Les Paul Style Guitar Build

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the great waldo

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No updates at this point - we're in "the slows" where I sit down and run a series of french polish or fix small issues of finish near binding that's hard to french polish. I hope to get the remaining holes drilled for the knobs and switches, which on nice carved top guitars, follow the contour of the carve.

So, my carve is a bit flat at the belly where the knobs will be, but it's still not flat and I work freehand with driling (same with the bridge and tailpiece holes - drilled by "visual jig" (using squares in two directions as reference and then checking visually with the drill. It's just safer for me with more feel and ability to circle around the guitar and make sure everything is relatively lined up in ever direction. )

I don't much care for wiring guitars - it's not like you can't do it without knowing much about soldering, there are patterns everywhere. I just think it's a pain because I like to know everything about every component (which usually results in me making *everything*, and I don't know much about the internals of audio pots. I'm open to making pickups in the future, but not quick and cheap from kits with plastic bobbins or cheap wire.
I've been making my own pickups for about 10 years now and it's not rocket science to make them, however getting them to sound as you want them to is like making an acoustic guitar and knowing what it's going to sound like at the end, if you cna do that then buy some lottery tickets. Wiring guitars is not difficult but there can be unseen traps (poor components dry joints etc) that can lose you a lot of time in troubleshooting. By the way what's cheap wire?
Cheers
Andrew
 

D_W

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Cheap wire that sounds off in pickups being modern coatings and a thicker gauge. My thoughts on pickups are what you mentioned...I can follow the instructions for making a humbucker, but if getting them to sound like lollars or antiquities is a crapshoot, then, I'll probably do what I should do and not get into that unless boredom sets in.
 

D_W

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following up on my question yesterday -switchcraft (and of course, then a bunch of copies add on) makes a deep threaded nut in case you don't want to have a thin threaded area with the tall switch. It still seems a bit odd to me that the tall switch has such odd thread length, but rather continuing to make the rosewood under the switch thinner, I've just ordered the deeper nut instead.

I'm always a bit shocked how expensive the switchcraft switches are but they must not be that easy to make aside from the cheap short height import copies. Once you pay shipping and tax, you can be ballparking $30 -$35 just for the switch. I've never liked where the switch is on a les paul, but not going to change something that significant in design.

I've wired the pots and waiting to put them in the guitar - everything else but the nut is on right now (ran out of braded wire, so I'll have an excuse not to rush too fast and get the nut set and fit nicely.

In the world of convenience, there's someone in the US who makes a prewired switch set along with pre-wired pots, and you can be out $160 just for a wired switch, pots and a specialty pair of capacitors. I think the total take or jack, switch pots and wire will be about $60, but I could be plus or minus a few bucks there.

It's definitely cheaper to build fender style guitars as a lot of the cheaper components are better quality (especially the fixed bridges - there are decent quality fixed bridges for $15, and with some regularity, used pickguards with custom wiring and pots already setup are as cheap or cheaper than just the cost of the pickups just because someone decides they want to change the stuff in their strat or tele.
 

thetyreman

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switchcraft are expensive but very good quality though, well worth it imo, they are built to last, for a guitar of this quality it is needed.
 

D_W

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They are the only switches I buy - I'm just whining. I have a couple of switches that have come with epiphone sets, and they look OK (not sure why I still have them), but I like taking old guitars apart little enough not to save the $10 there.

The cheapest the switchcraft switches are here is about $17.50 each if you buy 10, and not enough more than that for fewer to make it worth it to me (bad habit in the past of thinking I'll build 10 of something, buying ten and building four.
 

thetyreman

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I think this is going to be a great guitar! look forward to seeing it, would love to hear how it sounds too.
 

D_W

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I think this is going to be a great guitar! look forward to seeing it, would love to hear how it sounds too.

I'm a rank player - we'll see how it goes with the guitar getting up and going - and see if the signal is clear (it should, be, but one never knows).

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D_W

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not a huge fan of aged/relic'd pickups, but the used buyer can't always be that picky about the style, especially when people seem to want the antiquities to look old.

I can't actually think of anything that I want to see having a relic or antique look, and can't imagine what customers would've thought of the originals had they been shipped looking like that.

However, the buttonlac at this point isn't completely finished (still needs to shrink one more cycle) and will mark easily - and who knows when I'll take it apart again to do the final buttonlac and surface treatment (no abrasive of surface finish has been given to it other than off the french polish pad - maybe the look of the pickups fits.
 

D_W

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late lunch. Knobs on - pots in - put the pots in backwards first time. Will need to change my layout board , but that's easy now that I have a guitar laying on a chair with the back open...


wiring..,if you ground everything every which way, there's so much wire!!

Not sure, but it sounds like it's working properly. Bridge is unslotted and I think I need to augment one of the post holes (not going to do that before I find out if it intonates where it is, but it's ABR-1 style so if it has to be moved, it'll be invisible), and I need to install the nut. going forward, I'm going to start prefabricating some of the wiring assemblies so there's less to do with the pots in the guitar, because it's a mess.

I can tap the pickups (they're unpotted, so you can get a little noise out of them tapping them - not sure if potted will do that, but I think they would) and they're on the right knobs and switches and I can tell the tone knobs dull the tapping noise.

Tomorrow or later in the week, I should have the nuts done and strings on the guitar and then we'll see if there are gremlins in the wiring at all (or if anything's noisy) as well as any correction needed on the frets. Getting a little worn out buying things, but need to buy a hard case. half of my fender guitars roam the room with no case and have dents all over them (not fender, I guess - fender style that I made). This guitar won't escape cosmetic damage forever - but I don't find that to be a real minus - it's like tools. I made it, it's OK to not sit around in sweatpants in the middle of a room with no hard objects in it. I don't think this one could break with a fall given the laminations, but not going to test it.
 
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D_W

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last pictures until done (nut and bridge work).

I did notice (this isn't unusual) that the fret work was slightly uneven, though this isn't because something is moving around or loose. When you seat frets (this is my experience, at least -anyone is free to disagree) but they don't all seat at the same height, the first go at leveling the frets gets things 90% of the way there. I have pretty good eyes, but sometimes I see things that aren't there looking at frets (as in, one fret having a better polish on the back than another or some dirt or coloring can make one look higher than another. I think a couple of the fatter frets were still a little higher than others (that is, the ones that had more removed from them) and a quick once over with a file showed that.

So, I redid the leveling.

It may not be the leveling where this occurs, but also the heavy profiling done to re-crown the wider frets.

At some point, I may need to get a file with a more pronounced crown than the one that I have as I'd prefer such a thing ,but my narrower file with a more drastic crown isn't wide enough to handle .110 jumbo wire.

So, boring details. It should be OK in the end. My eyes don't see anything now other than slightly uneven fret ends. But that's just something to work on next time.

This is also a version of something I said here or elsewhere - when you're more experienced, it's not the "more" things you do that make the difference, it's avoiding the unnecessary things. Frets have to be pretty good when seated by hand to be perfect after the heavy first work, but they could be closer. We are talking about frets that are high by less than a sheet of paper (well less), but one never knows where those will be and if they'll cause a bent note to choke even if everything else is clear.

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D_W

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One other aside - the case thing. Jeez, six months ago there were a bunch of $75 decent LP cases.

I just went to amazong and I see the "Douglas" case is $117 (including shipping) plus tax, so it's getting into the range of $125.

I did a google search and I see that Rondo had these cases listed for $69 not long ago. But they must see the opportunity to take a bite out of everyone during covid with inflation as the links say "this item no longer in stock" or "this listing is no longer up to date".

And then you go back out to their main page - same item number more expensive.

(for anyone who doesn't recognize rondo, they retail off brand stuff, some of it is decent, and the cases look fine....but they're right up against branded cases now. Two years ago, I could get gibson factory cases for about $145, or TKL canada cases for that or slightly less. I didnt' track them down...but they're probably up, too, and gibson probably uses chinese cases instead of canada now, anyway).
 

D_W

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Until I can get the nut fitted and get it to play, it's a turdson.

Which, isn't a bad name for it given that it's brown. And fortunately, unlike walnut, it won't get lighter over time.
 

John Brown

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Nuts are a PITA, in my experience (one guitar from scratch half a century ago, but have re-nutted a couple of acoustics). It's easy to go just too deep with a slot, and have to start again or resort to baking soda and super glue, which I can't believe lasts that long, unless you never have to tune the guitar. I remember thinking that next time I'd devise some trick, like using a shim, either under the nut or over the first fret. Is there an standard strategy for this, or is it just down to patience and precision?
 

GuitardoctorW7

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late lunch. Knobs on - pots in - put the pots in backwards first time. Will need to change my layout board , but that's easy now that I have a guitar laying on a chair with the back open...


wiring..,if you ground everything every which way, there's so much wire!!

Not sure, but it sounds like it's working properly. Bridge is unslotted and I think I need to augment one of the post holes (not going to do that before I find out if it intonates where it is, but it's ABR-1 style so if it has to be moved, it'll be invisible), and I need to install the nut. going forward, I'm going to start prefabricating some of the wiring assemblies so there's less to do with the pots in the guitar, because it's a mess.

I can tap the pickups (they're unpotted, so you can get a little noise out of them tapping them - not sure if potted will do that, but I think they would) and they're on the right knobs and switches and I can tell the tone knobs dull the tapping noise.

Tomorrow or later in the week, I should have the nuts done and strings on the guitar and then we'll see if there are gremlins in the wiring at all (or if anything's noisy) as well as any correction needed on the frets. Getting a little worn out buying things, but need to buy a hard case. half of my fender guitars roam the room with no case and have dents all over them (not fender, I guess - fender style that I made). This guitar won't escape cosmetic damage forever - but I don't find that to be a real minus - it's like tools. I made it, it's OK to not sit around in sweatpants in the middle of a room with no hard objects in it. I don't think this one could break with a fall given the laminations, but not going to test it.
Looking good thus far, can't wait to hear it. If you are going to pot the pickups in wax it'll stop the covers squealing at high volumes. My 71 LP Deluxe used to do that until I potted them. It has the old Epiphone mini humbuckers which I rewired with 4 conductor wire, and replaced the tone pots with switch pots for coil tapping. I was advised not to by"gurus" but they actually sound great, bit P90 ish. I did all that when I was a kid and the guitar was only 10 years old, sacrilege to do it to an old girl now, but she was my main work guitar. Good idea to make a template and pre-fabricate the loom for neatness, I just rewired my 335 and it made life a lot easier. Stewmac amongst others do ready made looms. Switchcraft are expensive initially but are made to US military spec so will (usually) last a lifetime. Good luck G
 

D_W

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These will remain unpotted. I have some lollar imperials for future guitars - I haven't played much in the last 20+ years, and it'd take me a long time to get the focus back to even be a mediocre cover guitarist (never was good), so the potting isn't really a concern (I do hope to get back to playing a lot more, less to gain new ground, but more to relax and explore a little bit in terms of things I never did when I was younger (chet style, etc, and play slow - which is all I'm capable of - learned the hard way!!).

when I was younger in a cover band, I used a guitar with potted pickups, though. I didn't know they were potted, I just knew it wasn't noisy live. when levels get high, I kind of like the sound of potted pickups a little better, too - a little less bitey.

I don't mind coil taps or splits and on a working guitar, they would make a *whole* lot of sense. Especially if the bridge HB had a lot of output and would still have a good bit split (one of my favorite pickups if I had one all around choice is the duncan p-rail. They're ugly, though!! but the single coil sound is good, the p 90 sound is good and the humbucker combination with the two tied together is also good.

As an example of how little I play these days, I have to intonate this guitar yet, but played about 5 minutes this morning, and the tips of my fingers are sore. I tip my hat to good players - just too lazy and untalented myself - a good player has to be more focused and conscientious than me.

(by the way, one of the finest sounding guitars I have ever had came with split coils - well, two - the SG3000 from Yamaha, and the SL800S (the latter had split pots and the humbuckers had a nice crispness and the split sound was great. I kind of wish I'd have robbed the pickups and pots from the guitar, but they were a little old and decrepit. I find the wiring of that stuff a bit confusing - already found that my layout board was reversed just with the simple 50s wiring, which is what caused the problem when putting the pots in yesterday- the tone pots were in the volume spot and I had to redo it. I'm sure I could've wired the whole thing from the start in the guitar, but it just makes for too many things to keep the soldering iron away from. I don't even like the connecting of everything after the switch is wired separately and the pots are connected/grounded - there's just a lot of wire in there, especially if it's braided or heavy waxed (if it was just plastic coated, I'm sure I'd melt through it, though).

This has been a fun build. I look forward to doing this for a while between sets of chisels and other tools. The result is better than expected in some ways (it will intonate!!) and some of the little detail work that's inconsequential at this point isn't as neat as I'd like, so there's room to improve.

I still think a les paul special design is just as good of a guitar and could be made to sound the same, but the carved top is there, so I will try to improve on the aesthetics of the top carve as I move forward.

I've got a sinful number of pickup sets now - maybe 15? One of them is a gibson plug and play type set of burstbucker pros. After wiring this yesterday, I kind of thought that those PCB and connector setups are sinfully ugly, but it would've saved a little bit of time. Not headed in that direction, though- everything will get better with repetition.
 

D_W

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Nuts are a PITA, in my experience (one guitar from scratch half a century ago, but have re-nutted a couple of acoustics). It's easy to go just too deep with a slot, and have to start again or resort to baking soda and super glue, which I can't believe lasts that long, unless you never have to tune the guitar. I remember thinking that next time I'd devise some trick, like using a shim, either under the nut or over the first fret. Is there an standard strategy for this, or is it just down to patience and precision?

I do it by eye. It's not uncommon for me to go too low on the high strings and have some sitar-ish type sound (not really that type, but the ring and no ring on the first fret).

But toolmaking makes nut fitting a little easier. The LP bone nuts that I got (cow bone probably, and almost certainly from china) are over-tall and a bunch has to come off of the bottom. The tops are neatly made, but the radius is a little flat and it leaves you with a choice - the choice I take is just to leave the top as it is and take some off of the bottom and then try to sink the strings only a little.

Nut fitting and slotting is probably a 20 minute process for me. Now that guitar companies are using plek here, a lot of the better guitars have good nut work done (the collings nut work is divine - but they may finish the process by hand - everything they do is divine), but the lower cost guitars (like satin finish gibsons) can have reaaallly high string height, and the same with some of the $700-ish dean type guitars (which I'm not a customer of in general, but I've had a couple). You get to finish it - it's strange that in the world of guitars, you'll get $400 off for not having a gloss finish, but nobody is willing to pay an extra $50 for someone at the factory to do good nut work.

The difference for me in how I make my guitars and what I'd have to do if I ever dreamed of selling them is a bunch of aesthetic things I don't care about. I want to do the frets more neatly, I want to do the binding more neatly, but much of the rest of the aesthetic bits, I just don't care about at all. I want good wood, a guitar that's stable, resonant, that the electronics are good and work right and that the feel is smooth.

And apparently, a tubby neck (comparing this paul to the two that I got to reference).
 

D_W

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Maybe tomorrow - but at some point, I will bust out the history les paul, a collings, a tokai HLS 160 and just strum something repetitive to compare the sound of this (my) guitar.

I haven't gotten the collings out - the tokai and history guitars are great guitars, but they are not as acoustically snappy.

The collings is a standard that I'll never build to. Famous last words - it'll be quite a long time before I can do things like they can with all of the little details.

Aside from the little aesthetic nits, this guitar is better than anything I've gotten from gibson, though.

It'll be interesting to see if the snappiness comes through on a phone video.

I could use a little free time not dominated by building (as when I start building something, it becomes encompassing other than work and kids and I cannot sit still anywhere and not go do some building), but I have to admit I go through a little minor slump, like a mini depression, when I finish a project that takes a considerable amount of time.

The other option is like I was when I was younger - I could sit and ponder "what I'll do later" for very long periods of time and have no issue with it. I'll take activity and thought over that these days. I guess that's just adulthood, huh? If you have stuff on your plate, just sitting somewhere without something to do leads to thinking about what needs to be done.
 

the great waldo

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Nuts are a PITA, in my experience (one guitar from scratch half a century ago, but have re-nutted a couple of acoustics). It's easy to go just too deep with a slot, and have to start again or resort to baking soda and super glue, which I can't believe lasts that long, unless you never have to tune the guitar. I remember thinking that next time I'd devise some trick, like using a shim, either under the nut or over the first fret. Is there an standard strategy for this, or is it just down to patience and precision?
Patience and precision + good eyes glasses etc, a little trick I sometimes use is that I overtighten the truss rod so the neck is pulling back. If your going for the ultimate low nut cut this can sometimes get you out of trouble if you go one swipe with the nut file too many as when you release the rod it should raise the slot as the neck pulls up. I usually try and cut the nut to the tuning so e sharp should be when fretted on the first fret and so on. Nuts and laquer dings are a complete PITA !!
Cheers
Andrew
 

thetyreman

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Nuts are a PITA, in my experience (one guitar from scratch half a century ago, but have re-nutted a couple of acoustics). It's easy to go just too deep with a slot, and have to start again or resort to baking soda and super glue, which I can't believe lasts that long, unless you never have to tune the guitar. I remember thinking that next time I'd devise some trick, like using a shim, either under the nut or over the first fret. Is there an standard strategy for this, or is it just down to patience and precision?

I use a special pencil that is sawn in half, which is scribed onto the nut from the fretboard, this is your maximum depth line, it works very well, then you have a reference line to cut the slots to.
 
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