1963 Gibson Les Paul restoration - It begins!

Natima

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I posted this in the Vintage SG section, but now I realize it may become a running restoration thread I will post here from now on.

I'm very much open to suggestions and advice. I will be needing a new Brazilian fretboard... maybe someone in here can help me? Otherwise I may just buy a crazyparts Madagascar board.
I have not decided yet how to tackle the headstock or tailpiece issues. I have a holly veneer on the way, and I will perhaps try to inlay it *around* the logo.
A sideways wiggler is about $1k for a real vintage one... way too much for my tastes, and I don't really want to go the stop-tail route.

FROM THE OTHER THREAD:

So I just picked this up this morning.... It's going to be a long project. I'm going to need parts, patience, and resolve.

At some point, the previous before last owner went bonkers and destroyed his 1963 Les Paul Standard with the "good" intention of converting it into a Les Paul Custom.
I picked it up in an early 70's rectangular purple lined Gibson case, with a '77 T-Top and a Gibson USA humbucker in its current condition for a decent price. The seller told me somewhere he has a ziplock of parts including TRC and Tuners, and maybe pickguard and more, and when/if he finds them, they are mine. He's moving out of state and clearing out, so it's just a matter of if he finds them. FINGERS CROSSED!

The Good:
The truss rod works.
No headstock break!
The finish was stripped chemically, so all the contours are intact.
The awful ebony fretboard came off easily.
The original logo still exists. Is this good? Or just a consolation prize?
I have some experience in luthiery and repair.
It's going to be a functional guitar again.... eventually... hopefully.

The Bad:
Ugh.... the middle pickup route.
The neck was off at some point and the tenon was modified with some maple and rubbery glue... Needs definite improvement.
The headstock... An absolutely horrific attempt at binding and inlay. Honestly, if it was done well, I would have considered leaving it as part of the history of the guitar.

The Ugly:
Random putty and filler all over the guitar. I scraped some off and there's no damage beneath. I don't understand.
Burn marks where the monster who attempted this removed the original Braz board.
All the aforementioned "Bad"... it's all badly done and ugly. The inlays on that board were horrific, it came off immediately.

I'm in the Pacific NW and have some luthiery connections in the Bay Area I hope to tap into. Money is tight... but I want this done properly.
I'm all ears to suggestions and advice. Worst case scenario, if I don't hear from my seller regarding parts, I will likely buy a complete set of parts from MojoAxe or Crazyparts.

Fretboard & Headstock:
Braz being what it is, I am tempted by the crazyparts pre-inlayed Madagascar fretboards. I have no idea what I'm going to do about the headstock. I was thinking of re-routing the binding channels and inlay channels, and inlaying maple and binding with mahogany.

IMG_20200704_085956.jpgIMG_20200704_090005.jpgIMG_20200704_090010.jpgMVIMG_20200704_093410.jpgIMG_20200704_085919.jpg

PART 2:
IMG_20200704_085951.jpgIMG_20200704_085932.jpg

In the two photo's above, you can see the neck joint "repair".
It wasn't really easy to see exactly what had been done here.
There was a sliver of stained mahogany veneer glued atop a maple tenon. I could see multiple layers of wood beneath this maple, and had assumed that the original tenon was down there somewhere, as this maple protruded rather high. My plan was to route the maple off and glue a mahogany plate in to make the repair invisible.

IMG_20200704_110840.jpg

In this photo you can see the maple after I routed it down flush with the pickup route. I didn't find the original tenon down there.
The joint then failed with the slightest pressure while I was scraping putty off the headstock and removing the horrible inlays, so I decided to remove the neck and see if I couldn't clean it up and reglue it securely.

IMG_20200704_144522.jpgIMG_20200704_144526.jpg

Suffice to say... that was not going to happen. There were multiple layers of tapered maple in there, nothing left of the original tenon. These layers were dowelled together and to the neck.
There were at least 2 types of glue in there, I believe superglue was used on the neck, but the rest of the maple was glued with some sort of extremely soft rubbery glue that never actually adhered anything together very well at all. A lot of the maple popped right out... the dowels basically just fell out.

IMG_20200704_144534.jpgIMG_20200704_150316.jpg

There was also a bunch of red dye between every layer, and in the neck mortise. I'm sure this contributed to the shoddyness of this glue joint.
I'm going to completely rebuild the tenon, and it's going to get glued back together with hide glue... making absolutely certain that it will be a good joint for years to come.
[/QUOTE]
 

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Natima

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Hmm... I'm having trouble getting the images into the above post... so I'll dump them here.

IMG_20200704_085919.jpgIMG_20200704_085924.jpgIMG_20200704_085932.jpgIMG_20200704_085951.jpgIMG_20200704_085956.jpgIMG_20200704_090005.jpgIMG_20200704_090010.jpgIMG_20200704_090015.jpgIMG_20200704_090015_1.jpgIMG_20200704_090020.jpgIMG_20200704_090027.jpgIMG_20200704_090042.jpgIMG_20200704_110832.jpgIMG_20200704_110835.jpgIMG_20200704_110840.jpgIMG_20200704_144516.jpgIMG_20200704_144522.jpgIMG_20200704_144526.jpgIMG_20200704_144534.jpgIMG_20200704_144617.jpgIMG_20200704_144625.jpgIMG_20200704_150316.jpgMVIMG_20200704_093410.jpgreceived_198708341478656.jpgreceived_289700445731045.jpgreceived_744742199607560.jpgreceived_2838938026211536.jpgreceived_2984747658267542.jpg
 

Uncle Vinnie

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Please soothe my worried brow and tell me you're going to replace the awful ebony fretboard with a brand new ebony fretboard and not rosewood. :bowdown
 

Natima

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Please soothe my worried brow and tell me you're going to replace the awful ebony fretboard with a brand new ebony fretboard and not rosewood. :bowdown
This was a standard originally, and I was intending to restore it back to standard with a Braz board with era correct trapezoid inlays.
 

Uncle Vinnie

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I'm not a luthier, so if this sounds like a dumb question, attribute it to my lack of knowledge, is the Custom split diamond routed into the headstock or will a Standard veneer do the trick?
 

nuance97

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I’d love a project like this! Looks like fun :thumb:
 

lpfan1980

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VERY COOL!-Best of luck-keep us updated! :cheers:
 

LtDave32

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This was a standard originally, and I was intending to restore it back to standard with a Braz board with era correct trapezoid inlays.
So, that tri-binding around the headstock and the big split diamond a -la "Custom" was done later?

Maple with mahog veneer in the neck tenon?

filled in bridge and stop holes?

"routed by freehand" middle pickup?

Man, there is monkey-bidness. There's more shenanigans going on there than a Cub-Scout sleep-over.

Somebody must have really wanted a custom. Really, really, really bad.

Best of luck with her..

I'd just make a new neck. That tenon.. ooof...
 

pshupe

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I posted this in the Vintage SG section, but now I realize it may become a running restoration thread I will post here from now on.

I'm very much open to suggestions and advice. I will be needing a new Brazilian fretboard... maybe someone in here can help me? Otherwise I may just buy a crazyparts Madagascar board.
I have not decided yet how to tackle the headstock or tailpiece issues. I have a holly veneer on the way, and I will perhaps try to inlay it *around* the logo.
A sideways wiggler is about $1k for a real vintage one... way too much for my tastes, and I don't really want to go the stop-tail route.

FROM THE OTHER THREAD:

So I just picked this up this morning.... It's going to be a long project. I'm going to need parts, patience, and resolve.

At some point, the previous before last owner went bonkers and destroyed his 1963 Les Paul Standard with the "good" intention of converting it into a Les Paul Custom.
I picked it up in an early 70's rectangular purple lined Gibson case, with a '77 T-Top and a Gibson USA humbucker in its current condition for a decent price. The seller told me somewhere he has a ziplock of parts including TRC and Tuners, and maybe pickguard and more, and when/if he finds them, they are mine. He's moving out of state and clearing out, so it's just a matter of if he finds them. FINGERS CROSSED!

The Good:
The truss rod works.
No headstock break!
The finish was stripped chemically, so all the contours are intact.
The awful ebony fretboard came off easily.
The original logo still exists. Is this good? Or just a consolation prize?
I have some experience in luthiery and repair.
It's going to be a functional guitar again.... eventually... hopefully.

The Bad:
Ugh.... the middle pickup route.
The neck was off at some point and the tenon was modified with some maple and rubbery glue... Needs definite improvement.
The headstock... An absolutely horrific attempt at binding and inlay. Honestly, if it was done well, I would have considered leaving it as part of the history of the guitar.

The Ugly:
Random putty and filler all over the guitar. I scraped some off and there's no damage beneath. I don't understand.
Burn marks where the monster who attempted this removed the original Braz board.
All the aforementioned "Bad"... it's all badly done and ugly. The inlays on that board were horrific, it came off immediately.

I'm in the Pacific NW and have some luthiery connections in the Bay Area I hope to tap into. Money is tight... but I want this done properly.
I'm all ears to suggestions and advice. Worst case scenario, if I don't hear from my seller regarding parts, I will likely buy a complete set of parts from MojoAxe or Crazyparts.

Fretboard & Headstock:
Braz being what it is, I am tempted by the crazyparts pre-inlayed Madagascar fretboards. I have no idea what I'm going to do about the headstock. I was thinking of re-routing the binding channels and inlay channels, and inlaying maple and binding with mahogany.

View attachment 473655View attachment 473656View attachment 473657View attachment 473673View attachment 473651

PART 2:
View attachment 473654View attachment 473653

In the two photo's above, you can see the neck joint "repair".
It wasn't really easy to see exactly what had been done here.
There was a sliver of stained mahogany veneer glued atop a maple tenon. I could see multiple layers of wood beneath this maple, and had assumed that the original tenon was down there somewhere, as this maple protruded rather high. My plan was to route the maple off and glue a mahogany plate in to make the repair invisible.

View attachment 473665

In this photo you can see the maple after I routed it down flush with the pickup route. I didn't find the original tenon down there.
The joint then failed with the slightest pressure while I was scraping putty off the headstock and removing the horrible inlays, so I decided to remove the neck and see if I couldn't clean it up and reglue it securely.

View attachment 473667View attachment 473668

Suffice to say... that was not going to happen. There were multiple layers of tapered maple in there, nothing left of the original tenon. These layers were dowelled together and to the neck.
There were at least 2 types of glue in there, I believe superglue was used on the neck, but the rest of the maple was glued with some sort of extremely soft rubbery glue that never actually adhered anything together very well at all. A lot of the maple popped right out... the dowels basically just fell out.

View attachment 473669View attachment 473672

There was also a bunch of red dye between every layer, and in the neck mortise. I'm sure this contributed to the shoddyness of this glue joint.
I'm going to completely rebuild the tenon, and it's going to get glued back together with hide glue... making absolutely certain that it will be a good joint for years to come.
[/QUOTE]


This looks like a great project. Definitely some weird stuff here. But it sounds like you want to take it back to what it was originally, correct. It was a Gibson SG Standard, if it's a 1963. I haven't heard you mention the "SG" at all. Not a big deal but in 1961 Gibson came out with a new guitar design but still called it a Les Paul. This was the shape. Les Paul hated the shape and wanted his name taken off. By '63 they just called it the "SG" for Solid Guitar. How do you know it is a 1963 SG? Have you checked the serial # against the Gibson database?

Mojoaxe would be my suggestion for as many parts as you can get from them. The re-issue sideways vibrolo is about $300. I would not try and veneer over the original pearl logo. As you say you want it to be correct, so do it right. There are probably a few people here that could supply a braz board and correct inlays. The neck joint is a little concerning but not sure you can do much about that. Those guitars already had very little gluing surface. You may want to get advice from a more qualified person than myself in that respect.

Good luck. If you truly want advice here, please ask questions before doing anything. I've seen a lot of posts lately that start out like this and then we do not hear anything and then a bunch of pictures get posted after the fact with botched repairs. Sorry if this sounds a little harsh but it sounds like you want to restore this to as close to original as possible. In that case please either ask your questions here prior to any work or employ a reputable luthier, who has done this type of restoration / repair to take it on.

Cheers Peter.
 

cmjohnson

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You, sir, are a glutton for punishment! And I respect that! You've taken on a big project, one that I'd look at and say, "I don't have the time or patience to do that!" and pass on it.

I wish you enormous success and look forward to seeing your progress.
 

Natima

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This looks like a great project. Definitely some weird stuff here. But it sounds like you want to take it back to what it was originally, correct. It was a Gibson SG Standard, if it's a 1963. I haven't heard you mention the "SG" at all. Not a big deal but in 1961 Gibson came out with a new guitar design but still called it a Les Paul. This was the shape. Les Paul hated the shape and wanted his name taken off. By '63 they just called it the "SG" for Solid Guitar. How do you know it is a 1963 SG? Have you checked the serial # against the Gibson database?

Mojoaxe would be my suggestion for as many parts as you can get from them. The re-issue sideways vibrolo is about $300. I would not try and veneer over the original pearl logo. As you say you want it to be correct, so do it right. There are probably a few people here that could supply a braz board and correct inlays. The neck joint is a little concerning but not sure you can do much about that. Those guitars already had very little gluing surface. You may want to get advice from a more qualified person than myself in that respect.

Good luck. If you truly want advice here, please ask questions before doing anything. I've seen a lot of posts lately that start out like this and then we do not hear anything and then a bunch of pictures get posted after the fact with botched repairs. Sorry if this sounds a little harsh but it sounds like you want to restore this to as close to original as possible. In that case please either ask your questions here prior to any work or employ a reputable luthier, who has done this type of restoration / repair to take it on.

Cheers Peter.
Serial number dates it to '63. The holes in the body indicate a sideways vibrola, and the seller says he has some original parts that he needs to find but that he will give me as soon as he does. Among these are the original TRC with the 'Les Paul' engraving. '63 was the last of the Les Paul branded SG's, so technically this one is still a Les Paul ;)

I think I have got a source for a fretboard... a world-class luthier who restores pre-war martins for a living. He's an old contact from when I was doing repairs full time in the Bay Area.

I already reached out to mojoaxe for a complete set of parts, but I'm holding off until I know what parts I actually need.

Regarding the headstock, I think I'm going to re-route the binding channels, and bind with mahogany to rebuild the headstock. After that I will route off most of the holly veneer leaving the original logo in-tact and 'inlay' a new holly veneer around the logo. This way, the logo remains intact, and I get the holly veneer all the way to the edge of the headstock.

The neck joint is problematic, but I don't think it's too bad. The way the previous person did it means I can use a scarf joint to rebuild the tenon giving a lot of surface area. I will use hide glue for a really tight bond.

I have a bunch of repair experience and I'm a Roberto Venn grad, just not a lot of major rebuilds, and my toolset is very limited at the moment.
 

Natima

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I will be specific with questions... Does anyone here have a good idea how they would tackle the headstock?
 

DaveR

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Wow, that's a heck of a project! I've been looking for a busted up guitar to practice stuff like this on, but I wouldn't trust my skills on something of that age. I also agree with @LtDave32 on making a new neck. Seems the easiest thing to do, and would clear up a ton of issues, but I respect your desire to keep it as original as possible....

For that middle pickup route, I suppose you could route a big swimming pool in there and piece back in a square of mahogany then recut the two pickups. Of course this pretty much limits you to solid finishes, but I'm assuming you're doing that anyway given all the filler blemishes.
 

pshupe

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Serial number dates it to '63. The holes in the body indicate a sideways vibrola, and the seller says he has some original parts that he needs to find but that he will give me as soon as he does. Among these are the original TRC with the 'Les Paul' engraving. '63 was the last of the Les Paul branded SG's, so technically this one is still a Les Paul ;)

I think I have got a source for a fretboard... a world-class luthier who restores pre-war martins for a living. He's an old contact from when I was doing repairs full time in the Bay Area.

I already reached out to mojoaxe for a complete set of parts, but I'm holding off until I know what parts I actually need.

Regarding the headstock, I think I'm going to re-route the binding channels, and bind with mahogany to rebuild the headstock. After that I will route off most of the holly veneer leaving the original logo in-tact and 'inlay' a new holly veneer around the logo. This way, the logo remains intact, and I get the holly veneer all the way to the edge of the headstock.

The neck joint is problematic, but I don't think it's too bad. The way the previous person did it means I can use a scarf joint to rebuild the tenon giving a lot of surface area. I will use hide glue for a really tight bond.

I have a bunch of repair experience and I'm a Roberto Venn grad, just not a lot of major rebuilds, and my toolset is very limited at the moment.
I stand corrected. I guess it was up until 63.
Wikipedia says 61 - 63. Weird. I could have swore it was just 61. Hmmmm. It’s funny that it took them 3 yrs to adjust. I think Les Paul’s deal was coming up for renewal and maybe it ended in 64, so the kept it for the full 3 yrs.

Cheers Peter.
 
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Side Burns

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Wow lots of history, knowledge, & workmanship to be learned on this thread.
 

Natima

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So I bought this bound and fretted braz fretboard on reverb that was supposed to be '59 accurate specs. $500.

Problem: It measures 1 23/32nds at the nut, and 2 9/32nds at the butt.
A consistent 1/32nd too wide. The seller is pushing back saying a luthier would have no problem, and he doesn't know anything about it.

Am I crazy? I know a few extra thou gives you some room to roll the binding. But surely the max bound width of the playing surface at the nut should still be 1 11/16?
 

ARandall

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Usually the binding itself is shaped, and the neck will be fitted to the guitar and finetuned. I personally would have more issue with the item being the exact right size right from the word go. There is no room to finesse then.
 

pshupe

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So I bought this bound and fretted braz fretboard on reverb that was supposed to be '59 accurate specs. $500.

Problem: It measures 1 23/32nds at the nut, and 2 9/32nds at the butt.
A consistent 1/32nd too wide. The seller is pushing back saying a luthier would have no problem, and he doesn't know anything about it.

Am I crazy? I know a few extra thou gives you some room to roll the binding. But surely the max bound width of the playing surface at the nut should still be 1 11/16?
How thick is the binding? It should be about 0.040" at finished thickness. 1/32" too wide is actually 1/64" too wide on each side. That's not a lot and I would rather have it a little thick than a little thin. Normally I make the fret board the exact size before gluing to the neck but most of the time I am not useing vintage spec super thin binding. I use thicker binding and have the frets overhang onto the binding and then sand the underside to contour into the neck.

I might be with the seller on this one. A couple of swipes with a sanding block after it's on the neck and you should be good.

Cheers Peter.
 


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