Can anyone tell me about the differences in top carves?

Discussion in 'Historics & Reissues' started by ZWILDZR1, Mar 11, 2013.

  1. ZWILDZR1

    ZWILDZR1 Senior Member

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    I am interested in the differences in top carves of the Les Paul Customs. I have a 68 reissue and would like to know about the top carve that Gibson has used on the different years of the Customs. Like the 57 custom and the 68. Then the Norlin year guitars. I never really paid much attention to it before. When I got my first LP back in 79 I was like 16 and thought that all LP's must be the same other than the differences in trim. Then through the years I started learning that they all are not the same. I would really like to know more on this subject thank you.
     
  2. Sct13

    Sct13 Premium Member

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    The top carve is supposed to be a like a violin carve, but someone said that if you look at a woman's nude belly, its about the same shape. I can see it, and its prbably why we (men) love the super sexy shape of the thin waist and the top carve.

    To compare them you need a tool that measure's (or copies) contour's. Its called a contour gauge. I have a few LP's so I have gauged these out with a contour gauge and did a little comparing. The results were disappointing there is very little difference between the factory done historics. They are CNC'd for the most part, not like they were done in the 50's. I also have an HM and they redid the top to match a vintage example at their shop and the difference is noticeable. Looks awesome.
     
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  3. Inside Guy

    Inside Guy I am no longer @ Gibson V.I.P. Member

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    Norlin era LP Customs had more of a curve than a carve. It's lame, and it cheated the customer.
     
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  4. Sct13

    Sct13 Premium Member

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    Do you mean less "Dish" and more of a "hump" or "hill?
     
  5. CRobbins

    CRobbins Premium Member

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  6. rockstar232007

    rockstar232007 Senior Member

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    The carving template has been changed at least 3 times over the past 50+years. In '68, '74, and I believe around '80? The early '80s version is what they use today.

    The current CS/RI version was created specifically for use on Historics/RIs, but still isn't 100% accurate to the original. Which is pretty sad, considering, that the original is still around, so there's no reason they can't make an exact copy of it.

    Actually, that will be the next "improvement", which will no doubt be accompanied by another up-charge.
     
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  7. ZWILDZR1

    ZWILDZR1 Senior Member

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    Yes, there is no reason they can't produce a more accurate top carve and with out charging the customer an arm and a leg to do it.
     
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  8. Sct13

    Sct13 Premium Member

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    I saw the giant hand sand machine at the Kalamazoo plant, its a big belt sander. To my current understanding the belt sander was used to finish the tops and the final result was how the finisher "finished it"; so the 50's top carves are not all the same. If Gibson currently uses a CNC with templates then they are likely to be all very much the same with very little variation between them.

    Its the same idea with the necks.

    I am thinking they will "Get around" to it......:cool:
     
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  9. KenG

    KenG Senior Member

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    Apparently the belt sander was accompanied by a sanding block and when pressed down on the top it tended to sand out some of the curvature put in.
     
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  10. Sct13

    Sct13 Premium Member

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    Here it is, this is the machine, and whats cool about this vid is the guy that was our tour guide is the one who as the hollow body frame. :32 seconds
    Nice guy...

    And the sander at :46

    [ame=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jKCx-RbnaYs]Kalamazoo Heritage Guitar - Mlive - YouTube[/ame]

    I encourage EVERYONE to make that pilgrimage, before its gone.

    But I hope that answers the question that OP had, you can see why they would be so variable. And Gibson just does not do it that way anymore. (to my knowledge) :)
     
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  11. Catthan

    Catthan Senior Member

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    I find it strange that Gibson haven't nailed the carves and necks after all the bursts they have examined for the artist series (or whatever they 're called,,)

    pearly, perry, shanks, sandy,,

    My impression was that they used digitizers to get everything right for those.
    Should't all this info be used in to the rest of the historics??

    Unless they didn't digitize the carves and the necks, or, those features varied so much on the originals that there is no point in changing whatever template they re using..

    Sometimes I think that the pronounced carve I see on bursts is just the shading and the patina of the finish after all those years, i.e. an optical "illusion" but i just read above that there are measurable differences..

    Interesting thread,,
     
  12. what-a-cool-username

    what-a-cool-username Senior Member

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    So what kind of carve do you need for Slash tone...? :hmm:
     
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  13. Sct13

    Sct13 Premium Member

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    That's easy!

    The kind that slash has.....go buy one Today! :D
     
  14. rockstar232007

    rockstar232007 Senior Member

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    Simple answer: Time.

    Back when the originals were made, there were 12 people involved in the production process, and they only had to deal with about maybe 5-10 guitars a day. Which meant, that they could spend much more time on the finishing details, i.e. the top-carve. They also had less strict tolerances, and Gibson gave the individual craftsman more than their fair share of leeway, when it came to everything down to the shapes of the necks. This is also why almost every neck on most '50s LPs (as well as many other Gibson guitars) feels slightly different from one another.

    Today, there are twice as many people working on 3 times as many guitars, so it's kind of hard to get everything "perfect".
     
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  15. Sct13

    Sct13 Premium Member

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    Exactly, manufacturing processes took precedence over quality in the 1970's especially, (not just guitars) The art was "lost" ....
    Gibson had no way of Knowing there would be people like us nitpicking over every detail of a retail item that in reality did not sell that well. :naughty:
     
  16. Obsequio

    Obsequio Senior Member

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    Well, they don't seem to have a problem charging the 'perfect' price. They can do it, but every company changes and forgets it old ways. Les Pauls aren;t even made in Michigan anymore, the ties were cut a long time ago from the people who made them.

    Vintage Les Pauls have proven that there was no need for them to change. Players lik ourselves are encouraging them to go back to what worked.
     
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  17. KenG

    KenG Senior Member

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    Only 4 Gibson employees stayed to form Heritage and 3 of them were managers or supervisors I believe. A lot of Gibson employees relocated (or otherwise moved on I'd assume) when Gibson moved to a less Union friendly state. Reading some books on LPs Gibson had really forgotten how to make LPs the way they originally did and the releasrning continued thru thew 70's & 80's and even today really.
     
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  18. Lemonburst R8

    Lemonburst R8 Junior Member

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    I know this is an old thread but I'd like to jump in here. I'm starting my first from scratch Les Paul standard build. I have been a wood person for 5 decades and have been studying tops on Les Pauls for years, have owned a couple of Vintage LP's and have a Historic . Les Paul tops have gotten flatter over the years. Thinner stock is cheaper and they can make more guitars with thinner tops. When you buy a pre-cut set of matched top material for a LP they want to sell you 1/4 or 3/8 in stock. The old les Pauls started with a 7/8 in top and they carved it down.That was 1x material back than 5/4 was 1.1/8 Thats how they milled it back in the day. Before the rise of true "dimentional lumber" I saw an interview with Joe Walsh and he said the difference between old LP's and new ones was on the old ones the bridge sat down closer to the body, that's because the tops were thicker. I think the brazillian rosewood boards we're probably alittle thicker originally also which allows for a thicker top. The guys talking about Violins we're on the right track. I believe thats where the tone and volume and brilliance comes from, the top carve and thickness of the carve. Thats why guys re-top guitars, cause you cant re-shape a top that wasn't thick enough to begin with, that and cosmetic reasons. These old school violin guys use finger planes and carve the tops by hand . Gibson could never do that or afford the wasted material it takes to carve a real top. Not cost effective, no profitability. That's the dragon I'm chasin. Hand carved deep dish violin shaped tops. No cost or time spared. To be continued
     
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  19. rockstar232007

    rockstar232007 Senior Member

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    Actually, the bridged-hight is determined by the angle of the neck.

    The neck-angles on most vintage LPs (save for some of the original '52-'53 models) was around 2-3 degrees. The agles on most modern LPs is around 4, which gives more room for adjustment.
     
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  20. ARandall

    ARandall Senior Member

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    If you are looking at 1/4 or 3/8 then you are looking in the wrong area.....these are for droptops. And nobody selling to make a carved LP will sell that, or buying for a LP will buy that.
    1 1/2 to 1 3/4 is typical bookmatched maple stock for someone who resaws themselves.
    3/4 to 7/8 pair is typical luthier wood for someone who has access to thicknessing/planing.

    Now you're getting into making, I'm sure you'll start to learn what actually goes on with the mechanics of a carved top, rather than some of the slightly off assumptions you have so far.
    #1 5/8 is a typical maple thickness. This has been measure by people who have gone over many bursts with a fine tooth comb. If you want the details, then Bartlett Woodworking plans has a generic 59 plan where every detail and possible measurement you could hope for is there. In this plan the outline is smoothed by using many different guitars to remove some of the hand sanding idiosyncrasies and get closer to what the initial cut shape would have been. There is a 'precise' plan with the very outline and dimension of 1 burst from 1959 should you want that.

    You can recarve plenty fine enough from a modern carve if you actually know about the contours. Its the recurve that the modern non-historics miss......but as they leave MORE wood than with the recarve you have room to move. As to the old or historic guitars - well if you see a historic that doesn't match a given vintage guitar, who is to say it doesn't match another one??? They are snowflakes....as you should know if you are up on vintage guitars.

    #2 Re-tops are done often for cosmetics - a 'better' flamed top. Or in some vintage guitars one that is centre seam bookmatched if we are talking goldtop conversions.

    #3 It matters not what you use to carve the wood with - its great you want to do it by hand, but sawdust is still sawdust whether you use a machine or a hand tool to do it.

    #4 Bridge height is complicated. On a LP it is a combination of maple top thickness, rim or edge height, neck plane angle and pickup plane angle plus the specifics of the carve. And these interact with each other of course. Having made quite a few burst clones from scratch as well as other shaped carve top guitars you cannot place the height only to one aspect.
    And because every guitar was hand sanded the precise neck angles vary. So just saying 'old guitars had lower bridges' is quite wrong.

    What you need to do is go over to the Luthiers Corner section. There you can start to learn what goes into making a guitar. There is a current thread with videos called "Freddy's Build'. You can also delve into the archive for the Ex Nihilo Vintage Burst Build and the Bartlett Build. As well as Preeb's (Gil Yaron) celebrated no-holds barred build on TDPRI
     

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