Les Paul Style Guitar Build


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24 Aug 2015
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First post - building a carved-top guitar, and other than knowing what the top will be (a bookmatched solid carved rosewood top), the rest is up in the air. Not for lack of wood, but because I also intended a one piece carved rosewood neck, perhaps over either a lightweight mahogany or limba back. However, the rosewood neck blank that I bought "dry" is wet, and I have another 8/4 rosewood bit as well as a couple of maple carved wood top sets, so that can be for another later build after it's both dry and confirmed to not have bad seasonal behavior.

The neck for this guitar may end up being laminated curly maple - I have plenty of mahogany neck blanks, but long term stability in a les paul style guitar is better with laminated maple necks (dips, body hump, twist).

So, thus far, all I've got cut is the resawn top set.

8/4 quartered rosewood is uncommon enough that getting a perfect set that doesn't have some flaws (this set has a couple of small wormholes and the crack that's glue stabilized here) may not be realistic, so I'll work with what I've got here and try to mitigate the flaws or locate them where they won't cause a problem when the top is carved.


This wood is relaxing a little bit while I see if and how it moves over a couple of weeks. It won't matter once it's glued and laminated to a body, but I don't want it to go bonkers between being joined and then attached to a body.

The basis for copying this will be an older style les paul copy from tokai (older style meaning that tokai's copies - some of them - are more faithful to earlier angles and proportions of original gibons than current gibsons are, and they cost less - so to buy one, take measurements off of it and then resell it yields a better guitar and the outlay/risk of a big change in the market is less. tokais aren't sold in the US due to the fact that they copy the gibson peghead scroll, so if one wants one at hand at a reasonable price, dealing with japanese dealers or japanese auctions is a good idea. Sellers in the US price them about the same as gibson (or try- about double the price in japan). Buying a 60s les paul at this point to refer to is out of the question - they can be as much as a car, and there's probably some fraud with fakes or unmentioned modifications or refurbs.


It seems more interesting to make one of these with a rosewood top, but we'll see - maybe the fact that there are few (other than a bunch of gibsons made mostly with flatsawn rosewood 40+ years ago) is a sign.

This thread will progress slowly as I've got other stuff in the works and the first four months of the year is always more than full time at work. The goal is to do much of the work by hand (though this guitar type was designed to be made with power tools), not have the guitar look like it was made by machines, but also do the work neat enough that it doesn't scream "lumpy and sloppy...made by hand".
look forward to seeing where this goes DW, I have never seen a guitar especially an LP with a rosewood top.
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Thanks, ttm - you can look for "brazilian rosewood top les paul" and you'll see the run that gibson did. I think they were 70s - but most of them are flatsawn and they do have a bit of a 70s aesthetic. I think they also cost about 8k, but I'd love to have one just because I like that era of gibson's stuff better than anything from the early 90s on. Unfortunately, it (the 70s era) used to be poorly regarded and now it's climbing in value, anyway.

Point I'm slowly getting to is you can buy a billet of rosewood like this that would typically be cut for acoustic backs and sides and it'll cost something not cheap, but affordable (about $200 per billet - but you have to buy it when you see it and hold it for later - not always something easy to get), and little more than really primo figured maple sets at retail (quartered with even end to end figure is generally $150 or so, with what gibson calls 2A or 3A being only about a third of that, but that's gibson and all large makers - $150 top sets will be reserved for guitars that cost a lot more). That gives us as individuals the ability to make a guitar out of uncommon wood (And still pick and choose density and resonance and not just make a boat anchor) for about the price of a beat les paul studio faded (assuming good hardware/pickups and "real" binding (celluloid or wood binding instead of plastic binding).

It always takes me at least two iterations on something new to not bungle things up (or learn parts where I didn't buy templates and it would've been a good idea). The world of hobby guitar making is heavily focused on little jigs, router bits and bobs, tons of sanding, and things like dremel inlay tools. I have decisions to make about those things because there are legit some things that are hard to do entirely by hand (like getting a perfectly clean binding channel or a truly hand-done carve top - I'm on the fence here as I have a template set to rout steps and then finish them off by hand. I just don't like trading planing and chiseling for the router, but sometimes the result dictates. I don't like sanding, either, but curved surfaces like this - they would look interesting with scraper marks, but maybe not good.

The potential to do one of these out of common cherry is there end to end, too - a budget build. It'd be interesting to see what it would sound like - probably much the same.
little to do today other than jointing rosewood boards and bringing them into the house (shop is about 45 degrees -glue will be TB1 for the entire guitar. I don't plan on having any glue lines thick enough for the glue to "ruin resonance")

I don't know what gurus teach beginners to do when jointing, but I often see "sharpen a lot and really thin shavings, check a lot". This isn't good advice in the long term.

These boards were sitting in the vise and raffo came by - I had jointed the boards by eye and though they were close, but he took a look and they weren't that close (that was a week or so ago). Just before joining boards, I match plane - no straight edges, no squares (I'll show something in a second with a straight edge, though).

A dead flat plane or one with a slight convexity, through shavings (and not terribly thin ones - a few here at 3 thousandths solve everything, nothing thinner should be taken because anything that changes how consistent the shaving will be starts to make a gap).

The plane is just a type 20 #6, a supposedly undesirable plane. The iron is 1095 steel, but it doesn't matter -the stock iron would've been fine (you probably thought 1095 is for saws!!).

Cap iron is set but not ultra close - but close enough to just be engaged, and then a few through shavings. that's it. Any changes needed (like if you have low ends for some reason) should be extremely minor - there should be no visible gap anywhere and the glue line should be invisible even without hand pressure.

How long does the match planing take to do this? If the plane is in hand, less than a minute. Those are all of the shavings from cleaning up whatever I'd left the boards as after resawing.


I have no clue if i'm planing with or against the grain - it doesn't matter, and it shouldn't - the match of the grain is far more important. And I shouldn't have to take dainty shavings to avoid tearout - goes back to the point above - it's easier to get accurate work very quickly with a slightly thicker shaving than thinner - as soon as you feel the plane getting a continuous shaving from end to end, you are done. If the edges are low, the shaving will be weak at one of the ends.

When you take this strategy to things like cabinet panels, match planing them at speed is a thought free process - none will ever show a glue line and you won't have to check anything nor care about grain direction.

This is a significant economic gain from the double iron over single iron planes - I'm sure that the reason that the double iron eliminated single iron planes is economic - everything other than the thinnest final smoothing and really coarse jack work is twice as fast (and the jack plane can be used with difficult wood if it's really needed).

The mark between these panels is just a saw kerf - I resawed them by hand with a hand saw and wished I'd have tensioned the frame saw by the time I was done as they relieved a little when cut (the frame saw tension is so much higher that it doesn't care about that kind of thing).

The panels one on top of the other:


The left side of the blank is ugly, but I glued the whizz out of the cracks to stop them - that will not end up on the guitar as the blank is way over long and the straighter grain ends up on the guitar. The tip of the glue will end up in the neck pocket of the guitar (which means that wood will be removed). Can only hope that there's nothing else hidden, but if there is, it'll be dealt with while working. You can see the little worm holes. Kind of a disappointment, but the wood will be very dark. I'll make them match the wood wherever they are - they'd be a lot harder to hide in lighter wood.

AT this point, the blank is way over thickness. For anyone who is chancing upon here who uses power tools, you'd probably get these two halves close to perfect and then glue them. Hand tools goes the other way. I'll glue these with relatively little tension and then thickness the whole setup just before it gets cut out and glued to a guitar body.


pretty close to flat. The top board is sitting back a little from the edge so as not to cast a shadow in the prior picture - but the board itself had cupping tension in it so the individual boards already aren't flat.

Lots of wood to work with as the top is nearly an inch thick and the finished thickness will be closer to 9/16th.

it's very nice to be able to glue things without much clamp tension and to be able to match/joint rough boards by grain and without using squares or straight edges. These boards have undergone a pretty significant temp change and humidity and not moved, so there's not much risk gluing them now vs. waiting to the day they get stuck on a body blank.
This top has good resonance, too - though it appears audio files aren't allowed. resonant wood is generally better (stronger midrange sound, though it's an electric guitar and you can EQ 90% of the sound). Dull woods good for tools (Don't translate vibrations to the user) and musical woods are pretty much opposite. energy is absorbed by the wood in dead/dull woods and passed through it in resonant woods. Since this is resonant, I'll make sure the hardware on this guitar isn't heavy (something more like vintage les paul, and not like the current stylish thing which is inserting big metal gromets to make production better and to keep bridges from tipping (this guitar will not have a high bridge height that would allow that - manufacturers like a higher bridge height on a guitar like this because it gives lot of room for sloppy fit - if the bridge is set to go lower on a guitar body so that it's not teetering on posts, then you can quickly have a maker's error where the strings can't get low enough to the guitar. Gibson changed the neck angle to force a higher (easier) bridge some time ago. The japanese copy that I have doesn't have this - it's more like vintage.

A finger tap of blanks reveals resonance - the wood sounds a note after the tap - not like a marimba, but a lower ringing pitch. Dead wood like beech will generally make a thwack, though even beech may become musical if it gets old enough.

Maple is far more resonant than beech, thus you don't generally see beech on good guitar necks.
so, I have to decide on body wood. I've already got four pre-cut les paul body blanks (that I cut and set aside as future light weight high resonance les paul special types). They are one piece honduran, but they came from a supplier here in the states who showed a nice clean flatsawn (quartered would be great, but that's not common with honduran these days, especially not in suitable density vs. heavy heart type that's good for furniture) piece and then sent something that was cut right next to the pith, and I don't want to spoil the rosewood with that.

I don't think limba will look right with this, and I also don't like to stain things, but I have a very suitable piece of limba in the right density range - I got it two years ago when some guy was selling wide limba on ebay. $170 for a board big enough literally to make three guitar body blanks and still make a couple of guitar necks.

So, having never actually seen it yet (never took it out of the box, which keeps it from getting filthy) other than the listing picture, I busted it out. It varies between dead quartered and 10 degrees off. So, quartered by anyones' reasonable definition.

So far, I'm thinking ceylon ebony for the fingerboard (a supplier threw one in for me with another bigger purchase), rosewood for the top and limba for the back. The limba that I've gotten is always soft for its density and filled with silica. This probably isn't any different - that almost makes a challenge to find one more abrasive wood for the neck.

limba is kind of ugly unless you luck into pure stuff without the demarcation line (much of it is worse yet looking like it sat in dirty water and then dried).

I took the to (rose)wood out of the clamps and planed one side after cutting off the excess on the yucky end. I don't like coloring wood but the limb and rosewood will be odd enough that I'll come up with something with micronized earth pigments to get a better match with the limba and bind the top and bottom with tortoise celluloid binding (to avoid corner denting).

Finish is most likely going to be a very thin french polish on everything as there's large pores everywhere. Not a fan of the porous look on guitars.

at any rate, the glue seam on the rosewood (one of these is the blank and one is the offcut).

This is an illustration of my fascination with flattening a plane that you'll use for jointing (I do it for all of mine). This is basically a one minute joint. It avoids so many visual and glue up issues to have it this crisp.

And the glue line on the top of the blank (the flat surface) - it's right in the center of this picture, just above the wormhole.

that's only about 3 inches of surface, maybe it'll be easier to see over almost the full length of the blank (I actually don't have any idea where it is in this picture, but it's there).


And a picture of the shavings - sorry about the blur

Rosewood doesn't necessarily plane nicely like pine, but it does plane nicely for its hardness. Very pleasant work. The point of the cap iron here is to prevent more damage than will come out with regular smoothing. The point of the cap iron on the smoother is to do the same thing, but then with a turn of the adjuster, not do anything at all (the last passes are always too thin for a shaving to lift - using the cap iron lets you get there safely and not cause a problem by accidentally taking a thick shaving with a wild adjustment.

This board isn't finish planed, just flattened on one side. If it's flat through a temp change this week, I'll plane the other side unless I cut a body and do the interior routs first (at that point, there's no great reason to wait).

super primo planes used on this are a mexico stanley smoother and the type 20 #6 with a shop made iron (it doesn't matter what the iron is, though).
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I did some research on vintage les pauls, apparently the posts and thumbwheel on the TOM bridge that hold it into the body used to be machined from solid brass which they haven't really done since the 50s,

and also they used aluminium for the tailpiece which all is supposedly to make a big difference on the tone, I was thinking about making my own brass posts and thumbwheel just to see if it makes a difference if I ever make my own les paul but I'd probably use the gotoh one pictured here, thought that may be of interest to you.


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Yes on both of those. I don't know who I'll buy the hardware from (There's gobs of it - faber makes a brass saddle bridge and then a matching steel post and brass wheel set to go with it). The bridge and tailpiece and posts look like they'll be a little over $100 in something of decent quality - not where I want to shave costs, though.

The tokai guitar above has vintage spec bits on it including an aluminum tailpiece and brass saddles and the direct-drill posts rather than the heavy inserts. All of those things should make the guitar a little brighter (which is what people suggest for the aluminum tailpiece). I'm not that concerned tone-wise, you can always faff with electronics, but resonance and not wasting string energy in overweight cheap zinc cast parts not what I'd like to end up with.

Thanks for bringing it up, though. I haven't looked for hardware in a while, and I guess with covid, it's maybe not a great idea to assume that everything is in stock and that I can order it 3 days before installing it.

pickups will mostly likely be duncan antiquities - they are good at not losing the top end, so if the lighter tailpiece does something with treble, it won't be lost in a high output wax potted pickup that's more mid-strong.
I'll stop posting such routines as joining boards shortly, but last night while waiting for my boy to get ready for bed, I just planed the back side of the top set. The initial excitement about getting back to working wood and gazing at joints is due to the fact that I did mostly forging/grinding/heat treating last year (and will continue to mix that in).

I would imagine nobody is thinking this, but if I saw one tight joint, I'd want to see the other side, too. Especially since this joint was match planed with a lightly cambered blade. I don't get into the guessing at what a thousandth will do - some tiny fraction of it ends up in the joint.

This board relieved itself a small amount when I resawed it and the saw followed, so one of the two boards was a bit cupped on the back side. I hate that (if you work by hand, you start noticing that nothing really ever seems to be a deal stopper, it's just when you do one thing to be lazy (i didn't tension the frame saw and just used a 28" rip saw to resaw this bookmatch) and then something else happens. Rosewood is slow enough resawing that the frame saw would've been faster including the tensioning time. So, errors of dimensioning lead to effort, but this board set already has surplus thickness (with a little more to come off later). If thickness were critical, I'd have used the frame saw regardless.


I'd have liked the dark heart on the outside of the guitar top, but the wrinkle at the edges (which will not appear in the guitar as the upper bout is narrower - it'll just be cut off) would've made that look odd, and maybe even profane. I think oil and pore filling before finish will probably make all of it very dark.

This is after smoothing (the shavings shown are just the full amount needed to follow the 6 (used as a try plane). I didn't even think to fetch the wooden try plane, but it would've been faster for this - no matter, woodworking has been so infrequent for the last year vs. metalworking that it's just a pleasure to plane.

Notice how the joint above disappears as the grain straightens, When you try to follow the line, your eye actually sees something that looks more like the joint (even in person, and close) and you guess wrong at where the actual joint is.

Before this, the flattening - planing wood to thickness is always nice if the board is in good shape and the plane stays in the cut. I don't plane diagonals. I stand behind the vise and plane through the board with the plane askew, left and right handed. With the cap set properly - the plane enters the cut and just stays in it. You get the same effect while planing as planing diagonals but there's no short cuts and you're planing long grain, not diagonal. The laziness in resawing creates extra work due to the fact that the plane is in and out of the cut on one side - on typical cabinet wood, I'd have just jack planed the whole thing until there was enough for a try plane to stay in a continuous cut, but this is fairly expensive wood and leisure work.


Another look at the back side of the joint (notch cut out top right only so that I could get an offcut large enough to make a peghead overlay or five). The back side joint may look even better than the top, but too late - I cut the notch already - it'll be fine either way.


A closer look at the new mex stanley (this isn't a plane I normally use, but it was on the bench from getting a look at the iron - that is literally the stock mouth with the frog set flush with the casting). I'd rather have the casting support all the way down the bevel than close the mouth.

And before this, the shavings from the try plane - they typify what you're looking to do working by hand - the shavings show a little evidence of being worked, little tearout, but not cap set closer than it needs to be (that'd be needless work). The surface of the wood after this was just quickly smoothed and would be fine for french polish (I'd have refreshed the edge and done another pass if this was actually a surface getting just oil and wax, but one side of this will get glued to a body and the other will be top carved. It's not going to move enough to worry about planing it before use - the wood is quartered.
well, I've kind of cornered myself. Having bought a huge quartered 4x4 rosewood blank that was supposedly dry, it's not - so in terms of woods for guitars, I've got tons of quartered wood (to be able to cut blanks for bolt on guitars, etc) but little musical stuff that's flatsawn. The large blanks that I have are all khaya or honduran mahogany, but I don't want to use that on this guitar and may not ever use it (long term experience with later mahogany in guitar necks isn't that great, and the old growth stuff wasn't so good compared to laminated maple necks like you'd find on a gibson L-5).

So, I have a big flatsawn piece of 8/4 walnut, but it's not as straight as I'd like (it was pennies, though) and a whole glom of plain flatsawn 4/4 maple and some curly that's probably soft maple (but it's 15 years old and dry and stiff).

so, we're going to go tasteless and use it and I'll resaw and plane some thin walnut to go between the maple laminations. This maple was planed by the seller from rough - I don't really like that - it takes wood that would end up near full thickness in a lamination and makes it closer to 13/16", so you can lose as much as an eighth. The walnut laminations between the maple should help deal with that to prevent awkward situations (like a tiny piece/lamination along the edge of a neck).


This is the kind of board that I generally have no idea about. Interestingly, in another thread, charlie mentioned this busy wood when it's just laminated together on furniture - it's hard to use unless it can be used not touching other maple.

Ideal candidate for laminating because the edges can be really wild with figure and the lamination will eliminate the instability that comes along with intense varying figure.


Laminating things is also where it would be nice (to make the thin walnut strips) to have something like a drum sander, but we don't roll like that here. No longer have a bandsaw, either, but not a big deal. The "dry" rosewood neck blank sits in the background. So far, the "dry" blank has lost a pound and a half of weight in about 3 weeks.

I also have a sinful amount of castelo boxwood, which isn't a real box, but it feels like box and is musical. It would make a sublime neck, but the seller sent it as air dried and with a thin coat of wax, so it's not worth the risk cutting it.

In furniture making, wood moves a little bit. In guitar making, you try to use only old wood that's stayed straight or get new dry wood that's ideally sawn. But ideally often isn't good enough. I will rough this neck out early and mortise a truss rod groove so that it can sit through some weather changes and see if it twists.

This picture below is a QS sapele roughed neck that came from a luthier supplier. It was very dry, but notice the twist. Any visible twist at all is absolutely toxic (selling a guitar you don't want with a neck twist is like selling a car that "works great except second and fourth gear don't work"). This picture is looking down the neck - the camera won't focus near and far, but this actually looks far worse in person (it is worse).


Upper mid guitar companies who make one piece necks on acoustics usually rough the necks and then put them in piles. They check later to see if a neck is straight - if is, good to go. The necks that have moved get dimensioned back to straight again and checked later. Usually if they move twice, they're getting close not having enough wood to be sized further to remove movement and they're pitched.

When you see instability problems in guitars, it's usually lack of care - I've fixed a lot of fretting and body hump problems in gibson guitars made in the last 10-15 years. Not impressed.

The sapele neck above probably has enough to correct, but when a neck blank costs $80 (and enough to make two necks) and you're investing a lot of time making a guitar, it's probably better just to pitch anything that twists. I've had two guitars that twist seasonally - maybe at some point they'll be old enough that they stop moving, but who knows - I sold one and the other is a neck I made that just hangs - which is how I learned that you can saw something as ideally as you want (or even rive it and then finish), even older wood and then have it move.

A little twist in one direction (bottom side of the guitar at the nut moves toward you) doesn't have much effect on playing sometimes (setting up the guitar and ignoring it will actually create higher low side action and lower high side action - which is nice, but it's still toxic to selling
I probably didn't do a great job of explaining two things - why do I want flatsawn wood? To come up with something that doesn't look flatsawn once laminated.

And the sapele blank - at the time I cut that (a couple of years ago) I was going to make a les paul special on the quick (which is a slab guitar and not carved top). It wasn't twisted when I cut it - but it is now.

As far as the laminated maple goes, got lucky - the curly board is hard maple, not soft. Soft or bigleaf (west coast) is more common in guitar wood - the hard maple does tend to look like this board (unruly, not nice even figure end to end).

not as much time at lunch - so a chance only to cut the boards into bits that will be laminated, and then give them a skim with the same #6 plane . I've bought a lot of planes over the years - one of them is a nice toolmonger kit infill about the same size as a 5 1/2 - the 6 is a good fit for this work (I contemplated getting the infill out since there's not that much planing on a guitar and it doesn't matter - it's hard to make use of it on furniture if you have wooden planes to do the pre-smoothing work).

At any rate, sawn with handsaws, and sawed a bit out of the walnut board (it's also somewhere around 10 years old - the grain not quite what I was looking for, but will make the bands between the maple laminations very thin - like some less than a tenth, so it won't be discernible. I just don't think the super busy wood laminations will look that great if they're against each other without a strip visually breaking them up between. It's not like the billet is that wide so resawing thin laminations off of it by hand won't be that difficult.

Plane setup comes into play here - any "real" maker would just drum sand these to even thickness. Curly maple planes easily with a plane with the cap iron set and getting wood to a dimensional target quickly requires not having the shavings torn (the more tearout, the less is removed - if you have tearout at one end and not at another, you're working against yourself).

The dark film on the wood before planing is metal dust. I've never noticed this kind of ambient dust to affect planing (But big shavings that fly off of the belt grinder and stick in a bench or board definitely make their mark in an iron edge).


(just in case anyone has an interest in hand tools - it takes about 10 seconds extra, maybe fewer, to get the cap set. The plane goes longer between sharpening intervals with it set and on wood like this, the planing occurs about twice as fast and is predictable and smooth...

...all of the little bits about this, and how it works with ribboned mahogany, etc, are why I think the biggest gain of the cap iron was economic. There's never really been a situation where you couldn't find some other way to get the wood to the same point, but it's just exercise planing like this once everything is set - you plane - when the wood isn't even yet, little bits come off - as the wood is flat to the plane, those bits turn into continuous shavings. When they have no breaking in them, then you know you have a uniform surface and you're done. The plane stays in the cut and everything is smooth, productive and predictable.

The iron - still the same one - 1095. I thought at one point 1095 may not make a nice plane iron, but it makes an iron that's just below O1 in wear life, and a point or so harder. It's kind of nice. What made me think it wasn't that great is that if you try to make an iron out of it and use vegetable oil to quench, it'll never get quite right. Very plain water hardening steels need a specialty quench oil to get full hardness and then the behavior of the steel is a lot better.

I get really particular when making and experimenting (tools) and I'll notice things like which irons wear slightly longer, sharpen somewhat better, nick a little less easily. But by the time I get back to doing this stuff, I find that the efforts to get those things right has made things workable with plenty of margin..

...and in this case, with a dirty old board that's only taken 16 years to figure out where it should be used.

I remember getting this board and getting a scraper plane (or three) and torturing myself with it. Who knew lord stanley was still making a plane in 1960 that planes it really well with ten seconds of effort.
Watching this one!!!
Ive stopped learning for a bit ( too busy ) but want to get into it again soon. Want to pick up a duesenberg les trem for my l.p, to see what they are like
I've not tried anything like that, but if I build 10 guitars, they'll go weird after a certain point. I want to build violins in the future, too, but we'll see. I have wood aging for them. I don't play violin, either.

Never was a huge fan of the bigsby, but dangelico has a pretty high quality maker in korea that made a model called the NYSD9 with a bigsby (very close to a les paul copy, but arch on both sides and chambered) and I got one as nobody seems to love those guitars for as well as they're made. It's a treat to play.

I ordered another LP copy from japan over Christmas. I may be killed when it shows up, but it'll be a good basis for an all black lacquer LP custom copy if this build doesn't go so foul that I'm convinced I should go back to making chisels and planes.

If anyone is ever critical about wood you've had for a decade (my wife hates the idea that I don't get a box with supplies for each project and have nothing else around), the chance of making guitars is good defense. When you have wood that's moved none over 15 years and has gone through that many seasonal cycles, it's so much safer than my "kiln dried to 8%" sapele sample above.

When it's tools, I think for the most part I can make wooden planes and chisels as well now as they can be made in the styles that I like. There is so much market for factory made guitars that I'm not sure I could ever match the workmanship even on a korean dangelico (and doing things by hand, to get the visual consistency is maybe not a reasonable goal compared to a factory where much of the work is jigged/cnc and the work that's not is being done by very talented workers who get a lot of repetition).

Korea guitars used to be the low end in the US, and now there are a couple of small contract makers there who can do really good work (and indonesia is the location of choice for low-cost factory making - even China can't compete with them).
If you like black l.p's......
This is a 2009, raw power, which is all maple i believe.....


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I play the guitar (very, very badly) and am thoroughly enjoying this thread. I will never make a guitar in my life, I'd be lucky to be able to put a shelf up, but its great to learn from other people, even if I will never use the knowledge.

I would love an early Telescaster, but as with all these things, the costs of them are beyond me, unless I sell one of my kids and a kidney or two. I'd never be able to play it to more than 1% of its capability, but it is (to me) a work of art.

whatever you make DW, you've got some really nice pieces of wood there to choose from, that flamed maple looks a lot like what gibson would have used in the late 50s for the bookmatched tops on a lester paul.
whatever you make DW, you've got some really nice pieces of wood there to choose from, that flamed maple looks a lot like what gibson would have used in the late 50s for the bookmatched tops on a lester paul.

Yessir - lots of those were hard maple and not necessarily as perfect looking as the bigleaf maple matches that you can from canada and the western US. I don't know the reason gibson chose hard maple, but they may have liked the sound better (I read an account from Ted McCarty where he talked about them trying combinations early on - they tried all mahogany and 100% maple and ended up between for sound preference. Changing the top to something softer can change the sound profile slightly).

The stories from gibson as told by mccarty, at least for the early period of the les paul (late 40s maybe until about 1960 when they ceased production until 1968 to find somnething that would sell better) are interesting. They were generally low on money much of the way along and didn't sell that many of any of these guitars for lack of buyers. IIRC they'd have been a couple of months' pay for an average person at the time (thus 150 or something of the 59 burst that everyone loves so much now?).

A friend and I bought some figured wood when I first started, and the maple is left from that. I have a lot of odd stuff like that, but only one large supply of "plain wood" (cherry). I think cherry would actually make a good guitar, but I don't want to make something low budget on the first try. I'll make an all cherry les paul special in the future (I have an all cherry telecaster style guitar - first guitar I made - a bit ugly but it sounds great).

Those maple boards taught me about lumber dealer upcharges. The rack for the wood said something like $5.50 a board foot. We selected boards and when the office had rung us up, we had a surcharge for "musical grade" and two surcharges for width wider than 6" (as in the width was on average two upcharges wider). Ended up being about $10 and not all of it was that vivid. I made panels for a blanket chest way back then that I still have yet to finish (two of those boards glued together are pretty ugly as either board is pretty, but where they glue together is clash - only really nice with a bookmatch from 8/4 instead of gluing two thinner boards together).
Some progress last night (this kind of thing is great for a hand tooler - you put a little together for 25 minutes or whatever and then go back to what you were doing (so good over lunch, waiting for the kids to finish baths, etc). And it gives you time to think between when you haven't made anything identical (I've only made fender style stuff so far and it's a lot less complicated - it's kind of the bailey plane of guitars - fender that is - and I can't actually think of a reason that a les paul style guitar is better than fender other than changing scale and electronics - except the les paul guitars look nicer.

....and mccarty said something along the lines of gibson wanting to put something out that would have higher *perceived* quality. Gibson already had carving machines and fender wasn't able to do something like that, so they built a guitar that has an angled neck and a carved top. When made right, it's kind of like a mid-grade mercedes vs. a toyota. You can like the mercedes a lot better, but it's difficult to argue that the basic function of being a car is better in a mercedes than a toyota (the toyota will be less trouble and cost less to fix). Neck to body fit on gibson guitars and differential shrinking has been providing the wrong kinds of thrills for a long time, and the truss rod doesn't influence the neck on the guitar, so adjustments don't always work as well as one would like without physically modifying the wood on the guitar.

Anyway, resawing the walnut for strips between the maple. It's a lot easier than one would think to do this - I timed the strips - 6 minutes each. That sounds like a lot, but remember, no bandsaw setup, no dust collector switching around, no unintended wander. My bandsaw (a jet 18x) never worked right when I had it and I found out when I sold it that the top wheel had 7 or 8 thousandths of error out of round. I could've probably fixed that with duct tape over a tire, but it never cut smooth and the cut wandered often (and the back and forth of the blade would always hammer the guides out of setting, so you couldn't just fix it by setting guides).


Add a minute between cuts to plane the surface of the blank. I think this kind of dimensioning work is useful because it's pleasant and it makes cutting joints really easy. It becomes easy very quickly and gives an opportunity to learn to saw with both hands. To keep from wandering, I saw some on one side, then take the saw out and saw from the other side left handed, then back over to right handed. Walnut is really easy sawing, too - that helps you stay patient. Someone who did two of these a day would likely be able to make this cut as or more accurate in half the time.


I forgot to take pictures while planing, but this is the frass left behind. To plane these strips, you just hold one end with a hold fast and then plane from the center out, then turn the thing around and plane the other way (cap iron!! no need to worry about planing direction and no need to take super thin shavings). I check progress after that and remove the uneven spots - target a couple of thousandths of difference (two strips, so all are just about .085" - if they differ much from that, you can actually see it - like more than 2 or 3 thousandths and you see it easily).

The take the entire glom and glue it together (there's not much wood to the actual neck and tenon - so maybe I'm being a little over careful here and will have some work to do to trim this back, but I wanted to be able to plane it against stops and get something reasonably solid to clamp.

Making stuff like this is where having a drum sander would be nice - you could just whizz the pieces through it and they'd be identical thickness if you want, and then glue. It probably took an hour total to cut all of these pieces out, plane them to reasonable even-ness in thickness (including the maple bits) and then glue them.

I'd also rather get better at doing this stuff by hand, and getting a drum sander isn't on the list.
If you like black l.p's......
This is a 2009, raw power, which is all maple i believe.....

Indeed, I do like the black LPs - and I like the white ones, too - but the white ones show every single lacquer crack or check that happens over time. I only like the studios and customs, though - paint other than gold top on a standard is a little weird looking.

I'd love a black or white studio pre-CNC neck finishing with an ebony fingerboard, but they have gone up a lot in price. I'd love even more to have a pre-2000 white or black LPC, but one in good shape is now treading on $4k, and that's the price of a used collings.