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Guitar Build: Les Paul Junior – Part One
I’ve spent some time recently trying to streamline my life, and one big part of that is trying to get rid of, or consolidate, a lot of the crap I have.
Way back when, when I was gainfully employed, I bought a lot of guitar parts, because I could. I knew that if there was ever a time I wasn’t very employed, at least I would have the time and parts to keep myself busy and not slide into misadventure.
I also had a lot of extra wood laying around from certain projects, musical or otherwise. For example, I inherited a slightly larger bed from someone a while back, so I had to change the dimensions of the bed platform. Not a problem, and I naturally didn’t throw the old wood away.
That would have been silly, and wrong.
On my frequent trips to the HUGE dumpster in the loading dock where my workshop is, I always keep an eye out for useful stuff. I found some Philippine Mahogany, but it had angled corners. Still, I figured I could make some use of it.
Lately I’ve been collecting ‘audio documentaries’ (read: live bootlegs) of one of my favorite bands, The Georgia Satellites.
They were, too. It was great.
The Satellites were one of the best live bands of the era (along with Jason and the Scorchers), and there’s plenty of ‘audio documentary’ proof. I’d suggest 1987′s Reading Festival appearance among others. Roskilde 1989 is pretty good too, and there’s video:
I interviewed lead guitarist Rick Richards once, and he said that he spent that entire gig utterly terrified. There’s a couple hundred thousand people there, so I don’t blame him. Considering how well he played and sang, I guess he coped.
Singer/rhythm guitarist Dan Baird (right) played a Fender Telecaster, and Rick Richards (left) played a Gibson Les Paul Junior. They’re both amazing guitar players, but not in a speed or technical sense. They both have an uncanny ability to play the
right notes. They can still be flashy, but in the best kind of bluesy way.
I’m lucky enough that I’ve met all of the Satellites and worked with them at least once. My former boss Warner E. Hodges now plays with Dan in Homemade Sin (and Satellites drummer Mauro Magellan), and I’ve been lucky enough to have watched them close up on more than one occasion.
I love the Satellites, and I love their guitars.
I’ve built a couple telecasters, and I use them a lot. But I didn’t have a Les Paul Junior. They’re not ‘bolt-on’ guitars.
They have the neck glued in.
I have glue.
They’re made of mahogany.
I have mahogany.
They have a p-90 pickup.
I have a p-90.
They have a certain kind of bridge.
I have one too.
You see where this is going, right?
Well, then let’s go!
First thing I needed to do was glue up the wood, which I did using big bar clamps. I don’t have photos, but its not very exciting anyway.
Some ‘tone snobs’ say that glued wood isn’t as ‘toneful’ as a single piece. They can’t quantify it, they just claim that anyone that can’t hear the difference is obviously tone deaf.
I promise that when I start giving a sh*t about that sort of thing, I’ll put some in a tupperware container and mail it, still steaming, to them.
“Fuck those people.” – Dr. Hunter S. Thompson
But the wood I used was not all the same thickness. So I had to do something about that. I used a jig I had made up with my router, seen here:
The router shaves wood off the top to make one side uniform, then I flip it over and do the same thing on the opposite side. Crude, but effective.
I also had to do something about the angled edges of the thinner pieces of the mahogany. In the above photo, the large center piece is taller than the rest. But the others have gaps because the edges aren’t square.
What’s a girl to do???
Well, simple. I used the table saw to cut small grooves (or
rabbets) into the face and back of the guitar where the gaps were.
Yes, I made them
That way I could put small strips of mahogany into the rabbets. Once they were glued in I could cut them flush and sand the faces smooth. You can see some of them below:
In a rare fit of insight, I realized that it would be better to rout the neck pocket before cutting out the shape. That way I could have as much support as possible for the template.
But I also knew that in order for me to do that, I would need to do some things to the front of the guitar before I did them to the rest of the guitar. It’s hard to explain, but I’ll show you later.
I cut the wood close to the line, then sanded it flush. I also put the 1/4″ roundover on the back of the guitar.
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