1958 Gibson Les Paul
Well.... The problem with this one is where to start!!! The owner has always wanted a '58 Les Paul, don't we all!!! mere mortals can't aford the real thing though, so as a result this is a bit of an odd ball. I think the message I got from Tony the owner was that he had bought a '50s Les Paul junior that had been partly converted into a Les Paul and could he drop it around for me to carry on with the transformation.... I have to say that I was a bit confused but Tony has been a great customer so I told him to drop it around so I could take a look.......
On inspecting the guitar... I don't really know how to describe what it was like when I first saw it???? Somewhere half way between LP Junior and LP Senior! Too far to turn back the clock and turn it back into a Junior and MILES to go before it would metomorphose into a senior so to speak, I spoke to Tony who just wanted me to go ahead and make it as close to a '58 in looks as possible. I did explain that it would probably be cheaper to buy a good copy but he wanted the pheonix to rise from the ashes..and was quite rightly adamant that as much of the original '58 wood from the LP junior was used and when finished he wanted it VERY heavily relic'd.... Gulp quite a task...
I had promised him that I would use every method possible to keep the cost down, keep as much of the original Les Paul junior wood as I could and do the job in between other work.
Now here's the bad news.... I lost a load of the early pictures due to a pc crash... Ugh but I have recovered some from emails so you'll have to excuse some of the picture quality...
These are really poor resolution pictures but this is how I recieved the LP a maple archtop had been fitted but the neck had not been re-set at the correct angle and the neck joint was all wrong.
The back of the body, notice the step in the cutaway of the neck joint and the body is too thin for a Les Paul "senior", there are also some funky repairs/inlays into the body
Oh yes...And the headstock is all the wrong shape
So the rough list of jobs...
1) Remove the neck reset the angle to clear an archtop.
2) Re profile the neck joint in the cutaway.
3) Add a 10mm slab of mahogany to the back of the body to get the right thickness.
4) Re shape the headstock and fit a veneer and new Gibson logo.
5) Sand, repaint and relic.
6) Fit all the hardware and set up.
Only six steps!!!!!
Then Tony got back to me with the request that he would like to add binding and crown inlays to the fretboard... Wow this wasn't going to be easy....
Here we are after a few careful hours work, the neck has been removed, using heat,steam and careful cutting, and you can see that I've added a wedge of mahogany to the bottom of the neck heal to give the correct neck angle for the strings to sit on the bridge nicely and have a low action.
Installing the new crown inlays... I've already fitted the neck binding as was the deal with Tony I've kept the original fretboard, taken the frets out, cut rebates down the side of the neck for the binding and fitted cream binding. I made a plexiglass template for routing the crown inlays and used the good ol' Dremel, this at least gave me a flat base to work with... It took ages but was a rewarding job as the results were really nice.. then it was on to the refret.
You can also see that I've added the 10mm slab to the back of the body and yep "hands up" there is a little filler present but it couldn't be avoided since I didn't want to plane off any of the original wood.
I wish I had more pictures of the restoration process...damn computers! Anyhow it was certainly quite an interesting project, I had my doubts at the outset of how everything would turn out and there were some points in the work when I wanted to tear my hair out... But I think the end result looks great, yes I agree it wasn't a good idea to butcher a '50s LP junior in the first place, I certainly would never have done that! but maybe the project had been started years ago who knows? All I know is that it came to me as a pile of parts and I built a guitar out of them.
Here's another view of the top, the owner wanted it very heavily relic'd and I totaly agreed with him, unless we'd have gone for a solid colour then there would have been no way to have gone for a semi transparent finish and hide all the work and previous damage. Notice all the craze cracking, stained and broken binding some of which is original and some new and relic'd to match.
Aged knobs, and metal work... It's really fun when you get to adding the final touches to a project like this.
w......And the back, craze cracking heavily aged plastic... gouges, scrapes, knocks rusty screws... I think this will look great on stage!
Just some more detail shots....If you notice the refret I opted to go over the binding rather than do the Gibson thingy with forming the ends of the frets with the binding... Why do they do that?
wHere's the headstock... the original had to have wider "wings" put on it and a new Gibson Veneer.
Watch this space for more pictures the owner Tony said he'll send me some of him playing the guitar at one of his concerts
Here's Tony touring with Sham 69 at the Looe Festival (Sept 2013) playing the Les Paul. I love seeing my guitars played at gigs, that's what they're for!