1960 Burst Restoration

Discussion in 'Vintage Les Pauls' started by Jumping@shadows, Nov 18, 2018.

  1. Jumping@shadows

    Jumping@shadows V.I.P. Member

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    Hi all, MLP has always been sensitive to vintage Les Paul restoration threads, with equal cries of heresy/praise but I thought some would be interested in the full process.

    For those with less patience, this:

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    Is now this:

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    This guitar has been discussed in a previous LPF thread, and was a factory flame top ‘60 Les Paul that was factory finished as an LP Custom- so has full Burst construction with correct internal routing, but LPC cosmetics and ebony fretboard and ornate headstock etc.

    As I understood it, this lived anonymously as a run of the mill ‘60 LPC until an owner stripped the top revealing the centre seam flame maple cap (as I’m sure most reading this are aware all ‘50s LPC’s were full mahogany with no cap at all, but a single piece carved body), and after staining the top a kinda Gretsch orange played it as such until it eventually made it into a friend’s hands who sold it to me as a husk.

    At his request HM did a beautiful job of bursting the top while keeping it as a three pickup Custom/Burst, but I had other plans, namely to bring it back to full ‘60 Standard spec by going back to bare wood and methodically correcting the Custom appointments.

    The most obvious challenge was of course cleanly filling the middle pickup route to allow for a traditional twin pickup set up and transparent sunburst finish, but tackling the extra wide binding channels on top and back to leave a clean result was actually much more of a head scratcher!
    Less troublesome was swapping the ebony board for a ‘60 SG Braz board I’d salvaged and tweaking the headstock to Burst spec, as well as a full vintage correct refinish, but enough blabbing- on to the build log!

    Here it is after initial stripping, showing the original heavily flamed maple cap, with original black lacquer still in the cavities- note the 1/2” Burst/Standard spec routed wiring channel, and not the round drilled hole as found on the one piece body LP Custom, undisturbed long tenon neck joint, and traditional LP Standard control cavity with all expected ‘chew marks’ present:

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    First came heating off the ebony board, which confirmed the neck was original to the body, with the typical tenon shim I’ve seen on a vast amount of vintage Gibson’s:

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    After removing the top binding and levelling the channel, I hand cut a ‘frame’ of flamed and grain matched maple that exactly followed the perimeter of the top, just wide enough to make up the extra width of the LPC binding, but leaving enough space for traditional single ply Burst binding:

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    The reason I didn’t just use flexible maple trim and steam bent it was because the grain would not have matched, and there would have been a very obvious straight grained ‘halo’ the full way around- this way, although hugely time consuming and technically challenging allowed an excellent grain/flame match, even though it would be all but lost in the sunburst anyway..

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    Attached Files:

  2. Jumping@shadows

    Jumping@shadows V.I.P. Member

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    Jumping ahead a bit, but keeping with this narrative, I heated off the LPC headstock veneer, which came away in one clean piece and now lives in the case pocket:

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    The LPC headstock is both longer and wider than a Burst, and with the Custom overlay removed, the existing headstock was much thinner, so I replaced the ‘wings’ with full thickness old Honduran mahogany from my stash along with a a 2/3mm mahogany plate over the centre portion, topped with the traditional holly veneer building up the correct tapered thickness with no evidence of work from the back.

    I then hand shaped the typically asymmetrical and muted open book Burst headstock using various ‘50s Gibson’s in my workshop- you can see how much mahogany was added on the layer visible in the truss rod cavity:

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    The serial number 0 9300 was pressed into the headstock rear, which presumably was the original restamped after a previous minor headstock repair, and duly was the one I eventually used with vintage correct ink stamped font towards completion:

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    Keeping with the neck for now: another challenge was the fact it had been shaved and narrowed in the past, with a near 1 9/16” late ‘60s nut width, and very slim feel, which was unacceptable to me, and there was no way I was going to reneck when all the wood was intact, so I employed a method I’ve used in several other restos where I inlaid a ~2mm quarter sawn tapered mahogany fillet under the fretboard which adds both width and depth, and brought the neck right into chunky ‘59 territory:

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    This fillet is all but lost with a very slightly taller, well rolled neck binding and judiciously placed side dots, and to my mind is far preferable than replacing the original ‘60 neck, and it now has the chunky late ‘50s feel we know and love, and the ideal profile for a Burst:

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  3. Jumping@shadows

    Jumping@shadows V.I.P. Member

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    So on to addressing the middle pickup route..
    Simply plugging the cavity would always be obtrusive, as three faces is would be visible, and flame/grain matching extremely challenging, so I opted to replace the centre potion between the two pickups leaving only one clean join exposed:
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    Note the maple ‘binding’ is now fully fitted to size, and looks very clean..
    I made a centre seamed flame maple block with well matched flame:
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    And plugged and carved it in:
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    Then routed late ‘50s correct humbucker cavities following the neck plane, as well as bound the top with single ply cream binding leaving this:
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    The flame match is excellent, but the grain needed some help so after some artistry I was extremely happy with the results:

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  4. Jumping@shadows

    Jumping@shadows V.I.P. Member

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    Addressing the back binding was a much more challenging proposition than the top as there would be no sunburst shading or binding to help blend, but I knew it would be all but lost in the round over and be very clean looking, if not invisible, so after some head scratching opted to sacrifice a trashed ‘59 Melody Maker body to give a ‘trim’ which I painstakingly shaped and inlaid:

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    What looks simple actually took many, many hours of hand work, but I’m again, extremely happy with the results

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  5. Jumping@shadows

    Jumping@shadows V.I.P. Member

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    Now, on the fun part- finishing!

    I use pure nitro lacquers, colour fast pore fillers and aniline dyes in my finishes, and shooting a correct ‘50s sunburst is a personal passion.

    With the top repairs and binding restoration to the back, and that beautiful flamed top I opted for something approaching a Hotlanta style Darkburst, but more towards a ‘50s 335 finish with rich cherry blending into burgundy/tobacco.

    First comes the yellow base coat:

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    Then fast forward through colour and amber coats, the finished product:

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    I fitted all ‘50s parts including long magnet zebra PAFs, full ‘59 loom, late ‘50s nickel hardware, cut ‘56 guard, real cream bridge M69 ring and gold bell knobs, and after owning and working on probably 100-120 ‘50s Les Pauls, and playing and handling countless others on a daily basis for several years, even after all this guitar has been through its an absolutely exceptionally killer sounding example!

    It weighs 9lbs exactly and has the ideal chunky ‘59 neck shape, and the PAFs are absolutely definitive of the Peter Green/ZZ Top/Led Zep tones that have haunted me all my life, and more so it looks absolutely stunning with a compelling Burst vibe!

    I’ll be ageing it over the coming months, but for the moment it’s on a strap around my neck getting played every spare minute I have, and I’m also going to do the unthinkable and actually gig it!!

    I’ve had piles of player grade vintage guitars and a good few conversions, but this one feels different to me- to know it’s a factory centre seam flame top 1960 Les Paul, with the original body/neck/top, and looking, playing and sounding as it does, really gives me a heady Burst hit every time I handle it, and it’s the closest I’ll ever come to being in that gang, and having done every last bit of the work myself, from concept to completion makes it all the more special.

    Thanks for following the thread, and I hope some of you have enjoyed the process, and if you’d like to see more of my vintage restorations please follow me on Instagram under ‘playergradevintage’.
     
  6. sws1

    sws1 V.I.P. Member

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    Damn Yuuki. I need a cigarette after that.

    Incredibly impressive work. I liked the guitar before you started working on it, and dig it more afterwards.

    What caught my eye was the sloppy, original pickups routes. Wonder if they had different people working on standards vs customs, and someone different used the router that day.
     
  7. Jumping@shadows

    Jumping@shadows V.I.P. Member

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    Thanks man! To be completely honest this was a wild shot in the dark as while I’d planned my approach, I didn’t know how things would play out until I made some dust- rather more nerve wracking on this guitar than others!

    The pickup routes were rather sloppy from the factory, as well as modified be the previous owner who fabricated his own slightly oversized square cornered pickup covers and Dremel’d some wood away so they would fit- you can see the black is missing on the wonkiest parts of the routes if you look closely.

    I did black light the black finish in the cavities, and they responded as original, even in the extra 3/8” router boo boo in the rhythm pickup bass side ‘leg’ hole, so that was done before the black lacquer was sprayed..
     
  8. fernieite

    fernieite Senior Member

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    Wow, excellent work! It seems you now have a vintage "burst". :acoustic:

    That 22.97mm thickness is at the first fret? Do you have any other measurements as you go up the neck?
     
  9. Jumping@shadows

    Jumping@shadows V.I.P. Member

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    Thanks man! It’s certainly a modified example of the breed but isn’t a reneck or a retop, and all the wood is from 1960, including the salvaged BRW fretboard, so it’s closer than many! ;-)

    No, I think that measurement is about the 2/3rd fret but it’ll be pretty close to that from the nut.
     
  10. BKS

    BKS Senior Member

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    heresy!heresy!
    But in a good way love the end result but also loved how it looked before.
    Was like what the f*ck, when you removed that ebony board.....
    Good looking tho i would have kept it original. But than I am a sucker for original.
     
  11. Mockbel

    Mockbel Senior Member

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    This is brilliant !!
     
    Jumping@shadows likes this.
  12. PierM

    PierM Certified Naysayer Premium Member

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    I prefer the original, a lot. :sadwave:
     
    LesPauI+SG=Win, Kostas., blix and 8 others like this.
  13. harrie 0492

    harrie 0492 Senior Member

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    GREAT JOB but i like the CUSTOM MUCH much more
     
  14. Progear

    Progear Premium Member

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    Dang Yuuki... amazing work
     
  15. etzeppy

    etzeppy Senior Member

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    Such incredible work. You're an artist.
     
  16. viking20

    viking20 Senior Member

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    Impressive !
     
  17. pinefd

    pinefd V.I.P. Member Premium Member V.I.P. Member

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    Boy, Yuuki, you continually amaze me with your creativity, artistry and mad skills! I've never been an Instagram kinda guy, but I'm very tempted to sign up just so I can follow you! Better yet, I'd be even more tempted to move next door to you so I can come and visit you and look over your shoulder everyday!


    Frank
     
  18. Jumping@shadows

    Jumping@shadows V.I.P. Member

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    You’re far too kind Frank, and diminish your own remarkable expertise and skill! It was seeing your own and others projects on MLP and elsewhere that fuelled my desire to do this stuff, so we’re all looking over shoulders already :)
     
  19. Paul46

    Paul46 Senior Member

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    I liked the Custom too, but the finished guitar knocks it out of the park!
    The 2mm fillet under the fretboard......genius!!!
     
  20. nuance97

    nuance97 Premium Member

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    I’ve been following him on Instagram for quite some time now, and I’m constantly amazed with the volume of work and the perfection of each project! Bravo sir!!
     
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