Custom Gibson Les Paul Guitar Build Diary
Here are the specs:
- one-piece African mahogany back
- book-matched flamed maple top carved
- 24-3/4″ scale length
- wenge fretboard with flamed maple binding on the inside
- 7-piece lamined neck: mahogany / wenge / mahogany veneer / flamed maple / mahogany veneer / wenge/ mahogany
- see below for more…
Build Photos (many!)
Starting with a nice piece of African mahogany
Sizing the mahogany with the template
1-piece mahogany cut
Tracing the shape of the LP
The LP shape is rough cut on the bandsaw
Drilling the majority of the wood from the electronics cavity before using a router
Routing the switch channel
Cleaning up the edges on the oscillating spindle sander
The mahogany body weights 3.7lbs. That’s just about where I want it, so I won’t carve any weight relief. I expect the final guitar to weight between 7.5 and 8 lbs.
Hand sawing a piece of flamed maple
This will be a bookmatched piece
Making sure one edge is perfectly square so I can take it to the band saw
Ripping the maple into a book-matched set using a 3/4″ blade
Not my best cut but I have plenty of thickness to plane it.
Gluing and clamping the book-matched set
Rough cut the body shape on the band saw
The two pieces
Applying glue to the two faces
Gluing and clamping the top and bottom
Out of the clamps after the glue has dried overnight
Removing excess maple on the bandsaw to make it easier for the router bit
Making the maple flush with the mahogany. Using a flush trim template following router bit, the mahogany is the template in this case.
Cleaning the router bit scratched on the spindle sander
What’s been done so far…
Carving for the switch cavity cover
Carving for the electronics cavity cover
The electronics cavity
Gluing two pieces of flamed maple to make a cavity cover
Carving out the cavity cover on the cnc
Test-fitting the covers, they are still high and will eventually be sanded flush with the body
Carving the steps on the maple top
Starting to removing the step with the random orbit sander
Preparing to route the neck-plane angle
Neck-plane angle is cut
More sanding the top
Drilling out the bridge pickup cavity on the drill press
Routing the neck pickup cavity
Drilling out the neck pickup cavity
Both pickup cavities are routed
Starting to build the neck…
Laminating the neck blank. You can watch a video of how I built this neck blank
The neck blank after passing through the planer
Trimming the end to proper length
Tracing the neck profile onto the blank
Cutting the angle for the headstock on the bandsaw
Cleaning the cut marks
Fine sanding the headstock top with a sanding block
The neck so far…
Drawing the centerline
Marking the end of the truss rod
Positioning a stopper at the end… there’s also one at the headstock
Carving the truss rod channel
Truss rod channel and access cavity are carved
Rough shaping the back of the neck
Rough shaping the top profile
Making the headstock shape template on the CNC
The neck and headstock templates are held in place with masking tape and super glue
Trim routing with the template
The neck is shaped, need to clean those burn marks
The headstock is shaped
Cutting the wenge to fretboard dimensions
Preparing to cut fret slots
Fret slots are cut
Cutting stripes of maple veneer for binding
Cutting stripes of wenge for binding
The maple is veneer is glued on are the wenge is next
The fretboard is bound, needs some cleaning up
After planing it flat
Making the positions of the markers
Fret markers are added
A look at the fretboard on the neck with a maple veneer between them
Truss rod in installed in the channel and the fretboard is ready to be glued on (see my article on how to install a truss rod and fretboard)
Fretboard is glued and clamped. The green tape is there to prevent glue from spreading on the neck.
After the glue has dried and the clamps removed
Starting to create the radius on the fretboard
A 12″ radius created on the surface of the fretboard
Starting to shape the back of the neck
Gluing and clamping maple to make the bookmatched headstock veneer
The headstock veneer ready to be glued
The maple veneer is glued on
Excess is trimmed on the band saw
After cleaning the edges and a wipe of mineral spirits
Installing the side dots
Side dots done
Temporarily installing and checking the tuners
Refining the belly carve
Belly carve side view
Volute side view
Wenge fretboard sanded without oil
Wenge fretboard sanded with oil
Starting the fretting process
Trimming the fret tangs
Clamping the frets
Frets are installed
Carving the neck pocket
Neck pocket is carved
Test-fitting the neck
Removing the upper neck heel portion
Neck heel is now properly shaped
Getting ready to drill the output jack hole
Output jack hole drilled
Fine tuning the back of the neck
Beveling the fret ends
A closer look at the fret ends right after beveling
more sanding of the top
leveling the frets
cleaning the frets
drilling for the tail piece
All the holes are drilled and getting ready for staining the top
The top is stained amber
finishing the cavity covers
making and oiling the pickup rings
40 thoughts on “Custom Gibson Les Paul Guitar Build Diary”
Nice! I’m about to start a similar project. What thickness is your maple cap?
Thanks. The maple cap is around 0.7″ (about 17-18mm).
I would like to try one you are brilliant my friend what is the diameter of the guitar
Looks amazing so far. Can’t wait for updates!
Thanks Marc. More update coming soon.
Great start. Lookin good. Good luck.
Do you have a blue print with dimensions you can post?
Thanks Pete! There are plenty of plans on the web, just do a search for “les paul plans” and you should find them easily.
Thanks for posting this. Your work is really inspiring. I’m hoping to start a similar, first time, project, building a Les Paul Jr. Do you have suggestions for where to buy the wood? I’m having a hard time finding it, without buying pre-cut blanks. Thanks.
I’m looking for a stratocaster or telecaster exact plan with dimension (body and neck).Whould you please send me one?
Here’s what I recommend you do. Go to Google and type “stratocaster or telecaster exact plan with dimension” and see what you get!
Hey nice work, I don’t know if anybody has asked you, but where did you get your wood?
Thanks. I buy all my wood from a local hardwood specialty store called Langevin Forest in Montreal.
Thanks for sharing such wonderful expertise to the guitar building community.
I noticed in your tutorial you did not plane the body. Is that because the mahogany board was already planed or because a LP body appears to be slightly wider than the average home 12.5″ or 13″ wide planer?
For solid bodies wider than 12.5″ or 13″ standard planer sizes, is there a recommended approach for planing a single solid board? Perhaps this is obvious to those who have been woodworkers for quite some time.
Thanks for your insight and expertise!
Thanks Mark. Yes the LP body is just slightly too wide for my 13″ planer. Fortunately in my case, the body was very flat and I didn’t need planing.
The standard way is to simply use a hand plane.
Nice work. Looking forward to seeing more. Are you going to do binding on the body and if so what will you use?
Thanks Bob. The body will have natural binding.
Do you do custom jobs? If yes, how much would you take to make me a LP? :=)
Thanks Ryan. I do accept custom jobs from time to time. The best way to follow my work and stay connected with me is through my Jakalian Guitars Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/JakalianGuitars/). That’s where I’ll post if I have something for sale and if/when I’m taking custom orders…
Take care, Araz
Is this a set (glued in neck) and and did you add heel angle as well as the neck plane angle. I am thinking of building a semihollow flat top, (little sister style) for next build. Any tricks on a set neck I should watch out for compared to a Bolt on.
Yes it’s a set neck. I incorporated the angle into the heel of the neck while keeping the bottom of the neck pocket flat. Personally I find it easier to do that versus putting the angle in the pocket. I have a full video on carving the neck pocket (https://youtu.be/dUIOnXW-DCo) and also on adding an angle on the heel (https://youtu.be/OIUEvElnFGQ), I hope they are helpful for you.
Take care, Araz
Beautiful work. Can u expand on maple top step shaping. Do U do that w a sander. Thank you.
Thanks John. The simple answer is yes, I use a random orbit sander to remove the steps and then I finish with sandpaper wrapped around an eraser. Here’s a useful video that explains the whole sanding of the les paul top.
Take care, Araz
Hi, great site and beautiful instruments. I have a couple of questions regarding the finish, which looks sublime…
Is Amber the only dye you’ve applied ?
What lacquer did you use ?
Thanks for sharing your craft.
Thank you Tony,
Yes, only amber dye was applied, a few coats, I don’t remember exactly how many. The more you coats you apply the darker it gets. I used Tru-Oil for the finish.
Take care, Araz
Im about to start a similar project and a little restricted on time. I was wondering roughly how many hours you spent on this build.
Hi Brennan, although I don’t keep track of my hours, I can say that this build took more time than any other build I’ve done so far. A LP is typically a bit more difficult to build than other guitars.
Hi Araz, first of all congratulations, is a magnificent work. I have a question related router, I can see on the photos that you used a small one, is this enough to construct a guitar?, what is the power and speed?, do you recommend it?, thanks in advance, I’m a begginer,
A small router can do almost all guitar-building tasks, e.g. pickup cavities, round-over the edges, etc. However a small router should not be used for trimming the sides because the router bit required is long and it requires a bigger router. I use both a big and small router, but I prefer the smaller one because it’s easier to control. Regardless, always make sure to take as much material out with a forstener bit first to make it easier on the router and bit.
Hello do you have the original PDF templates you used to make this guitar. Thank you
All the pdf templates that you need can be easily found by doing a Google search!
About how much do you think this cost you to build? It looks really good.
Well, first there’s the wood and hardware, then there’s a garage full of equipment and then there’s years of trial and error.
How much is all that?
Hi araz. Is that guitar for sale? Amazing work!!! I’m not on Facebook unfortunately…. Or how much for you to make something similar..where are you in the world? Cheers
Thank you Stu. This guitar already has an owner. I’m located near Montreal. There is a possibility to build another, you can contact me for details.
Take care, Araz
Araz, looks amazing and I learned a lot from your tutorials! I noticed on the knobs you did a slight indent into the maple top, is that because you used short shaft pots or just like the look?
Thanks Kyle! The knob recesses are for aesthetics.
I’ve made several guitars over the years. Almost finished a copy of a Benedetto jazz guitar.
Yours is really an eye opener!!!
Would love to be a big bug on the wall watching all your moves.
Thank Richard. But building a Benedetto jazz guitar, I suspect, is more complex than building an LP 🙂
Vous avez fait un travail magnifique.
Votre site-photo est puissant en explications.
Je m’attaque aussi à un projet similaire.
J’espère y arriver et votre site m’aidera alors que j’aurai certaines difficultés.
Merci Jean-Claude! Aussi, n’hesite pas a te joindre a notre groupe Facebook si tu veux https://www.facebook.com/groups/ProjectElectricGuitar