Set Neck Les Paul Style with Bigsby and some hot pickups
This is probably my favorite instrument I’ve done from a sound perspective. It’s a pretty close-to-Gibson-dimensions Les Paul Guitar Kit. It has some experiments (to me) as far as the finish goes that I’m super happy with. From a spec perspective, underneath those metal covers (which I thought looked cool for the kit’s feel) there’s a set of Seymour Duncan Pearly Gates which sound phenomenal for bluesy country type licks. As you’d expect.
Adding the Bigsby
I’d been wanting to put a Bigsby on something for awhile now and this project felt right. For one thing, that’s a solid piece of mahogany under that maple top so the guitar isn’t lite. That is to say, appending a giant hunk of metal on the back of it seemed like a not-all-that-ridiculous thing to do.
I did a few things that were sort of different for this one. First, as I mentioned that’s a spalted maple top so there’s all these weird little things that happen with the grain patterns. I wanted to bring these out so I used the ‘ol ink trick to rub down the top after giving it a good sanding. I did a few other sands and then I used a dye. I started with a red and when it mixed with the black ink, I ended up with this sort of dark maroon color which I am very happy with. I did the back/sides with a plain old black stain that is more or less opaque. But there’s no paint applied anywhere on there. You’re looking straight at the maple patterns when you see it.
The other different thing about this guitar is that there’s not a single drop of lacquer on it. Two factors played into this. First, I was building this in the dead of winter and I live in Chicago– ergo it was freezing outside which meant this wasn’t going to get sprayed in the shed. Second- my wife was pregnant at the time and, well, lacquer and pregnant women don’t get along. So I decided this was as good of time as any to seek out some finishes that weren’t polyurethane. I ended up giving gun stock oil a try. I applied the oil via rag and did a wet sand between each layer. I probably have 15 or so layers in it altogether. The net result was actually pretty decent. I couldn’t get that mirror finish (and I didn’t do anything with grain filler or a sealer so I wasn’t expecting that). Surprisingly, it’s a pretty hard finish. Like it’s solid! If you like the more matte look and you need to do your project in an environment that doesn’t have the greatest ventilation, I highly recommend this route. From a tonal perspective, I can’t really say for certain how much its affected the sound because I haven’t A/B’d this setup against a lacquered one.
I also opted for some different knobs. You probably can’t see them in the pics but there’s little skulls on these. I also had a custom truss rod plate engraved with my daughters name because I finished this right around the time she was born (collective “awwww”).
Overall thoughts on this Les Paul Guitar Kit
On the whole I was really happy with how the neck/pocket was set up. It was pretty well dead nuts on. They pre-drilled the groundwire hole which was nice– you don’t always get that. The action on this is great and the fretboard plays like a dream. I’d definitely use this kit again. They supplied plenty of wire for the project. The binding was good and tight, no holes or pockets or anything around it. The spalted maple looks great. I can’t say enough about that. When people this guitar up close they stare at it. I think the ink/dye combo works great for this sort of top as it produces all these weird little flourishes. One note- if you use gun stock oil like I did- it WILL Darken the finish. In my case, that was a good thing but just FYI.
Want to build one of these? Here’s what you’ll need!
Spalted Maple Guitar kit – this is what I used. Comes with the black hardware so if that’s your thing great, otherwise it may be worth picking up some others
Black Bigsby Bridge – Love this thing. Goes on pretty easy. Fits perfect.
Seymour Duncan Pearly Gates Pickup Set – If you haven’t tried these in a Paul yet…..you’re missing out!
Pickup Covers – Up to you. I had a vision. And that Vision was Good. It’s been asked if these impact tone. If they do it’s MINIMAL. I don’t notice any difference.
Skull Knobs – Because Tough Guy.
Gun Stock Oil – It has a definite look to it. But I think it looks good for sure. I’m going to try it next on a solid color.
Wood Dye- I used red but up to you obviously. Green could have been a cool choice too.
That’s about it! I had about 700 bucks in to this but as you can see, depending on what you choose the price can vary. If you built this with nothing but what came with the kit the only thing I would recommend you absolutely change is the pickups. They’re pretty bad. I threw them in another kit and yeah….seriously if you’re going to go to all that trouble….