Les Paul Special DC Inspired Build

SlingBlader

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This winter I'm undertaking a couple of build projects. I've already started a build thread here for my Cherry Strat build. This thread will document my take on a a Les Paul Special DC. One of the primary goals for my winter builds was to keep the costs to a minimum. So, I'll be using as many parts and materials as I can which I already have on hand.

With that in mind, this build title should probably have some giant "air quotes" around it. I've always loved the Special DC, and I thought I'd take a shot at buildng my own take on it. I'll be using some non-traditional materials and I am definitely taking a few liberties where I feel like it.

Here is the basic plan, but these things could change at any time. :)
  • 2 piece Honduran mahogany body (I didn't have any wide mahogany on hand)
  • Redwood lace burl top (Possible matching headstock)
  • Bound body and neck
  • Honduran mahogany neck
  • Brazilian rosewood fretboard
  • Crown cellulose nitrite inlays
  • No pickguard (I think)
OK, here are a few pics of some progress so far...

Here is the pile of materials ready to go.


The mahogany that I had was 10/4, so I cut off some excess at the band saw. I do this sort of thing all the time in hopes that I'll use this material at some point in the future. In a few years, I'll still be wondering if I'll ever use it. :D


I barely had enough material to get the body out of this material. I managed to work around most of the worm holes as well. :thumb:


Here is the redwood lace burl. I have two pieces like this, which are bookmatched. Hmm, looks thick enough to resaw. If I do that, I can use the second piece on a different build, plus if I bind the body, the binding will cover the seam with a thinner top. So, off to the band saw I went.


Here it is fresh off the band saw with some naptha splashed on.


Here the top is being glued up and clamped securely to the bench to keep everything flat.


The next day I trued up the top on the drum sander.


Thanks for looking, more soon. :)
 

bierz

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I look forward to watching this build progress. Curious how you'll set the neck with a capped body like this and no pickguard to cover the tenon. Maybe set the neck before gluing on the cap? And I've been considering purchasing that sander. Do you have any complaints about it?
 

SlingBlader

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Love the double cuts. That redwood is pretty dang sexy
Oh man, so do I. I've always wanted one, so hopefully this turns out well. :)

I've been sitting on this redwood for a few years now. I finally pulled it out a while back and discovered that it is too short to use on pretty much anything but a LP styled build... so, here goes nothin'! :D

I do think I'm going to need a few sealer coats of shellac before I start shooting lacquer... seems like it's gonna be pretty thirsty.
 

SlingBlader

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I look forward to watching this build progress. Curious how you'll set the neck with a capped body like this and no pickguard to cover the tenon. Maybe set the neck before gluing on the cap? And I've been considering purchasing that sander. Do you have any complaints about it?
Thanks! Yeah, I've come up with a couple of different orders of operation and methods to mount the neck/top in my head, but I'm still not sure which way to go... at the moment, I'm leaning toward using a more traditional LP style tenon so that the neck can be glued in after the top is on. I could also go with the LPJ type joint, but then that complicates routing the binding channel, etc. IDK, still rolling it around in my noggin. :)

I really like the sander a lot. Honestly, I use it more than I imagined that I would. If I had a complaint, it's that the bed is a bit fiddly to get square to the drum if it needs adjustment... but that's minor. I usually run 80 grit for truing up and stock removal and 120 grit when I get close to final dimension if I want less cleanup work. The dust extraction is amazingly good in my opinion and changing out the paper is easy peasy.
 

SlingBlader

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OK, here are some progress shots of the body. As I mentioned earlier, this will be a two piece body... and I'm barely able to make my material on hand stretch that far. I had to lay out the halves in a nested arrangement while trying to dodge some worm holes at the same time.

I separated the halves, but left the square out edges to allow for easy clamping. I jointed the glue surfaces and used hot hide glue for the center seam.


I let it dry over night, then cut it roughly on the band saw. Very happy with that joint. :)


I attached my body outline template, then went to the Robosander on the drill press.


I routed the body outline using a spiral compression pattern bit. Since there was so little material to remove, this came out very clean with no tear out.


I was able to cut two nested neck blanks from the billet that I had on hand. It just barely made it... I could have used a bit more thickness for the headstock angle. Instead I just lowered the angle a bit to allow it to fit. I'm not going to lose sleep over stuff like that. :D


More soon.
 

SlingBlader

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Prepping the fretboard.

The Brazilian board that I wanted to use had a sapwood streak down the side. I oriented the centerline in such a way as to eliminate this as much as possible. Here the fret slots are cut and you can see how this is angled.


Here is the board getting the radius profile routed.


Definitely deviating from a traditional LPS here. This one's getting crowns. I used the template that I got from @pshupe to mark the inlay locations. I need to make a fixture so that I can use this template for routing instead of just marking...


Next I scored the outline heavily with a knife and removed the tape.


I used a Dremel tool in a router base to rout the inlay pockets. I first used a very small bit to outline the pockets. I followed that by a 3/32 spiral bit to remove the center.


Test fitting a few inlays. The fishtail chisel is perfect for this work.


Trimming an inlay pocket to size with a chisel.


This post is getting long. I'll continue in another.
 

SlingBlader

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Installing the crown inlays.

I used medium CA to glue in the inlays. Here you can see where I routed the perimeter of the pocket with a small bit which was set a little deeper than the 3/32" bit. This served to contain some of the excess glue so that it didn't shoot out around the gaps. I wanted any gaps to be filled with rosewood dust and CA in a later step.


I place the inlay, then clamp it for a few minutes. I lightly sand the back of the inlay before gluing to encourage good adhesion.


Here I'm using a radius beam to level the inlays roughly flush with the surface of the board.


Next, I masked off the inlays and made a pile of Brazilian rosewood dust. I packed the dust in around all gaps around the inlays, then removed all the excess.


I used thin CA around each inlay to lock in the rosewood dust. I repeated as needed, then removed the tape.


I level sanded the rosewood dust filler, then worked my way up through the grits. I always finish by buffing with a brown paper bag on a foam backed sanding block to burnish it up to a nice glow.


You can see that a little sliver of sap wood managed to sneak its way into the board. I'll dye that later to blend it in. The edge will be covered by binding.







Thanks for looking. :)
 

dcomiskey

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What a cool build. Although, I love that sapwood streak and would have made it more prominent. Can’t wait to see this complete!
 

SlingBlader

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Quick post to show a small amount of progress on the necks. I trued up the fretboard faces with a number 7 hand plane and routed the truss rod slots on the router table.

Oh, I'm also editing the title of this thread for a more accurate description. :D

 

SlingBlader

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What a cool build. Although, I love that sapwood streak and would have made it more prominent. Can’t wait to see this complete!
Thanks, I appreciate it! Yeah, I think if I hadn't used crown inlays I may have tried to swing the orientation toward the sap side. But even if I had gone with no inlays, I'm not sure if it would have been enough sap wood to make it a feature.

I was a bit torn on which direction to go. In my mind, since the top of the guitar is going to be so busy, I just figured I'd stay a bit more subdued on the fretboard. :dunno:
 

SlingBlader

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Well, I think it's about time that I update this thread. I've done some work on this project in between the others.

I made the decision to use a traditional LP styled mortise and tenon joint instead of the LP Jr style. I figured this would give me a better joint since this guitar will have 2 pickups and will also make things easier with the binding.

I glued on some headstock wings. Still undecided on the final shape, but will probably do some sort of overlay.


I marked out the mortise on the body taking into account the additional thickness that the top will add.


I made a quick template and routed the mortise. Nearly done here.


Mortise is finished.


Two way truss rod is installed and maple strip is glued in place.


Leveled the wings and cleaned up the headstock face. Marked the truss rod wrench size in the pocket for future reference. :D


Rough cutting the tenon cheeks on the band saw. I think I should have put more Xs on there.


Rough cutting the tenon shoulder.


Paring the shoulder back to the line.


Early stages of fitting the neck joint. The extra tenon height will be trimmed flush with the mahogany portion of the body later.


Doing a quick sanity check to be sure the geometry works.


More later! :)
 

Paul46

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I'm loving all your build threads SlingBlader. Long may they continue!
 

SlingBlader

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Moving along. :) I continued work on the neck joint and got a nice fit. I needed to get the tenon height trimmed down to allow for the drop top to cover the neck joint.

I marked the cut lines with a knife, then made the cut at the end of the fretboard area with a saw.


I clamped the neck to the body and brought the tenon down flush.


Done.


Laying out the pickup placement here. I never cared for jamming the neck pickup right against the neck like the early Specials had. so I'm moving this one over. No pickguard will be used.


Next up, I routed the wire channel and predrilled the control holes. If you haven't caught on yet, I'm a big Hamer fan as well. :)


This is the control cavity template that I made for my pin router. I directly lifted this layout from Hamer, no apologies at all. :D


Next I turned my attention back to the binding and the neck joint. Unlike a traditional Special, both the body and the neck will be bound. This presents some problems that I blissfully ignored until I had to face them... and I wish I had worked this out earlier to save some work.

This is why. The body binding on a regular Les Paul is hidden behind the should of the neck joint. If I use the traditional Special DC fretboard placement, then I run into a bad situation. How to either terminate the body binding, or run it all the way through and not make it look like poop? Not to mention that the end of the fretboard will also be bound, but won't acutally touch the body binding.


Bah!


So, I thought about it and decided that I needed the fretboard to overhang the body. Variations of this have been done by several companies and various lengths have been used. I chose the 22nd fret. This was mostly due to the fact that I had already routed the wire channel and didn't want additional complications.

This will allow me to run the body binding all the way around, plus the binding on the neck will look correct.


Next up, fixing my oversight. :D
 

SlingBlader

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OK, so as you can imagine, the fix wasn't difficult, just a little frustrating. I only had to lengthen the tenon and refit it to the body and extend the mortise. Since the tenon will now intersect the wire channel, I'll have to trim the tenon corner a bit.

I marked the end of the neck, then scored the lines with a marking knife. I made the primary cuts with a small back saw.


Trimmed off the chunks with a flush cut saw.


Cuts made and cleaned up a bit. Here is the other reason I could only move the board to the 22nd fret. That is the end of the truss rod peaking through. Hello little guy! :rofl:


Here you can see that the tenon now extends into the wire channel.


Here is a closeup with everything laid in place. A narrow little wedge under the end of the board will be needed, but this will look good when it all comes together.




More later. :)
 

fatdaddypreacher

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love seeing your work. that board polished out nicely. and i probably missed it, but what type of veneer cap are you using. it looks a lot like lacewood. i happen to have a matched set i was thinking of using one day, but was wondering if it would be to busy. that looks nice.
 

SlingBlader

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love seeing your work. that board polished out nicely. and i probably missed it, but what type of veneer cap are you using. it looks a lot like lacewood. i happen to have a matched set i was thinking of using one day, but was wondering if it would be to busy. that looks nice.
Thanks, Bob. :) The top is redwood lace burl. The original purchase was a bookmatched set, but they were thick enough that I resawed one half to make this top. So, now I have another half that I can use to top another guitar, which is a bonus.

I think that it is really fascinating stuff to look at, especially up close. Right now I'm not planning to use a pickguard, but if the top ends up looking like it's too much, I can add one after the fact. Black or tort would look spiffy.

I'm debating between just a straight clear lacquer, or maybe a light version of the Gibson cherry over that top. Another option would be a subtle burst. I don't want to obscure the figuring, but at the same time I wouldn't mind some color.

I'll have to shoot some samples to see what looks good, if you or anyone has any opinions, please feel free. :)
 

fatdaddypreacher

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obviously, the wood itself is quite a display. I think if you do anything but clear, something in the red/mahogany, burnt cherry direction would accent the natural color. i'm sure it will be stellar no matter which way you go with it. can't wait
 


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