Chambering A Les Paul, A Different Approach

Dougie

Senior Member
Joined
Dec 11, 2008
Messages
2,013
Reaction score
1,094
I have a 1985 '59 reissue (this was before they started with the R designations) that hasn't a lot of collector value, it's had the neck broke behind the 3rd fret, and broken almost completely out of the body at the heel. I repaired this one 25yrs ago with the typical wood glue and clamps, it has been strong and stable all this time, refretted with stainless wire it is an EXCELLENT player, a jealous Navy girlfriend "reliced" it naturally when she threw it down a flight of stairs and into the yard, breaking the neck and would you believe there is no "crescent moon" crack behind the peghead?

Here's what I would like to do. I'd like to saw off the back of the body, 1/4" thick slab, rout some chambers into the mahogany, then glue the back on again, maybe with a piece of veneer between the back and body to add back in the thickness of the saw cut. The whole guitar is up for a refin anyway, and a glue joint around the radius could be easily hidden by a darkback finish.

So what type of saw would do a good job of this, and does anyone have any suggestions for an "acoustically tuned" pattern of chambers?

Honey Bee 6-2011.jpg
 

christopherJ

Senior Member
Joined
Jan 14, 2011
Messages
405
Reaction score
522
I really doubt you could cut the back off like you want. A bandsaw would be the only thing I could think of. It would be very difficult and IMO would require some jigs be built to hold the guitar.

Why not just drill through he back and use thin plugs for the holes. Way easier! Darkback it would be hidden.
 

jkes01

Senior Member
Joined
Jan 10, 2011
Messages
3,546
Reaction score
2,955
Bandsaw would be dangerous even if you had access to one tall enough to fit the guitar. I would build a router sled and trim the body down, route out the weight relief, and glue a new back on.
 

Dougie

Senior Member
Joined
Dec 11, 2008
Messages
2,013
Reaction score
1,094
I was thinking more along the lines of the Japanese saws, thin blades, precision cuts, and easy to keep parallel to the back, I could make a 1/4" tall "fence" to lay the blade on and saw around the body then try and saw it through the middle.
Japanese Saws.png
 

ARandall

Senior Member
Joined
Apr 16, 2012
Messages
14,532
Reaction score
10,784
Even with a fence, the saw will want to wander. With such a long thin blade flex is a major issue. And before that you're trying to make a fence that wraps around the guitar.

As to the idea of trying to plan acoustic chambers......are you already acquainted with the nature of every bit of grain on the inside of the guitar?
Unless you have a precise map of every last cubic mm of the guitar you will have no clue of the result until the guitar is completed.

What is the biggest goal here btw??
 

Dougie

Senior Member
Joined
Dec 11, 2008
Messages
2,013
Reaction score
1,094
What is the biggest goal here btw??
Weight relief dispersed more or less evenly within the body. Maybe long slots would do less to change the sound than open cavities. It sounds pretty good acoustically, bright, typical LP sound, nothing out of the ordinary.

It is one of the channel routed bodies, and you can "hear" this channel as a great deal of the acoustic volume emanates from between the pickups, right where the channel runs.
 

smk506

Senior Member
Joined
Jan 4, 2009
Messages
4,473
Reaction score
8,148
Can we get some more shots of the guitar? That first pic is absolutely stunning.

I know it’s not what you asked, but have you tried one of those bungee-ish straps or maybe an extra wide one with neoprene inside? That might help enough with the distribution of weight to avoid having any complex procedures.


Of course, if you just have a hankering to try out the idea and do the work for the sake of doing the work, more power to you, I get that 100% too.

Please don’t refinish that top though, that’s a serious rocket.
 

Dougie

Senior Member
Joined
Dec 11, 2008
Messages
2,013
Reaction score
1,094
I don't like the top, I plan on sending it to Kim at Historic Makeovers for an exact copy of this one, along with the refin I will have the top carved to exact 1959 specs which they knock out of the park. In addition to the recarve, the refin itself will take the thick plasticized finish off and should be more resonant once the lacquer is applied, plus weight relieving it with long channels should give it more volume acoustically as well. There is no collector value in a Lester that has been broken as badly as this one was, and repaired, but if it turns it into a really really standout guitar it will be worth the investment. I refretted it with stainless Jescar wire set in epoxy, it got a real nice hollow vowel tone after the fret work, I was quite surprised at the difference. I knew it would wake it up to refret it, but it seems to have accented the upper mids and brought them remarkably closer to the sound of the best bursts that I have heard.

1911HMdarkburst.jpg
 
Last edited:

jcsk8

Senior Member
Joined
May 24, 2010
Messages
2,632
Reaction score
1,543
That´s the best option, IMO. Holes on tha back and than plug them shortly.

I really doubt you could cut the back off like you want. A bandsaw would be the only thing I could think of. It would be very difficult and IMO would require some jigs be built to hold the guitar.

Why not just drill through he back and use thin plugs for the holes. Way easier! Darkback it would be hidden.
 

ARandall

Senior Member
Joined
Apr 16, 2012
Messages
14,532
Reaction score
10,784
It is one of the channel routed bodies, and you can "hear" this channel as a great deal of the acoustic volume emanates from between the pickups, right where the channel runs.
And also where the strings (the things actually making the noise in the first place) are. Every one of my guitars does this too.

I've never heard of channel routing. Certainly the only 'weight relief' for that era guitar is the 9 holes.
Do you mean the fact that this is the era where they drilled the diagonal electrics wire shaft (after the top was on) rather than routing a square version before the top was attached.
 

Dougie

Senior Member
Joined
Dec 11, 2008
Messages
2,013
Reaction score
1,094
No sir, I call channel routing the same as you call the square rout before the top is glued on.
 

Pappy35

Senior Member
Joined
Feb 17, 2020
Messages
234
Reaction score
244
I vote for leaving it as-is. It's "naturally" relic'd. ANother 20 years and it'll be legendary.
 

ARandall

Senior Member
Joined
Apr 16, 2012
Messages
14,532
Reaction score
10,784
No sir, I call channel routing the same as you call the square rout before the top is glued on.
So thats every Les Paul ever made then, and not something unique as you seemed to be implying.

That rout is not doing what you think acoustically.
You're really saying the acoustic tone is louder over the strings, and thinking its a due to a tiny fully supported void in amongst a lot of solid wood rather than the obvious......


Anyhow - its an.........interesting............project.
I think you'll probably need to discard the idea of you doing it yourself. I can't speak for HM, but many pro's will not accept projects with issues that might impact the QC of their end product. Maybe talk with them first to see what their thoughts are.
 

Dougie

Senior Member
Joined
Dec 11, 2008
Messages
2,013
Reaction score
1,094
I had my own brick and mortar guitar repair business for many years, trained under Erlewine in the 80s, God only knows how many broken pegheads and pulled up bridges I have fixed, nevermind the neck resets and the dozens and dozens of refrets and bone nuts, it goes on and on. So not like this is a Boy Scouts project.

One job we did in Dan's shop was to flip a Rick 360 from righty to lefty, switched the cavities, the pickguards, the cat's eye f hole, the jackplate, that one was a trip! If you ever see pics of a lefty Royal Blue Rick 360 with righty neck inlays and peghead, you will know how it got that way, it was gorgeous when it was done. A job like that would make taking the back off a solid body Les Paul and putting it back on seem like nothing.

Kim has fixed some ungodly ugly breaks in his time too, this one won't be an abortion, it will have a glue joint that can be worked into the radius and hidden fairly easily by a darkback finish. And I don't even care if it's visible. It'll be a cool job once done.
 
Last edited:

efstop

Premium Member
Joined
May 29, 2015
Messages
8,951
Reaction score
22,750
I'd take the neck off and horizontally drill 1" channels through the body, avoiding where there are bushings or bridge mounts. Two towards the widest parts of the body, and a couple of channels down the center between the bushings.
For extra points, drill at an angle from the strap button on the bottom, too. One plug.
 

christopherJ

Senior Member
Joined
Jan 14, 2011
Messages
405
Reaction score
522
So...the OP trained with Erlewine, had his own repair shop for years, has done much more difficult (and rather crazy) work and is asking us for advice? Hmmm, that seems a bit odd.
 

Dougie

Senior Member
Joined
Dec 11, 2008
Messages
2,013
Reaction score
1,094
So...the OP trained with Erlewine, had his own repair shop for years, has done much more difficult (and rather crazy) work and is asking us for advice? Hmmm, that seems a bit odd.
There's some very capable and highly regarded people on this forum, and a job like this warrants the opinion of other expeienced technicians. I was looking for input on saws and sawblades. I am thinking one of the wide Japanese saws might work best.

I have thought about drilling 1" holes and just plugging them, thought about the fan pattern from the output jack, trust me i have been wanting to do this for years and years.
 

christopherJ

Senior Member
Joined
Jan 14, 2011
Messages
405
Reaction score
522
I've worked quite a bit with pull saws. They are not magic things and will wander about. I've also done a fair bit of sawing slabs of wood. Get a slab of mahogany and try it out first of course. I would be very interested in seeing your results. I'd love to be able to resaw wide slabs of wood without using my $6000 band saw...

All to be able to somehow acoustically tune an electric guitar that won't make a bit of difference to the sound that can be made when plugged in.
 

strayedstrater

Senior Member
Joined
Feb 21, 2014
Messages
111
Reaction score
143
Maybe... rout a 3/16" or 1/4" rebate into the back, stopping short of the edges. Enough to preserve the body's edge radius and full depth.

Rout your cavities/chambers. Cut a sheet of mahogany to fit the recess in the body, glue it in. Invisible from the front or sides, almost invisible from the back.

Or you could do figured mahogany. Koa. Rosewood. Bookmatched fiddleback maple. Invisible from the front, awesome from the back.

Control cavity and switch cover plates can be cut from the sheet for perfect grain match.
-----------------------
At this point in the state of the art, chambering is black magic hoodoo. You can find several of Gibson's approaches with a google search. But just do whatever moves you -- as long as you support the bridge/tailpiece integrity. Do a bunch of little holes -- maybe different depths and sizes. Rout out 3 huge chambers in the shapes of your initials. A couple of cat's eyes. A bunch of slots.

If the main goal is weight reduction, anything works.

As far as tone, anything goes. Minor things that leave a lot of structure like 9~12 one inch holes probably have no real affect on tone. Lots of people say the big "tuned" chambers on the Cloud 9's changes the tone. But as far as "ideal chambering", your guess is as good as anyone else's.
 


Latest Threads



Top