Strange Guitars, A Les Paul BFG

P.H.Fawcett

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Some strange things turn up in my workshop here in rural Australia. I believe it must take a long while for the intuitive leaps of Gibson's design team to reach these antipodean shores, and then, make their way out of the city and into the wilds. And so it is with this Les Paul BFG. When I opened the case I thought someone must have been having a lend of the guitar playing public. But no, it's a real thing. Carefully constructed by the craftspeople at Gibson to look like it survived Sept 17 '62 at Antietam, as walking wounded.

The owner has retrofitted the tailpiece with a Duesenburg Tremolo and a roller bridge. All good but he wanted me to adjust the relief, action and clear up a few fret ends then new strings. In the process I thought I'd check the scale length with a StewMac fret scale rule for Gibsons. The go to scale length I thought it would be was 24.75" but no it's 24.562". Then came the kicker, the fret placement after the 12th starts to become sharper until the scale rule and the last few frets just don't align. The nut and start of the scale rule are in line but there's a bit of parallax error in my pics as with the second fret. But up from the 15th fret things start to go amiss. I'm wondering if these guitars were apprentice pieces ;)

(The recrowning is not my work.)

~ This is an edit a few hours later to say that I'm sure this particular Les Paul doesn't reflect the excellent quality of build that Gibson offers today. Just a quirky thing that happened back in the day.~

IMG_0743.jpeg

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IMG_0745 2.jpeg


Typical example of fit and finish on this Les Paul BFG

IMG_0748.jpeg
 
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Leee

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Wow.
When the BFG was introduced, I pretty much threw my hands up at the madness of King Henry J and the stupidity at Gibson.
The wheels had really come off in Nashville, starting in about 2008.

What market were they trying to crack? What precedent were they trying to set? What was this new direction for their various product lines?

But never, in a million years, would I dream that they couldn’t build a basic guitar neck…
 

pshupe

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Gibson used a number of different scale lengths over the years. The most common scales are 24 5/8" (24.625"), and 24 9/16" (24.563"). Most people call these scales 24.75" to differentiate them from Fender scales which are 25.5". I think Gibson did make 24.75" scales but changed around 1954, for electrics?. Maybe someone else could confirm this? Did they use that scale for acoustics?

If you look at the burst era guitars, 1958 - 1960, they used "rule of 18", which starts off a little shorter spacing than 24 9/16", which is considered the more common modern spacing, then switches to a slightly longer spacing after about the 15th fret. I assume this ends up with about the same scale length overall. The differences are quite small. I think the largest difference at the last fret is about 25/1000". Notoriously the scales also could have been off slightly from wear on the arbours that were used as well. There were also some years where, apparently they were just wrong. I don't know the years but there we quite a number of guitars produced with the nut to the first fret distance incorrect. Could be urban legend?? ;-)

Stew Mac makes rulers and templates for Gibson scales of 25.3", 24.75", 24.625", and 24.563". They do not make any templates or rulers for "rule of 18".

Cheers Peter.

Please advise if any of what I have passed along is incorrect. This is how we learn! :thumbs:
 

DBDM

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I always liked the BFG and it is in my list of LPs to own. The original ones and not the reissues
some of them have p90 in the neck and Humbuckers in the bridge which I think is a fantastic idea and have often wondered why that combo is not on more LPs? Some of the BFGs had them. The Lou Pallo LP. One of the Peter Green iterations. And those are the only ones I am aware of. A HIGHLY underrated combo.
For those who are unaware, BFG stands for "Barely Finished Guitar".
 

P.H.Fawcett

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Is it possible that is an aftermarket (replaced) fretboard?
I suppose it would be possible but I doubt it for this type of guitar. To me it's a guitar with the mojo for some ZZ Top or overdriven Chicago blues etc. Maybe played up to the 12th fret. ?

In the pic below you can see the way the neck has been set in relation to the body. It's unusually deep and the body seems like hasn't got the slight [ 0.50 degree ? ] neck pocket to pickup plane typical of a Les Paul.
IMG_0750.jpeg
 
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P.H.Fawcett

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some of them have p90 in the neck and Humbuckers in the bridge which I think is a fantastic idea and have often wondered why that combo is not on more LPs? Some of the BFGs had them. The Lou Pallo LP. One of the Peter Green iterations. And those are the only ones I am aware of. A HIGHLY underrated combo.
For those who are unaware, BFG stands for "Barely Finished Guitar".
As an instrument that was built to fit a particular part of the market the BFG has some good points. Here's a photo of the pickup configuration. This guitar has a nice neck with dimensions of 0.825 at 1st fret and 0.950 at the 12th. Tuners on this one are stable with a nice smooth feel. The pickups do sound gutsy and the P90 is relatively quiet. The BFG would be great for any player that wanted a guitar that didn't need to treated with any special care.
It would be the guitar of choice for some of the rowdy jams in the hills around my little nook of Burringbar NSW, that have some very curious libations passed around ;) And that's not counting the home brew.
But I'm too old for all of that.

IMG_0747.jpeg
 

pshupe

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That's a weird looking Les Paul. Was it common to cut into the top and recess the fret board on those guitars? Looks like they just carved down the treble side. For what reason?

Cheers Peter.
 

nuance97

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It looks like it’s slotted to the rule of 18… a 24.562 spacing slotted in the rule of 17.817 will match pretty spot on at the nut & 12th fret but from the 12th onward the frets are spaced progressively sharp as you observed here.
E3597D27-9849-4423-A7D9-60932D024D2A.jpeg
 

redking

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I remember someone trying to "blame" the Reverend himself for this creation, stating that BFG stood for "Billy F Gibbons" but as previously stated above I believe it does stand for "Barely Finished Guitar" :rofl:
 

ArchEtech

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BFG actually sound pretty damn great. I’d love a standard with binding and no inlay, with a p90 and a figured natural faded satin top.
 

P.H.Fawcett

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That's a weird looking Les Paul. Was it common to cut into the top and recess the fret board on those guitars? Looks like they just carved down the treble side. For what reason?

Cheers Peter.
I'm thinking that the BFG process leaves out cutting the pickup plane of 0.50 - 1.50 degrees, which is usual for a Les Paul.

This plane routes off a thin triangle, in profile, of the thickness of top material. It starts a few mm deep on the outer edge of the neck pocket and travels on an incline finishing flush with the top, around the back edge of the neck pickup rout.

The groove on the treble side of the neck on this BFG is at the max depth and incline of pickup plane you'd expect on the average Les Paul. It also exposes the bottom edge of the fretboard as you'd expect to see on a more finished Les Paul or a CFG. ;)
 

angeldeville

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If I’m not mistaken Gary Moore was a driving force behind the BFG.

I think there were just two runs, the earliest was the humbucker/p90 and the later one was two p90s and a tiny bit of refinement over the first version.

If it wasn’t for the BFG, I still might not own a Lester Paulson…
 

pshupe

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I'm thinking that the BFG process leaves out cutting the pickup plane of 0.50 - 1.50 degrees, which is usual for a Les Paul.

This plane routes off a thin triangle, in profile, of the thickness of top material. It starts a few mm deep on the outer edge of the neck pocket and travels on an incline finishing flush with the top, around the back edge of the neck pickup rout.

The groove on the treble side of the neck on this BFG is at the max depth and incline of pickup plane you'd expect on the average Les Paul. It also exposes the bottom edge of the fretboard as you'd expect to see on a more finished Les Paul or a CFG. ;)
The pup plane doesn't start until the end of the fret board.
neck plane.JPG


It's looks like an error cutting the neck plane and they just cut out around the fret board to correct the neck angle. The Les Paul standard has a tenon, so the fret board sits on top of the maple top. Again it seems like an error in cutting the neck angle having to cut into the maple top. There is no binding on this guitar and the top looks thicker than it should be. They should have sanded down the top to align with the underside of the fret board. Still don't understand how the fret board can sit lower than the top in a set neck with a tenon. A JR style, yes, but the edge of the neck is aligned with the body on the treble side, so it has a tenon. Very strange IMO.

Cheers Peter.
 

P.H.Fawcett

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The pup plane doesn't start until the end of the fret board.
View attachment 640812

It's looks like an error cutting the neck plane and they just cut out around the fret board to correct the neck angle. The Les Paul standard has a tenon, so the fret board sits on top of the maple top. Again it seems like an error in cutting the neck angle having to cut into the maple top. There is no binding on this guitar and the top looks thicker than it should be. They should have sanded down the top to align with the underside of the fret board. Still don't understand how the fret board can sit lower than the top in a set neck with a tenon. A JR style, yes, but the edge of the neck is aligned with the body on the treble side, so it has a tenon. Very strange IMO.

Cheers Peter.
You're quite right Peter, it's all SNAFU here at times. I should have written inner edge, rather than outer edge, of the neck pocket.
 

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