My Les Paul Bass Build - I need a Gibby too...

Discussion in 'Luthier's Corner' started by BassHappy, Dec 9, 2014.

  1. UPDATE...

    As most of you probably realize, it has been a while since there has been an update here. As the concepts of whether to make this semi-hollow and if so, how to chamber it - heated up, I think Keith and I both backed off a bit and let this project rest for a minute. Paul was kind enough to donate one of his super nice flamed maple tops for this - and since it was thick enough for two we decided to do the back in flamed maple as well:

    Screen shot 2015-06-01 at 6.57.37 AM.png

    We are working on the two Fender P and J hollows and we also thought that some of what we might learn there would be applicable here. We also need to scratch our heads for a minute about the neck angle which will greatly affect the way the top is carved.

    So, there was a little more information available from Gibson with respect to the ES "Memphis" series, both on the guitar and bass front. First of all the guitars and the basses will be made - or are being made - in the same production area. The ES Memphis guitar bodies and bass bodies are identical, except for a few "innerworkings" items - which are completely related only to the differences in the bridge and tailpiece locations and the electronics.

    Gibson states in a recent video that the Memphis bass necks are Les Paul guitar necks, and they are marketing these basses directly to the guitar player market. I am paraphrasing, but the marketing brew ha-ha is something like - yes, when you pick up the new LP Memphis bass, the neck will be familiar because it is exactly what you have played on your Les Paul guitar for the past 30 years. Here is the video where they talk about it.

    Obviously, they had to put a bass fingerboard on it, but it looks to me like this whole marketing line is a fabrication or at least a monumental exaggeration. Apparently they kept the same identical shape but extended it out. After all, a Les Paul guitar neck is 24.5" scale and even if they moved the bridge it would still be a sub short scale - IF you could get it to intonate alright. If the bodies are identical, and they DO look to be so, then the necks are not identical by a pretty good ways. I superimposed the guitar over the bass directly so you can see the difference in the neck lengths:


    I moved the slightly tranparent guitar a bit so you can see a little more clearly where the guitar neck ends:


    This apparent fabrication from Gibson aside, I do understand why they would say the bass has an exact Les Paul neck and why they might state that guitar players will instantly find it perfect and exactly what they are used to - Gibson wants to sell basses to their guitar players - but after all - the truth is the truth is the truth - and as the illustrations above show - you may not find it here. Funny, in the whole clip they don't even play a single note so you can hear how the bass sounds.

    So the other thing I find interesting is the core structure of the Memphis series. They say the bodies are not hollowed out mahogany, but have mahogany down the center with blocks to hold the set neck and the bridge and tailpiece studs - as the photo below shows.

    Surrounded by a sturdy poplar frame, they claim the tops and backs are sandwiched with maple-poplar-maple, for added weight reduction and a brighter "tone" (?????). This reeks of a cost cutting measure to me. Granted, it's never a brilliant idea to find the best mahogany you can find and then hollow it out wasting 60% of the wood - not cost effective at all - but hey, if it sounds great why not? Might be a great idea for a custom one-off but maybe not so great with a production instrument and a factory that is trying to manage costs. Those nice highly figured maple boards don't come cheap either and there is a real incentive to stretch the material as far as they can stretch it in this economy by using poplar sandwiches. With CNC technology, they know exactly what they can get away with as far as the thinness of the maple slice resting on the poplar tops and backs.

    So here is what the core "frame" looks like on the guitar bodies, I am sure the mahogany on the bass body is modified to hold the bridge and bridge studs further back on the body:

    Screen shot 2015-04-19 at 5.28.09 PM.png

    Since the Memphis ES Les Paul guitar series has not been around all that long either - I have asked Keith, Mr. Les Paul freak - to go out and make the rounds in LA and play a few of the guitars and see what he thinks. Guitar Player gave them a good review, saying that they haven't lost any of the classic Les Paul sound or vibe as below, but you never know how much and what kind of incentive Gibson may have offered them for a good review:

    GP exerpt.png

    So if Keith goes out and plays a few - and thinks they are happening, and he gets behind the semi-hollow idea - we will lean more in the semi-hollow direction. I am still thinking about the frame idea, but my first instinct is to hollow out the mahogany body very similarly to the way we did the Fender P and J:


    If Keith thinks the semi-hollow Les Pauls are dogs, then we will stay in the realm of solid body with some weight reduction, as below:


    So, I think the moral of the story for me is - go slow - no need to be in a hurry. Take your time and do everything you can to get it right the first time around.
    Last edited: Jun 1, 2015
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  2. EduardoK


    Jun 28, 2004
    Thanks for the update. As always, your projects are super well thought out and your detailed info and graphics are very well explained. No wonder your results are always awesome.
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  3. Hey Eduardo!

    Nice to see you here! Hope all is well with you. You are such a mystery man, I know you have a room or two full of amazing basses, but I rarely see any photos. You got to get with it and post away! Would love to see more of your collection. I remember seeing a handful in the really early days on here and the Turner Model 1's which I had to BEG you to show....

    Anyways, just an invite, I would love to see your entire collection sometime if you have the impetus!

    And thanks so much for following along on this build and for the extraordinarily kind words!
    Last edited: Apr 25, 2015
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  4. EduardoK


    Jun 28, 2004
    Will do!
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    So, here is our understanding of the issues we need to solve and an up to the minute version of what we are thinking. For a little history, and to remind you how we got here - we want to use the maple top and back that I got from Paul Reed Smith on this bass.The maple is heavy and doing this will add too much weight. Therefore, we are considering options on the best way to chamber or hollow the body and still keep that classic LP bass sound. Of course that is a ridiculous and impossible challenge, with absolutely no benchmark and no road map. As far as I know, there has never been a medium scale LP bass, let alone a medium scale LP bass that is semi hollow. There are two relatively new Les Paul guitar models, both semi-hollow with different concepts. So it's a matter of uncharted territory.

    The Florentine Les Paul series as below is basically the most high end Les Paul model currently being made - a hollow, chambered mahogany Les Paul body - reasonably light weight with maple top and maple back with no "F" holes, and no cavity covers.


    Here is a Les Paul Supreme, which is designed and built along similar lines as the Florentine above; a hollowed and chambered mahogany body, but this time with F holes - although I am NOT a big fan of how the inside of the F holes are lined with plastic binding material but it is easy on the eyes with that beautiful sage green:

    Screen shot 2015-04-20 at 4.04.46 PM.png Screen shot 2015-04-20 at 4.04.11 PM.png

    The ES Memphis Les Paul series is loosely a hybrid guitar taking a nod to some design features of the ES-335 as well. Weighing in at only 6 lbs, the top is mounted on a thin poplar frame - which you can see below - and this model also has F holes. They do not have a maple back. I like how the F holes are not lined with the binding plastic.


    We are thinking of our own hybrid chambering process - more like what we did with the Fender hollows.....

    instead of this:


    Something more like this below, even though Keith has already done some routing on the mahogany bodies, he can continue to rout and still accomplish the scooped hollow routs below. We still need the wire channel for the upper switch. Sorry that the example body is NOT a Les Paul - but I found it on the web already partially chambered and thanks to the wonders of PhotoShop I didn't have to spend time hollowing it out from scratch:


    We are also thinking of punching the bottom out completely where it is chambered to create a nice heavy solid mahogany frame, unlike the rather delicate poplar frame used in the Memphis ES guitars and the Memphis ES bass:


    And then using the F Holes, without the binding - which also provide easier access to the electronics since there are no control cavity covers. We could use a standard size jack. So it would have a more resonant and sturdy frame with the solid mahogany - or the body could just be hollowed out with the back still in place. The weight should come in somewhere between the two of them, which should be a bingo. So this is the thought up to the moment.....

    Keith is going to venture out and play a variety of these new models as we finish up the Fender Hollows - and we will be able to decide from there....

    I suppose it isn't the best idea in the world to judge how a guitar plays as the design for a bass - but I am at a loss as to how else to do it. I figure if Keith finds flaws in any of the Les Paul guitars - at least we can avoid those features and design concepts in what we build here.

    Here are some other Gibson and non-Gibson hollowed out Les Pauls:

    Last edited: Apr 20, 2015
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  6. UPDATE:

    Nothing definitive as of yet, but Keith is leaning towards the chambering on the Les Paul Supreme Florentine, we are both really attracted to that model. Although we haven't been able to find an exact photo of the the innerworkings of a chambered Florentine, I am fairly certain it is the same chambering as the Les Paul Supreme - as in the sage green model pictured above. After all, technically - it's the "Les Paul Supreme Florentine" model.

    It's the same concept I used on the Viola bass I had built for me:



    Below is the chambering on the Les Paul Supreme, it's a little different than the others and it is completely scooped out which makes it a "frame".

    But here - in order to the accommodate the bass bridge, you would need to extend and maintain the width of the body at the center core all the way to bottom of the body. I like this chambering a lot and I am hoping it is the version that Keith decides to go with. However, I have made it clear to Keith that the chambering is his decision, his baby. He is the Les Paul guy and he has a lot of time and thought in this.

    You can see that the jack area is oversized to provide access to mounting the electronics with some long tweezers - as there will be no control cavity. The final treble pickup rout should give you access to installing the three position switch. The final BIG decision is F holes or no F holes. I am 51% vs 49% in favor of NO F holes, but as a practical matter, if they would be very helpful with getting at the electronics installation I am OK with it. Keith is clear - he says that top is way too incredible to be cutting holes in it.

    More to follow....
    Last edited: Apr 25, 2015
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  7. AltGrendel

    AltGrendel Squire Jag SS fan.

    May 21, 2009
    Mid-Atlantic USA.
    Amazing as always. Fun to read too.

    Thanks for sharing.
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  8. Holy Moley!

    Thanks BassHappy. You are the man!
    BassHappy likes this.
  9. Thanks Fellas for the kind comments.....

    And to think this whole semi-hollow tangent started because I had a second top from that same piece of flamed maple Paul gave me - and I didn't want another bass using the same top. How boring that would be? So, why not make the other top be the back? And then we realized that the maple is pretty heavy so that would make the body too heavy - and then suddenly Gibson came out with the hollow body short scale Memphis ES bass and it made us take a step back and think.

    Sheeeeesh, what you have to go through to try and hedge your bets and at least try and make an instrument the best it can be!

    So here we are.....more to come...
    Last edited: Apr 24, 2015
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  10. GBassNorth


    Dec 23, 2006
    Hey BH - excellent thread with tons of ideas and information! Still reading through all of it but wanted to quickly throw this idea your way...

    If you're still considering using pickups that require a standard Gibson size trim ring be sure to take a look at the Seymour Duncan Triple Shot trim rings. I used them on a recent bass mod and they are fantastic!

    It puts the 4 way coil switching for the humbucker at the trim ring so you don't need pull pots or blade or toggle switches anywhere else on the bass. Gives a real clean look to the bass and allows parallel/series/neck coil/bridge coil switching for each pickup. On a dual pickup bass like you're building that's a lot of different tone options before you even touch the tone knobs. I find them exceptionally useful if I'm using different pedals since some pedals respond to single coils differently than humbuckers.

    Anyway, worth a look if you need trim rings. Here's a link...
    Triple Shot Switching Mounting Ring - Seymour Duncan Triple Shot Mounting Ring

  11. AltGrendel

    AltGrendel Squire Jag SS fan.

    May 21, 2009
    Mid-Atlantic USA.
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  12. Hey GBass

    EXCELLENT! I had no idea that these existed and YES, I am using the TB+ Humbuckers and these type rings. I have emailed Keith about it - to get his feedback, but I think it is a great idea, thanks so much.

    When the pickups arrived they were already molded into the chrome covers, so I couldn't see how they were designed - but I assume they must look similar to the standard LP two coil guitar humbuckers under there.

    This is why I love this place so much, I constantly get great suggestions here, and I really do appreciate it!
    Last edited: May 8, 2015
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  13. GBassNorth


    Dec 23, 2006
    If you end up using them you'll love em! I installed mine on a parts bin FrankenBronco using a GFS lipstick Humbucker connected to a preEB Stingray preamp - sounds fantastic! Installation was a snap. I used their alternate reverse wiring instructions so when in single coil mode the switches are always towards the active coil, just made more sense than having them slide towards the dead coil. Also note they have two different types of trim rings - a flat one for Fender type applications and a curved one for Les Paul carved top type basses.

    My application was a single Humbucker Fender type bass but these trim rings would really kill in a typical Les Paul dual Humbucker application with a vol, vol, tone, tone, rhythm/lead control layout.

    I can only imagine how sweet it would be to have the bass in rhythm mode with the neck pickup set in parallel and the tone knob set for some warm soft chord and harmonics type playing for a song intro then flipping the PU selector to both and having the bridge PU blend in with a slightly dominant jazz type single coil bark and bite. Yum!
  14. Yeah MAN!

    it all sounds incredibly barking to me - plus it gives me a little edge over the standard set-up which I always try to finagle - at least when I can find a way. You are really a big help in this. Really appreciated!
    GBassNorth and BeeTL like this.

    When I was looking over the long list of specs on the Gibson ES Memphis Les Paul Bass, I didn't notice that it has a 4 degree neck joint tilt angle, but apparently it does. At least according to Gibson and it is pretty much spot on with what we were planning.

    Neck Fit Joint Angle: 4 degrees


    So, I realized that since the neck tilt angle is darn close to the neck angle on the Les Paul Supreme Florentine guitar - it only makes sense that the carve must also be pretty similar. The difference in bridge placement would really be the biggest issue with dictating the carving of the top. I compared via photos the Les Paul Florentine guitar on top with the Memphis ES Bass below it. The carve seems to be more similar than I had thought. If anything, the bass appears to be flatter and less dramatic over all.

    The other thing that jumped out at me, is that I am not enamored at all with the width of the Florentine, which looks a little bloated to me when compared with the more slim and trim Memphis ES bass. I am also not happy with the way the neck pickup on the ES Memphis bass is not exactly parallel with the strings.

    So apparently, since Keith can't really see or play a Memphis ES bass close up - as they are apparently still tooling and it's still on pre-order status - I sent him a number of close up photos. I am hoping he can get a good general sense from those and just go easy a little at a time and keep checking it with the bridge and neck clearance. To go out and measure the most recent LP basses would likely be misleading - as the bodies are oversize compared to the guitars. Not a history buff, and I have no way to measure and find out - but I was always under the impression that pretty much ALL the Les Paul basses had bodies that were at least a little oversized or modified when compared to their guitar bodies. As always, I could be wrong. If you know for sure and have measured, feel free to chime in.

    Florentine Graphic.png

    At any rate, it is nice to know that we are not going to have to make any really drastic changes to the wonderful lines and curves on the original Les Paul body in order to make this one a fit.

    Last edited: May 9, 2015
    BeeTL likes this.

    So, since it is Memorial Day weekend and I had some time on my hands, so I started doing a little research this morning. I saw a very cool bass made by Roger Giffin, which had a stunning Macassar ebony top. I was reading an article on him and I discovered that he designed the Les Paul Supreme "Florentine" when he worked for the Gibson custom shop. I was amazed to find out about this - I have always heard a lot about Roger - being the guy who built all the Fenders and Gibsons that the stars REALLY played. I posted this earlier in another thread, but I feel it bears repeating:

    "Giffin’s client list is likely the most impressive in the business, as it includes British legends like Eric Clapton, Peter Frampton, David Gilmour, Mark Knopfler, Jimmy Page, and Pete Townshend and American icons like Neal Schon, Slash, Eddie Van Halen, and Joe Walsh. Since Giffin first went into business in the late Sixties, his services have been sought by many more famous players, including Hank Marvin, Dave Edmunds, Steve Hackett, Andy Summers, Keith Richards, Ron Wood, George Harrison, Brian Setzer, Elliott Easton, Steve Stevens, and Jerry Cantrell.

    Some of Giffin’s most notable instruments include a pair of “Blackie” Stratocaster replicas he built for Eric Clapton in the mid Eighties, six of Pete Townshend’s Tele-style guitars that were his main instruments during the Eighties, and an exact reproduction of Jimmy Page’s “Number One” 1958 Gibson Les Paul, which Page dubbed “Number Three” and used onstage as a backup. He also built a three-pickup Les Paul Custom for Peter Frampton after Frampton lost his original, an unusual headless guitar with a 19-inch scale for David Gilmour, a non-cutaway hollowbody Les Paul for Malcolm Young, and a pair of custom hollowbody 12-string guitars for Eddie Van Halen. Giffin collaborated with Steinberger and Genesis guitarist Mike Rutherford to build the prototype Steinberger M Series model, and when he was working for the Gibson Custom Shop he made the prototype of the Les Paul Florentine model."

    More here: Roger Giffin’s Custom Guitars Have Helped Rock Icons Fulfill Their Dreams « Guitar Aficionado

    By the way, although I am not much of a paint guy - I love the doghair finish Roger did on this mahogany:


    So, if you are keeping up with this thread, we are more or less making a bass version of the Florentine. I got to wondering what the headstock looked like on the Florentine, as I still hadn't resolved in my mind exactly the best thing to do with the headstock on this build. So, I looked up the Florentine and I had a bit of a gasp. Believe it or not, here is the logo that Gibson puts on the Les Paul Supreme Florentine headstock:


    For some reason it strikes me as being pretty lame. Now I don't know about you, but I wonder how you could put a logo like this on the headstock of a top-of-the-line instrument that Gibson brags about, one that lists for over $6K? Just my opinion, I could be wrong.

    So, this was encouraging. I decided to pick up where i left off on the logo I have been trying to finish up over the past few years. Yes, that's right - past few years. Each time I drag it out I get some decent progress going and then I seem to run out of gas. I don't know what it is - since I finished the Viola bass - I was a little deflated - I had put quite a few hours in back then - but when I realized that the scroll headstock did not leave room for a standard logo or really a decal of any kind, it took the wind out of my sails. I mean - I want to have a logo that I can use that represents - at least to me - the struggles and accomplishments that I achieve going through this process. I want it to be standardized, so I can slap it projects with pride and not having to re-configure it every time. I like to think of it as my form of a signature masquerading as a bass tattoo.

    So I whipped out that last version of the logo I had and as I looked at it, I realized that it needed to be embracing something. So I tried the world thinking about the Florentine logo above:


    Part of me liked it but part of me thought it was much too obvious - a cop out as it were. So I kept scratching my head and as I was watching the Indy 500 this morning, the story about getting the soldier home just kind of killed me. No further comment, you either saw it or you didn't. I was very moved and by the time they hit the National Anthem, I started to have visions of biblical armies with shields and battle ribbons - and the next thing I knew I was in shield land.

    Shield WIth Black Web.png

    And that made me elaborate a bit on the obvious, taking up where I left off last time:

    Shield Export.png

    Well that wasn't really doing it for me - so I went though about a dozen gyrations of nothing really - but ended up coming up with this. I realized (thanks to Leah) that my being a Leo and that being a sun sign - perhaps the logo would work better if I embraced the sun:


    I thought maybe I was onto something - I liked the color scheme and I realized that it would really look pretty good with the antique amber finish I have in mind for this build. So, I tried a couple of dozen things, nothing seem to strike a chord. That is when Leah said (i adore that girl) "Maybe you should carry the glow of the sun onto the angel wings. It just looks to me like the colors should be more blended and not be so separate." So I played around and came up with this:

    Sheild Web.jpg

    I am thinking - now we are talking.....

    You can see why I adore that girl... So I take the lettering knock it out trans - and put it behind the actual sun and voila:


    I have to sleep on it, but by George, I may have it.
    Last edited: May 24, 2015
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  17. dedpool1052


    Jan 10, 2011
    Seattle, WA
    I like the last one. I thought a bass clef on the sun might be cool too, but quickly dismissed it as being too much.
  18. Hey thanks Dedpool...

    I am a little fried from trying to pull this together, but I think I may be well on my way to finally having my own guitar logo!

    I just found out that the SUPREME logo on the Florentine is actually a hologram. I guess that is why it looks so funky.

    Such is life, but thanks - glad you like it!
  19. GBassNorth


    Dec 23, 2006
    BH - I really like the last rendition! Would be extra special if the shield shape were glass with a slight dome to it and the orange orb was backlit.
  20. Hey GBass!

    Have to live with the design and finalize it first, but YEAH - great ideas both!

    Thanks for that!
  21. Primary

    Primary TB Assistant

    Here are some related products that TB members are talking about. Clicking on a product will take you to TB’s partner, Primary, where you can find links to TB discussions about these products.

    Jul 30, 2021

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