'59 Les Paul - Step by Step - Bartlett Plans

RibbonCurl

Member
Joined
Jul 7, 2012
Messages
62
Reaction score
15
Hello Members,

I've owned five different Les Pauls and have been studying the building process of guitars for years via books and videos.

Is there a dedicated forum, tutorial and/or step by step guide on where to start the building process? I purchased both Bartlett plans (The 1959 Exact and the 1959 Generic). Have most power tools and access to others. My shop is currently at 45% relative humidity and understand the critical importance of drying wood and purchasing the correct type of cut i.e quarter-sawn, flat sawn etc.

I have also watched freddyfrets on youtube and many other great builders but looking for a more focused group that works off the Bartlett plans starting from scratch (as in how to decipher the blueprints and understanding various measurements and angles). Very familiar with many aspects of woodworking and carpentry and have also been a player since 1973.

Again, my question please, "Is there a dedicated forum, tutorial and/or step by step guide on where to start the building process of a '59 Les Paul style guitar utilizing the Bartlett plans ? Any info. will help. Thank you kindly.
 

Alexp88

Junior Member
Joined
Oct 20, 2017
Messages
12
Reaction score
8
I remember seeing a mammoth thread on another forum of Gil Yaron explaining his builds step by step. Maybe google it and im sure you'll find it.
 

ARandall

Senior Member
Joined
Apr 16, 2012
Messages
14,655
Reaction score
10,941
Here is where you have a lot of build threads, as well as the sticky's for the most concentrated luthier resource I think I've come across.

Freddy G has a video build series on Youtube too, which shows you process as well as still pics.
 

pshupe

Premium Member
Joined
Jan 19, 2012
Messages
4,841
Reaction score
4,301
Just start a thread here and ask questions. This is your step by step. What do you need to know? I drew those drawings so I can probably point you in the right direction.

Although if you have followed any of the threads here that already walk you step by step. You should know where to start.

Honduran Mahogany body blank - under 3 lbs /b.f. - the body is about 13" x 18" so look for something around 15" x 20" to be on the safe side. 1 3/4" is the final thickness for the body, so get something thicker if it is not flat and dry already.

Maple cap - two piece glued in the middle. Eastern Maple. You can bookmatch if you want but I don't think all / most of the bursts were bookmatched. A lot were slip matched. If you are goind to re-saw get something that is 8/4 (2") x 8" x 20" Final dimension should be 5/8" thick and about the same size as your mahogany body.

Honduran Mahogany neck - one piece about 3"x3"x30" quarter sawn is preferred but not necessary

Brazilian Rosewood fret board - 20" x 2 1/2" x 0.25"

and there is a very good start.

Cheers Peter.
 

RibbonCurl

Member
Joined
Jul 7, 2012
Messages
62
Reaction score
15
I remember seeing a mammoth thread on another forum of Gil Yaron explaining his builds step by step. Maybe google it and im sure you'll find it.
Hi Alexp88, thank you very much! I joined the TDPRI forum and found page 1 of the thread titled, "1959 Les Paul Build". Gil Yaron is also known as username "preeb"? Here it is (in case others are interested);

 

RibbonCurl

Member
Joined
Jul 7, 2012
Messages
62
Reaction score
15
Just start a thread here and ask questions. This is your step by step. What do you need to know? I drew those drawings so I can probably point you in the right direction.

Although if you have followed any of the threads here that already walk you step by step. You should know where to start.

Honduran Mahogany body blank - under 3 lbs /b.f. - the body is about 13" x 18" so look for something around 15" x 20" to be on the safe side. 1 3/4" is the final thickness for the body, so get something thicker if it is not flat and dry already.

Maple cap - two piece glued in the middle. Eastern Maple. You can bookmatch if you want but I don't think all / most of the bursts were bookmatched. A lot were slip matched. If you are goind to re-saw get something that is 8/4 (2") x 8" x 20" Final dimension should be 5/8" thick and about the same size as your mahogany body.

Honduran Mahogany neck - one piece about 3"x3"x30" quarter sawn is preferred but not necessary

Brazilian Rosewood fret board - 20" x 2 1/2" x 0.25"

and there is a very good start.

Cheers Peter.
Hi Peter,

Thank you very much for the initial step. I'm late to the game here and will have to get to know who's who on this forum. I've been around the block with Les Pauls for decades. I'm primarily a player but have always wanted to try my hand at building a '59.

I currently own two 1998 Historic R8's. Purchased them new in '98. Looking to sell them and hopefully get my money back. Love the guitars but I initially purchased them to play with the goal of moving them out at some point for a humble profit. Had no idea Gibson would continue to make thousands more and change the name of the line twice. Now everyone plays a flametop LP.

Peter, my two R8's have beautiful tops and they were hand picked back in May and July of '98 from reputable dealers. Quite frankly I have outgrown the need for a AAA tops and prefer a top that sounds really good i.e. rings and has decent flame.

I have time tomorrow to really look at the Bartlett plans you drew. At this point, aside from the markings and some measurements (which I kindly need clarification on), I noticed on your drawings the pickup cavities are angled to match the plane of the strings. Never knew that. Also never knew the top of the maple cap has an angle as well (about 1.2 degrees). Lots to learn here. I'll be posting questions if you don't mind.

Regards
Wally
 

DaveR

Senior Member
Joined
Sep 14, 2013
Messages
548
Reaction score
905
There’s a lot of fantastic older build threads in the luthiers corner. Unfortunately many of them fell victim to Photobucket and have tons of broken links. But a lot of the folks around here (myself included) have built from the Bartlett plans and would be happy to advise on any questions you might have.

A lot of it depends on how vintage accurate you’re trying to go as well. Some of the guys here are way into that, some just want to make a nice looking guitar, roughly LP shaped. Keep that in mind as you’re researching. A lot of steps can be made simpler (that godforsaken control cavity route) or modernized (two way truss rod) if you’re not after vintage correctness. There are also many many different ways to skin the same cat. So don’t get too hung up on any one given method.
 

DaveR

Senior Member
Joined
Sep 14, 2013
Messages
548
Reaction score
905
Sorry, but here are a bunch of random thoughts that might help guide you. I’d suggest getting a notebook and writing stuff down. It’ll start to come together and you’ll figure out order of operations which is so critical.

What do you have for tools? Aside from standard woodworking equipment, I find a spindle sander to be essential. Also a luthier or “pattern maker” vice really really helps with all kinds of guitar stuff.

There are many special jigs you’ll likely want to make. A router planing sled helps get the angles dialed in for the neck and pickup planes, plus it’s awfully handy for planing slabs that might be otherwise too large for your thickness planer. A tablesaw sled with some toggle clamps is useful for certain cuts on the neck and for tapering a fretboard. Or you can do it with a template and a router. A floating binding jig can be made out of scraps and drawer slides to work with a trim router.

Then there are guitar specific tools you’ll need. A leveling beam, a crowning file, some decent nut files. A radius sanding block, a fret saw...

Also, masking tape and super glue will be your best friends when it comes to attaching templates to workpieces.

A LP build is a daunting task, and certainly not cheap, but I think everyone around here would agree that the first one is a fun and challenging experience that can be greatly rewarding! My first turned out better than I ever dreamed it would and I absolutely love it.
 

RibbonCurl

Member
Joined
Jul 7, 2012
Messages
62
Reaction score
15
There’s a lot of fantastic older build threads in the luthiers corner. Unfortunately many of them fell victim to Photobucket and have tons of broken links. But a lot of the folks around here (myself included) have built from the Bartlett plans and would be happy to advise on any questions you might have.

A lot of it depends on how vintage accurate you’re trying to go as well. Some of the guys here are way into that, some just want to make a nice looking guitar, roughly LP shaped. Keep that in mind as you’re researching. A lot of steps can be made simpler (that godforsaken control cavity route) or modernized (two way truss rod) if you’re not after vintage correctness. There are also many many different ways to skin the same cat. So don’t get too hung up on any one given method.
Thank you DaveR, I'm in no way looking to get into a perfect vintage correct build (at least not on my first build). Way too much money involved there. I'm a player and would really like to have my first build capture at least 90% of my R8. That would make me real happy.

I also prefer to do as much by hand if possible. I do have routers, a tablesaw and looking to purchase a bandsaw. I also have access (off-site) to any other power tool if need be but feel doing most by hand will better teach me to avoid costly mistakes.

Thus far I have not seen a convincing way of cutting the angled neck pocket. That is by far my biggest fear!

Thank you for your time.
Wally
 

DaveR

Senior Member
Joined
Sep 14, 2013
Messages
548
Reaction score
905
Thus far I have not seen a convincing way of cutting the angled neck pocket. That is by far my biggest fear!
Some people made a really cool angled box jig that the guitar body fit inside and the router rides on top of. I didn’t go that fancy.

I can tell you how I do it. I removed the bulk of the material from the neck pocket with forstner bits at the drill press. I made an MDF template (you’ll need a lot of those) of the neck pocket based on the plans. I made some 4.4 degree wedges with my table saw. While the guitar top was still flat I attached my wedges and template to the guitar, aligned center lines and confirmed the angle. Then used my router to cut the angled pocket.

On my next build I did the same thing but without the wedges. I went ahead and cut the neck angle into the top but didn’t carve the top so I had flat plane at the proper angle. Then I attached it template straight to that angled surface and router the same way. I’ve got some pics of this somewhere...
 

failsafe306

Senior Member
Joined
Aug 30, 2016
Messages
370
Reaction score
341
Just start a thread here and ask questions. This is your step by step. What do you need to know? I drew those drawings so I can probably point you in the right direction.

Although if you have followed any of the threads here that already walk you step by step. You should know where to start.

Honduran Mahogany body blank - under 3 lbs /b.f. - the body is about 13" x 18" so look for something around 15" x 20" to be on the safe side. 1 3/4" is the final thickness for the body, so get something thicker if it is not flat and dry already.

Maple cap - two piece glued in the middle. Eastern Maple. You can bookmatch if you want but I don't think all / most of the bursts were bookmatched. A lot were slip matched. If you are goind to re-saw get something that is 8/4 (2") x 8" x 20" Final dimension should be 5/8" thick and about the same size as your mahogany body.

Honduran Mahogany neck - one piece about 3"x3"x30" quarter sawn is preferred but not necessary

Brazilian Rosewood fret board - 20" x 2 1/2" x 0.25"

and there is a very good start.

Cheers Peter.
Awesome post :dude:
 

MRJ5

Premium Member
Joined
Jun 13, 2008
Messages
1,560
Reaction score
409
Here are a couple of links to some old threads that should be helpful.
A cursory glance at them shows most of the pictures are intact. One is from Tom Bartlett (alk-3) himself and another from Exnihlo using Bartlett plans. Combine those with Freddy's build videos, and the thread: https://www.mylespaul.com/threads/the-definitive-top-carve-thread.435924/ and you nearly have a master building class.
 

ARandall

Senior Member
Joined
Apr 16, 2012
Messages
14,655
Reaction score
10,941
I have time tomorrow to really look at the Bartlett plans you drew. At this point, aside from the markings and some measurements (which I kindly need clarification on), I noticed on your drawings the pickup cavities are angled to match the plane of the strings. Never knew that.

Also never knew the top of the maple cap has an angle as well (about 1.2 degrees).
Lots of detail on these. Between the Bartlett ones and the plans in the forum sticky you actually have every measurement you could possibly need.

Quite frankly I have outgrown the need for a AAA tops and prefer a top that sounds really good i.e. rings and has decent flame.
You'll never know what any piece of wood will contribute.....nor will you be able to tell what is a 'good' bit for a guitar or a 'bad' bit. There is just no test for wood that gives you 'good tone'. For one, you shape the wood significantly after you glue it to other bits, secondly its only how they interdependantly combine as the final guitar that is the key. No test will tell you this.
The best you can do is find planks that have the grain in a good orientation for the neck for strength (quarter sawn is preferable for stability) and a bit for the top that pleases your eye.
Oh, and 1-piece necks or bodies fall under this predictive uncertainty too - no guarantee that they will make a better guitar at all.

Thus far I have not seen a convincing way of cutting the angled neck pocket. That is by far my biggest fear!
If you don't want to make a box like has been suggested, then just attach the template to the body once you have the neck plane cut. By definition this cannot do anything else than perfectly mimic the top angle. I always do it this way- just screw it down......a wedge at the back to support it - one screw is in the future neck pickup rout location, the other in the bridge pickup location.
 

pshupe

Premium Member
Joined
Jan 19, 2012
Messages
4,841
Reaction score
4,301
I have time tomorrow to really look at the Bartlett plans you drew. At this point, aside from the markings and some measurements (which I kindly need clarification on), I noticed on your drawings the pickup cavities are angled to match the plane of the strings. Never knew that. Also never knew the top of the maple cap has an angle as well (about 1.2 degrees).
Yes - that is what the drawings are for. To show you how the guitar was actually built. The PUP routes match the neck angle, which is controlled by the neck mortise. So you route the pups and the neck at the same angle. The maple cap actually has two angles carved into it. The neck angle about 4 degrees and the PUP plane, which is about 1.2 degrees. One of the reasons Tom and I worked on these drawings was to produce a set that you could construct this guitar without other information. The only thing missing on these drawings is the top carve. The most common way to do that for the DIYer is to use the carve steps that Scott ( ExNihilo) created . You are a bit away from that but not a bad time to discuss.

Cheers Peter.
 

RibbonCurl

Member
Joined
Jul 7, 2012
Messages
62
Reaction score
15
Sorry, but here are a bunch of random thoughts that might help guide you. I’d suggest getting a notebook and writing stuff down. It’ll start to come together and you’ll figure out order of operations which is so critical.
Yes, I agree. I'm a big believer in the notebook! Will definitely start wirh that!

What do you have for tools? Aside from standard woodworking equipment, I find a spindle sander to be essential. Also a luthier or “pattern maker” vice really really helps with all kinds of guitar stuff.
I have a good table saw, a floor standing radial drill press, routers and one plane. Also looking at purchasing a bandsaw. Obviously I need a lot more tools. I also have access to a furniture restoration shop that has just about every power tool.

I want to be especially careful not to get in-over-my-head in regards to overbuying tools and such. Looking to do as much by hand within reason.

I prefer to buy whats needed as I move forward in each step of the building process. I have no idea what a luthier or "pattern maker" vice actually is but will research this.

There are many special jigs you’ll likely want to make. A router planing sled helps get the angles dialed in for the neck and pickup planes, plus it’s awfully handy for planing slabs that might be otherwise too large for your thickness planer. A tablesaw sled with some toggle clamps is useful for certain cuts on the neck and for tapering a fretboard. Or you can do it with a template and a router. A floating binding jig can be made out of scraps and drawer slides to work with a trim router.
Then there are guitar specific tools you’ll need. A leveling beam, a crowning file, some decent nut files. A radius sanding block, a fret saw...

Also, masking tape and super glue will be your best friends when it comes to attaching templates to workpieces.
I hope there exists videos on how to make these jigs. My goal is to build my first Burst using the least expensive way possible that produces a successful build. I understand many builders have the money and space to purchase power tools that ease the burdensome task of doing most procedures by hand. If possible, I prefer to avoid this expensive approach as my shop space is small and any approach that can be successfully accomplished by using hand tools would be much appreciated.

A LP build is a daunting task, and certainly not cheap, but I think everyone around here would agree that the first one is a fun and challenging experience that can be greatly rewarding! My first turned out better than I ever dreamed it would and I absolutely love it.
Yes, that would be my goal. I prefer to start off with a minimalistic approach in regards to power tools and then build up from there i.e. purchasing additional items to ease the building process of various procedures/tasks.
 

nuance97

Premium Member
Joined
Feb 25, 2009
Messages
2,608
Reaction score
2,006
My suggestion would be to go up to the “filter” tool at the top right of the thread display, filter threads by “most viewed,” and read through all the LP builds on the first several pages. There’s a reason threads get thousands and hundreds of thousands of views-they’re good and very thorough.
 

DaveR

Senior Member
Joined
Sep 14, 2013
Messages
548
Reaction score
905

I've seen this vice at Woodcraft drop to $100 on occasion. I bought the StewMac version when it was on sale a few years ago and then one week later is when Woodcraft dropped theirs to 100. Either vice is great even if you pay a little more for it. Indispensable for any guitar work, in my opinion.

All the different special jigs, yes there are a lot of different photos and videos out there, both in threads here and on youtube. Maybe not step by steps, but enough of an overview that you can figure it out. The search feature of this site is not so great, but I usually just go to google, type in "site:mylespaul.com XXXXXX" where xxx is what I'm after. Most hits point right to the luthier's corner.

This type of work can totally be done with hand tools if you have the patience. Just check out Barnaby's early build threads. He used to work out of an apartment in Tokyo and did amazing work with basic (but very nice) hand tools. Be warned that quality hand tools can be quite an investment of time and money as well.

I prefer the well rounded approach. Some things are easiest with power tools and some things are easier by hand. The bulk of what we do with guitars can be accomplished with a router as your main power tool. Table saws, jointers, planers, bandsaws all help get the rough stock into shape, but aren't an absolute necessity. A few hand planes can get that done. A drill press is very handy. A spindle sander is also very helpful to get your templates into the right shape, but it's not a requirement and they make spindle sanding attachments for drill presses as well. I think you're probably in pretty good shape on power tools. You may need to invest in some template following router bits and look into a robo sander for your drill press. If you can hit up that other shop for bandsaw needs and/or utilize them for preparing rough stock, I think you'll be set.
 

RibbonCurl

Member
Joined
Jul 7, 2012
Messages
62
Reaction score
15
This type of work can totally be done with hand tools if you have the patience. Just check out Barnaby's early build threads. He used to work out of an apartment in Tokyo and did amazing work with basic (but very nice) hand tools. Be warned that quality hand tools can be quite an investment of time and money as well.
Thank you DaveR. Lot's of great advice indeed. Can you please help me locate Barnaby's early build threads? I'm new to this forum. Thank you.
 

DaveR

Senior Member
Joined
Sep 14, 2013
Messages
548
Reaction score
905
Unfortunately, Barnaby used photobucket for most of his photos and they're gone. But he has a couple of good video series of his building! @Barnaby is still around here from time to time but not as active as he once was. I miss his daily presence, and I think we can all agree that he thoroughly documented what amazing results can be achieved with hand tools and perseverance!


I think there are 15 vids in this series...just hit the next button after watching the first. If you get lost, you can navigate to his user page on youtube and go back through his videos 6 or 7 years to find this series.

He also has a 9 part bass build, I haven't watched this one yet...but it looks like the video quality is better on these.

I wouldn't get too hung up on the hand tools aspect unless you're just itching to do it that way. If you have a table saw and a router you are ahead of the game in the tools dept. Even Barnaby eventually moved on to a power tool equipped workshop to be more efficient.

While we're talking video diaries....this series by Freddy G that is linked earlier in this thread uses power tools but is phenomenal. It features a lot of great details on some of the more difficult aspects of building and I think this should be required viewing for anyone considering a LP style build.
 


Latest Threads



Top