot marker drills are done


I use NOS celluloid dots for that natural vintage tinted color and beautiful texture


and glue them in with acetone gel (mixture of pure acetone and brown celluloid nitrate shaves melted in)


I'll let it sit for 24 hours before sanding flush since the dots will shrink a little from the acetone

Time to prepare the maple top. Once again, I use medium density Red Eastern maple that is bone dry and lightweight. Same as the board I don't want to go with dense material because it would be too far from the soft inner paulownia and will not sing along well with the rest of the woods.

I select a more natural wild looking maple for this model to add to the depth and beauty of the instrument (even though it's a proto I still treat it as a regular build (-;).



I'll be using only hide glue across the entire construction. I feel the old LP's had PF and UF used in joints that were a little harder to use hide glue... for example, the top halves were glued with light color PF that dries fast with radio waves (hide glue melts in heat) and the top was glued to the Mahogany with brown UF that allows for longer "open time" before the pile of bodies was stacked in the press (hide glue gels in seconds).
I'm in no hurry and since historical accuracy is not mandatory in this build I choose the path that I find better for tone. So.. 310 strength light color hide glue is used to join the top halves under a lot of pressure from the 3 clamps for a clean seamless joint.

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