So I'm starting to research LP Customs

2old2rock

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I've had a hankering' lately for a nice Les Paul Custom, either Ebony or Alpine White. Lots of variation new and used, and that leads me to wonder about a few things, specifically what some of the more desirable features are, and quality from the era in which they were made.

If I understand correctly, all Customs were made in Kalamazoo up until the mid-70's ('74?), but some were still made there up until about 1984 when the Kalamazoo plant was closed. Are the instruments made there more desirable, simply because of the location, or is there some difference in craftsmanship and tonal quality?

Many folks dislike the Norlin era, aide from any unpopular business decisions, there were some non-traditional things like maple necks, volutes, electronics, to name a few. Not a fan of the volute, but that wouldn't dissuade me completely if the instrument was otherwise excellent. I've seen some early '80's Customs with the Bill Lawrence "circuit board" pickups which I'm not a fan of. The price would have to be pretty enticing for me to want to buy something I'd end up modding. Tim Shaws on the other hand seem to receive almost universal praise. The flip-out winder tuners were interesting, more a curiosity than anything.

As I understand it, instruments built in the '80s were pretty well-crafted, and the '90s saw some of the best wood selections and a return to some more historically correct dimensions and styling.

Also looking at a couple in the more modern range with the Richlite fingerboard. I understand this isn't as desirable as ebony, but how bad of a material is it? Does it suffer tonally, or wear in unusual ways? I haven't played one yet, so I'm just wondering how much of a difference there is in feel, tone, and durability.

The examples from the past couple years seem to be among the best built instruments I've seen overall. In a similar price range it can be difficult to decide whether I want something fresh and unplayed, or a player-grade "vintage" that's also good quality and tone but with some attractive patina.

Decisions, decisions...
 

LeftyF2003

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The 70s white customs became desirable due in large part to Randy Rhodes, and they do look very cool but they're HEAVY! Most of the Norlin era Gibsons were quite weighty compared to previous (and subsequent) years, so be sure you get a weight on one and ideally play it before you drop your cash.

The new ones are very nice and as you say seem to be quite well made. Personally I'd shoot for the '85 to '95 era guitars as they were producing some very nice instruments in that period. I scooped up a '90 / '59 re-issue (yes, Gibson called it that) and a pristine '86 Custom Shop ES-335 Dot Re-issue, and they're spectacularly good guitars. The ES-335 in particular is really impressing me, and I'm getting more and more into it as I play it more. It came stock with Tim Shaws and they're excellent pickups, and I prefer them to the Classic 57s that came in the LP. I just picked it up a couple of weeks ago so still getting a feel for it, but I get why they called the 50s guitars Burst killers. Also this one has a really nice top:
ES-335 1.jpg

Anyway, good luck with your hunt and post pics!
 
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1allspub

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Uh oh... LPC hankerings rarely go away once they start! Get out your wallet! ;)

Seriously though... Norlins definitely have their own thing going on. Some don’t like them, but many love them. You just have to decide for yourself.

Regarding Richlite... it’s absolutely not bad at all. TBH, from a feel and tone perspective I can’t tell the difference. Looks-wise real ebony does have some visible grain to it whereas Richlite doesn’t. There’s really no downside to Richlite, except... it’s not real wood and people (myself included) just prefer real wood. But from a performance perspective, it does the job as well as ebony IME. But Richlite definitely affect resale value. The heart wants what the heart wants, and the market reflects this.

Finally, if you’re wanting an LPC, be sure to try out both the all mahogany versions and the maple-capped versions. There’s definitely a distinction tone-wise between the two build types. Turns out I prefer the all hog better (I have one of each).
 

01GT Eibach

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... about 1984 when the Kalamazoo plant was closed. Are the instruments made there more desirable, simply because of the location, or is there some difference in craftsmanship and tonal quality?
To me, Kalamazoo had higher craftsmanship standards. My opinion is largely based on my '79 KM-made SG Standard. Purchased used in '81, it was "just" a Standard model but composed of a one-piece body (most '79s that you see are all multi-piece out of Nashville), while also being the best playing SG I ever played. Also as a basis for my opinion are the "Les Paul KM" and LPC guitars which -- to me -- are superb.
Also looking at a couple in the more modern range with the Richlite fingerboard. I understand this isn't as desirable as ebony, but how bad of a material is it? Does it suffer tonally, or wear in unusual ways? I haven't played one yet, so I'm just wondering how much of a difference there is in feel, tone, and durability.
The only negative to Richlite is the "buyer perception" in the re-sale market. Richlite boards are excellent quality, super dark, and play/sound great. There is a reason that Richlite was rolled into the LPC models. In late 2020 on the GC black Friday sale, I picked up a new '18 LP Classic Player Plus w/ P90s on NOS clearance purchased with all price reductions and BF coupon for just over $1400. Why so cheap? My opinion is that its Richlite board kept everyone away.
 

geezbill

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every Norlin Custom i've encountered was a boat anchor. If you have a strong back, go for it. Lookout for neck profiles on these i've come across some that were shaved to oblivion to a wizard shape
 

mjross

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To me, Kalamazoo had higher craftsmanship standards. My opinion is largely based on my '79 KM-made SG Standard. Purchased used in '81, it was "just" a Standard model but composed of a one-piece body (most '79s that you see are all multi-piece out of Nashville), while also being the best playing SG I ever played. Also as a basis for my opinion are the "Les Paul KM" and LPC guitars which -- to me -- are superb.

The only negative to Richlite is the "buyer perception" in the re-sale market. Richlite boards are excellent quality, super dark, and play/sound great. There is a reason that Richlite was rolled into the LPC models. In late 2020 on the GC black Friday sale, I picked up a new '18 LP Classic Player Plus w/ P90s on NOS clearance purchased with all price reductions and BF coupon for just over $1400. Why so cheap? My opinion is that its Richlite board kept everyone away.
I just hold out on my Richlite sales, if they don’t like it they can move along, their loss. I‘ve had NO problem selling my Richlite guitars, not every one is hung up on that small shit.

Believe it or not, some people prefer it and don’t mind it at all. Sold a Custom DC last year and the gentleman had NO problem with the fact it had a Richlite board, in fact, messaged me about how nice it was, paid asking price. People have strange hang ups, can’t help that. Just calling them as I see them!
 
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ARandall

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As I understand it, instruments built in the '80s were pretty well-crafted, and the '90s saw some of the best wood selections and a return to some more historically correct dimensions and styling.
No, the 80's was the return to vintage specs, and the early 90's saw very little change save for 2 piece tops returning as stock on every instrument.
The good wood era is a complete myth and fabrication as it pertains to better guitars. They might have been more picky about physical imperfections or anomalies in the wood, but that for sure doesn't make for a better guitar. All of the other build specs are the same as 83, when the last of the typical Norlin era specs were removed.
I've seen some early '80's Customs with the Bill Lawrence "circuit board" pickups which I'm not a fan of.
If they were in an early 80's guitar, then they were certainly not stock pickups.
They were stock in 88 and 89
 

RetropM

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My (biased) opinion: For the best bang for your buck, look at 80's Customs that havethe original Shaw pickups, mid-90's Customs, and current Customs (standard or reissue depending on preferred specs).

At the end of the day, you should try before you buy if at all possible, although going with a new guitar will generally give you more recourse if you don't care for the one you get and want to exchange or return the guitar.
 

searswashere

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I know a Norlin may appreciate faster than my 68RI, but I know my 68RI is a custom shop built guitar to historic specs (complete with tortoise shell side dots). It cost me a little more than a modified Norlin 70’s LPC, and I tried a couple. Im sure some LPC’s are “better” than mine, but I have peace of mind knowing I have a 2022 historic reissue custom that only needs basic maintenance and makes me grin every time I see it.

there’s a ‘70 for 11k cdn in Toronto with a reamed headstock otherwise pretty great condition. Almost double what I paid for mine.
 

nadzab

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If you should settle on a new Alpine White one, be advised that I’ve had one on order through Sweetwater since May…production seems very slow at present.
 

2old2rock

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No, the 80's was the return to vintage specs, and the early 90's saw very little change save for 2 piece tops returning as stock on every instrument.
The good wood era is a complete myth and fabrication as it pertains to better guitars. They might have been more picky about physical imperfections or anomalies in the wood, but that for sure doesn't make for a better guitar. All of the other build specs are the same as 83, when the last of the typical Norlin era specs were removed.

If they were in an early 80's guitar, then they were certainly not stock pickups.
They were stock in 88 and 89
Thanks for setting me straight on those details. Whatever I end up with, I prefer to know exactly what I'm getting and that I'm offering a fair price for it, and this helps.
 

uncajoey

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The most “desirable” features are those that YOU value. Plenty of great records were made with pancake bodies, clownburst finishes, narrow nut width 355s, black beauty fretless wonders, brass nuts, DiMarzios, and (gasp!) Richlite!

IMO, worry more about a straight neck, a truss rod that works, neck profile, and weight. Everything else can be changed.

have fun hunting!
 

Shelkonnery

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You should gravitate towards the specs you like the most, all eras are great and have their own following.
 
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Overture

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I have a 20' white custom and I love it. Unfortunately now there's a price bump on the white ones but that seems to hold true in the used market as well, so either way white will carry a premium.
 

mudface

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I have Norlin Customs and a late model Custom... different animals but completely effective animals.... if you are acceptable to having guitars with different nuances then I suggest trying them all. There are winners and losers in every era... but it’s the search that’s the fun part.

Enjoy the search.

1977
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1978
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2011
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Love them all.

And you’re never too old to rock
 

moreles

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It's hard to get past the excessive weight, IMO. I've never cared a whole lot about supposed distinctions in the number of pieces of wood used for a top (unless veneered) and I like maple necks, so when present that's not an issue either. Simple circuit boards are a non-issue. They're superior to a hack solder job and can easily be switched out anyway. But like height in basketball players, weight when present is an unchangeable given. It's not necessary anymore to have an 11 lb. guitar to get a deeper sustaining tone. It's not a weightlifting contest -- if you can't handle 13 lbs., see a doctor -- but lighter guitars are just more appealing to play. I like Norlin customs, but gave up on them because of the heft. Here's a pic of my favorite Custom, my '87 reissue '61 Les Paul Custom. Yes: Custom. It's an early Henry J era guitar when Gibson was trying to put out a few "statement" models showing that they could build the classics as nicely as was done in the past. But they kept the larger headstock...? This one comes w/ 3 Shaws, and it is light indeed. It has a beautiful voice and plays wonderfully. That's how I settled my "Custom" desires.
8fuwJRd copy.jpg
 

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