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Building the ULTIMATE LES PAUL from scratch.


GoatHerd
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Inspired on Rodman's super cool build (check it out if you haven't), I've decide to share with you a mad journey I embarked on this previous may/2021.

A good friend left his 1973 Les Paul de luxe with me so I could try and reverse all the horrible things that had been done to it. Looking at it got me thinking. What if I made THE ULTIMATE LES PAUL ? The specs for this ultimate Les Paul would have to be as follows:
-Through construction to give it ultimate sustain,
-Slimmed body for lightness and playability,
-Headstock design that compromised between a classic Gibson look, and straight pull/close to straight pull strings,
-PRS style 10º head angle,
-4.5º neck angle to not raise the bridge too much,
-12º radius on the fretboard,
-25" scale length,
-Big, tasty volute,
-All Brazilian woods,
-Light fretboard (to be a contrarian),
-Jumbo frets with Gibson style biding,
-Treble bleed/coil splitting,
-Inverted truss rod,
-Fancy inlay work.

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The woods I assembled for the build are as follows:
For the neck & through portion of the body:
Strips of Roxinho (Purple Heart) and Pau Marfim (Agonandra brasiliensis) between 2 blocks of Pau Marfim.

The body is Marupá (Simaruba) for the lightness and ressonance, and a Louro-Faia (Euplassa cantareirae) drop top.

Inlays would be Turquoise and red Howlite, with copper inlays.

The plan was to have a radical scoop at the neck to body For unparalleled access.

Finish would be stained, sealed and oiled.

Body is bound on both sides, to make it more ding-proof.

Covers would be all acrylic, to showcase the hopefully neat electronics.

Scratch plate wound up being made out of Wenge.

 

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Now due to how much I went out on a limb on this build I didn't document major parts of it. The whole thing was a bit of a crazy journey, with massive mood swings, and me feeling I'd bitten off more than I could chew in the early stages. But it all worked great in the and, so that I can now share the finish product:

20210711_162745

 

20210711_162518 20210711_162507 20210711_162448 20210711_162540 20210711_162600 20210711_162618

 

 

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Oh my god!
I love that through composite neck. Did you cut those pieces yourself. That´s a part i am rather scared of - you need incredible straight cutlines there - what saw did you use?
And your bindings... always a breathtaker. I think i myself would have gone with the blue Sig section only on the head and mybe the red square - but you know i really like to have a lot of natural wood to be shown, your inlaywork - insane!!!!!

Inspiration, thx!

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Again, thanks for the kind words.

I love that through composite neck. Did you cut those pieces yourself. That´s a part i am rather scared of - you need incredible straight cutlines there - what saw did you use?

>So, I ordered the pieces from a good sawmill, but not any different from the pieces you started with.

I ordered two blocks of Marfim that were 100x7x3.2cm, 1 piece that was 100x7x0.9 and 2 pieces of Roxinho that were also 100x7x0.9. In hindsight I should have gone a little bigger, just because I had zero wiggle-room for mistakes. The black stripes are Roxinho as well, but they have a hydro-treatment (TW), which makes them go black. Those were just bass fingerboards.

The trick is that I've only got a small jigsaw. So rough cutting the glued part on a band-saw wasn't an option. I ended up using a print of the full head/neck/body profile, which I drew precisely on the computer and routed out on one of the thinner pieces of the neck/body. That became my template. I then glued the parts on and then routed them. It was quite finicky, also because I pre-cut the cavities for the wires. I suppose I could have drilled them after, but I could see myself getting that wrong, specially with how hard the Marfim is.

And your bindings... always a breathtaker. I think i myself would have gone with the blue Sig section only on the head and mybe the red square - but you know i really like to have a lot of natural wood to be shown, your inlaywork - insane!!!!!

> The binding is actually easier than it looks. I would suggest you give it a try. The best stuff to use is cellulose binding, because you can glue it using acetone. The scary bit is you have to have your wood mostly finished, and then cut the channel (and try not to have a heart attack), and lay in the binding. Tape it down with that stronger, blue masking-tape, and squirt acetone over it with a seringe. After 1h, it'll be really well glued. Insane. The acetone is quite agressive, so you need to do this before any kind of finish. Then you level it all with a scraper (really fun), sand and finish. Once the finish is done, the binding will not look so nice, but you just lightly scrape just the binding and it's done!

The head design is my son's idea. The guitar is his (I only play the Bass), and I was really happy that he got involved like that. He did some planing, sanding and banged in some frets, but I'm quite scared of him loosing a finger. Maybe when he's older I'll let him do more...

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Will be trying binding for sure - not on my first build there, but maybe already on the next one.
Thx for explaining the workflow - routing that... nice! Like a CNC machine would do actually.
How do you do your neckshaping - rasp and then scraper? How thick did you end up with that neck?
Your transition to the body is perfect - looks great and will give very good playability up there.

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For the neck, I'll let you into a secret. I use a stripper disc attachment on a grinder. I've made templates out of cardboard out of the profiles of my son's favourite guitars. I slim the neck down at the 1st, 7th and 12th fret, still leaving a bit of meat on and then I use the grinder with the stripper to rough shape it. The disc allows for fast work, but isn't overly aggressive, to the point that you could go too fast. After that I use some very heavy grit metal sandpaper (50 or 60) glued to a nice, large, flat piece of wood, to bring the thickness down. Then I do what you did. I use a pencil to color over the whole and eliminate any dips. And the i fine sand it. I'm never scared of the neck being to thin because I use Marfim for light colored necks and Louro-preto for dark ones. They are very dense woods, and can easily hold the string tension. Marfim is 945 kg/m³ and Louro Preto is 845 kg/m³ as opposed to hard maple, that is 705 kg/m³, or mahogony that is 590 kg/m³...

th?id=OIP.7qfVOGkXgwzmz62KLQ0pwwHaFj%26p 

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For the binding channel, I use an attachment on my router, similar to these photos. It looks/feels kind of wonky, but works very well. Then I can use a normal router bit. Of course I set it up and practice on some wood scraps first. Then I pray forgiveness for my sins and go for it! 🤣

For the archtop on the Les Paul it was kind of different, because the arch didn't provide a flat surface for the router to stand on. I ended up making myself a routing table (very, very simple), that I used for that, but also for precisely thicknessing fretboards and such. If you want to send you some pics, let me now!

 

Tupia-Laminadora-14-Pol-530W-110V-com-Ma

Tupia-de-Laminacao-Makita-530W-110V-maki

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Thx! i see we are quite similar on the approach to get the neckshape - as that one is my first neck i was damn damn scared to remove too much at any point so i went too slow. I´m not counting but i have a lot of hours in that neck - and i am talking backside only 😉

 

That routing system bith the little roll is good. Yeah send a pic of that self made routing table - sure 😄

Good work!

Rod.

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So, as promised, here's my routing table and sled. A flat surface, with 2 sides that are exactly flat & the same height. The sled itself is just a couple of aluminium rails, that are rigid enough to do the job. Currently I just tape the little hand router I use into the sled, and that's it! Just as an example, I used it to do the archtop on the Les Paul. It's really simple, but works really well. I use it to adjust the thickness of pieces of wood, like fretboards as well. It's quite tedious work, and requires many passes, but it can be very precise, specially if used with care.

Routing sled 1 Routing sled 2 Routed archtop Sanding the Archtop Sanded Archtop 2

 

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Nice way to go!

The carving on the body i do with an angle grinder - a lot of fun and precision there does not matter, it´s optical and comfort only. For the neck really not a bad alternative.... hmmmm

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I agree with your point on the body, though as I wanted to do the exact shape for a Les Paul, I ended up taking this route. After I saw Ben Crowe freehanding  a Les Paul body top, which got me thinking too... 🤔🤣

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