1959 Gibson Les Paul Special: A restoration journey

ED3

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Good Afternoon:

I have pictures below of my 1959 Gibson Les Paul special that I have had for some time and finally being old enough with some extra cash, I want to bring this guitar back to life. Sadly this guitar is in dire straits. The short background story is when I was about 10 years old, a family friend I met at a cookout saw that I was interested in learning how to play guitar. He came over the next day with two guitar cases and said "I hope these help you on your music journey. These were my brothers, and he recently passed away. Take care of these." In one case was the '59 and in the other was an all original '75 Fender Precision Bass. I've kept both but the Les Paul was in pieces and it sadly has never been played. I want to make this guitar look almost like it came off of the factory floor but I'm unsure of where to start and/or where to begin. Any advice would be appreciated!

I've began with contacting Gibson to see what they can do but I would like some advice on what to do to restore this great guitar!

**The sad thing about this instrument is that at some point the serial number has been lost. Anyone have any idea on other places to look or other ways to get a correct serial number? From what I have researched, this model was made around mid '59 given the location of the switch and the neck pickup position.

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ED3

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**The rhythm/treble plate and the switch tip are clearly not original. I bought those last year when I was looking for parts but I will try to find better ones
 

archtopmaker

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WOW!! What a cool guitar!

Looks structurally sound as far as I can tell, is that crack in the neck a full break or has it been glued up, can you tell? Looks like you've got the original pickguard, wiring harness (iffy on this, not sure that green chicklet capacitors were ever used in 50's Gibsons), jackplate, strap buttons, and at least one original P90. Depending on whether you want to put it to original spec or use the replacement parts that are with it (aftermarket cream-colored pickup, Badass Bridge, Schaller tuners), you really don't have just a ton of parts to track down.

If the body is as structurally good-to-go as it looks, it would be as easy as giving it a good refinish. There are lots of people around that can do that, but I know when the "big boys" need a paint job done, a lot of them go to Kim LaFleur at Historic Makeovers. From the control cavity and neck pocket, it looks to me like this would have originally been "TV Yellow", but it's also possible it was originally Cherry Red and has had more than one paint job in its life.

I think you're correct that it's a '59, judging by the neck pocket and switch placement, but as always, there's room for error, and I'm not an expert. BUT my Uncle had a '59 Special and this looks just like it, sans paint and hardware.,
 

ED3

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The capacitors are not original. Those were an attempt by my father (an electronic tech) to see what we could do to get it to work about 15 years ago.

The neck brake was repaired by a local music store and is structurally sound. I reached out to our friend for some more information and according to him:

This guitar was owned by his brother who bought it second hand when they were in high school/ early 20s and he..well...wanted to customize it his way lol. He played extensively in local shows around the area and then stopped playing it in favor of an acoustic that he bought and stuck with acoustic guitar until he passed away. I guess his plan was to refinish this and do some funky wiring to it. In the bridge position there is this humbucker but there is no brand to it or markings that I could find.

**My hope is to restore this to as close to original as possible. I feel after going through as much as it has, it would be best to bring it back close to stock, unless there are other ideas that I'm not thinking of.
 

Fletch

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This is a great project, congratulations. The harness looks like it’s from 1980 and the cream pickup looks like a DiMarzio. The cost to finish depends on how picky you are about parts. An all original harness could be $1000 or more for example, another original P90 would set you back $3-600. Original bridges if you can find one would be about $3-400. I would just have it refinished in the original TV Yellow color with the parts you have and play it. I have almost this exact guitar that is all original and it’s a fantastic guitar.

PS if you decide to sell it I might be interested.
 

Fletch

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Oh and one other thing, the serial number is likely lost forever but it definitely looks like a 59
 

ED3

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Thank you for your comments so far!

So far my idea is to refinish the guitar and find some of the missing parts even if they are 'new old stock' parts.

The goal is to make the guitar look like this: or as close as possible (minus all the relic work)


'59 Les Paul.jpg
 

none2low

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You've got a great husk there and what appears to be some original parts. The neck/heel break is a bummer although not uncommon. Yours appears to have been broken a bit further up the neck, but the repair looks solid from what can be seen in your pic.

It is definitely a '59, probably mid year or later. Originally TV Yellow. Serial number is lost to the ages now.

Lot's of different ways you can go with this. If you have deep pockets it's possible to restore it to be close to factory original, but it's not going to be cheap.

I agree with above comment, from what I can see you have one original P90, a jack plate, pickguard, switch? and a strap button or two.

Cost for missing, original 50's replacement parts, I'd estimate will run you between $2500- $2800

Cost of having a TV yellow refin. done probably between $800 - $1600

It's well worth it to get it back into playing condition. My avatar pic is my modded '59. but it all comes down to how much money you want to put into it and whether or not you can do the work yourself.
 

ED3

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I've found some websites to get 50's replacement parts that are close to original, but without blowing an outrageous amount of money. These parts are going to be around 3-400 after pricing them out.

As for everything else, I contacted Gibson's restoration shop and they told me for a 'rotisserie restoration' it will run me about $2800-3000 for everything if I send it to them. I was expecting to spend around the 2500-5000 to get this back to new.
 

none2low

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Yes, if you're not concerned about originality and are ok with reproduction parts you can save a bundle. It really comes down to how much you are willing to invest.

Just keep in mind, there is a good chance you'll spend almost as much restoring it, as it'll be worth should you decide to sell it down the line.
 

Fletch

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If you send it back to Gibson make sure you get all of your original parts back! The parts you found online are aftermarket or reproduction parts which would be a great way to bring this back on a budget. Then just look out for original parts over time. The cream pickup looks like a DiMarzio Super Distortion by the way, an great hot pickup
 

ED3

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Since I've been in contact with Gibson, they would re-finish, do all wiring, put on all my parts with a setup for 2800-3000. I plan on taking pictures of everything, sending a detailed packing list, and only sending them exactly what they ask for to be able to complete this project.

A friend of mine told me about a company that makes a great replacement bridge for older Les Pauls:

https://www.musiccitybridge.com/

This is what I'm thinking of going with for this restoration.

the only pieces that I would need to find are:

Truss rod cover + screws
rythmn/treble cover & switch tip
knobs
backplate cover

*Obviously the bridge I'm looking at as well

Gibson would supply the p90 plus a whole new wiring harness in the restoration.

For the tuners:

I think I'm going to stick with the Schaller Tuners that I've had. I think they are great quality and the fact they were made in West Germany is kind of an interesting for this whole guitar.
 

none2low

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I would suggest going with either the compensated Mojoaxe bridge, or if you don't want/need a compensated bridge the Kluson wraptail with steel studs.

Mojo wraptail

Kluson wraptail

Montreux makes a nice looking poker chip

Montreux
 
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ED3

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What do you like about mojoaxe compared to the glaser bridge?
 

none2low

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I personally think the mojo looks better. They both accomplish the same thing so it's personal preference, but you may not even need a compensated bridge.

In which case, the Kluson bridge is a well made, good sounding, and inexpensive alternative.
 

ED3

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slightly stupid question but:

How would I know if I even need a compensated bridge?
 

none2low

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You'll need to put on a set of tuners and a bridge. String it up and see if it intonates. Without pickups you can use a clip on tuner to get a rough idea.

Btw - Kluson makes a nice set of 3 on a plate single line tuners.

Kluson tuners
 

ED3

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1604088270653.png


Just to make sure and to ask: Do these seem close to the original knobs you would find on a 59 LP?
 

smk506

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That’s a great story to go along with a super cool guitar. It’s going to be a beast when it’s all said and done.
 

none2low

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Those knobs look good shape wise. The numbers look a little too aged for my taste, but again it comes down to personal preference.
 


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