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

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


    I stumbled on to a nice commentary from Gibson on their Les Paul Supreme, which reiterates the chambering on it which I have posted below. I also found out that master luthier Roger Giffin designed the Florentine when he worked at the Gibson custom shop. I sent him an email, and hopefully, he will be kind enough to shed some light on whether or not the same chambering was used. It seems likely, but from what I can tell the 2015 Supremes have F holes and the Florentine does not - so it's probably not a good idea to assume they were chambered exactly the same way. With Keith wrapping up the other three builds in the next couple of weeks, it will be time to really focus on this one.

    Will keep you posted....


    Last edited: May 25, 2015
    old spice and JIO like this.

    I finally figured out the headstock thing for this bass. Here is what I have settled on for the headstock, which I think will look great with the vintage/amber/butterscotch antique smoky finish I am envisioning:

    LP Logo Black BG.png LP Logo.png

    It's tired and I am late.....Nighty night....

    Apologies to those who may have read about this in the Rosewood vs. Ebony thread - some of this might be a little repetitive, but there is new info on the way...

    I will never own an ebony fingerboard as mentioned in that thread. I think ebony is probably the greatest thing in the world for fretless necks and finger style players, because it adds much needed brightness. This is no reflection on anyone, just my considered opinion after spending time in A-B tests in Rob Allen's shop. I realize that ebony board lovers are very passionate and I totally respect that. When I had the pleasure of spending an afternoon a number of years ago in Rob Allen's shop in Santa Barbara, he had several of his finished fretted "Mouse" models hanging around. He was kind enough to leave me alone for a couple of hours, and I spent the time going back and forth on the instruments he had there.

    Surprisingly, when Rob came in to ask me what I thought, I told him I really preferred the mahogany body with the maple top and the rosewood board. He grinned and mentioned that since I was a fretted pick player, his ebony boards would probably be a little "klacky" sounding. Paul Reed Smith had mentioned to me years ago that he thought ebony fretboards on fretted basses were a little "klacky" sounding when used with a pick - but he really liked ebony boards on fretless basses. The only PRS ebony board I ever played was on a bass that Paul had made for Stan Sheldon of Peter Frampton's band - and it was fretless.

    So I didn't really know what "klacky" meant with a fretted bass, until that day with Rob. It was funny - I had only heard that word from Paul - and I didn't truly know what that meant. I spent a few more minutes going back and forth on the ebony board, and back to the rosewood board - and since I was focused in on it - what a difference it was for me. Yes, klacky is a good word to describe what I was hearing. We had already picked out the spalted maple top and we were deciding on the other woods. I told him it was unfortunate, as I really liked the look of the solid jet black ebony, but not the sound. as the spalted maple we chose was really busy and highly figured. He agreed on the spot to "ebonize" a pretty dark rosewood board he had - along with the bridge - and make them look exactly like ebony, while retaining the warmth and smoothness of the rosewood.

    So over the years, I haven't had much of an interest in ebony - i learned everything I needed to know that day. But, I stumbled onto this custom bass from Roger Giffin recently and I was immediately smitten with this ebony top. The grain almost looks like leather and it's Macassar. I suppose I may have - but I don't recall ever seeing one before. So I have been emailing Roger and we are having a phone call this week - he is gathering more photos of this bass to send to me. It was made a long time ago, so long ago that the details of this build have fallen off of his site. It was a short scale, and a one off custom - made for a specific customer. He also let me know in no uncertain terms that the ebony gave him fits - and while he would consider building another one - there would be a fairly serious up charge:


    In addition to my fascination with the above bass - the other reason I am in touch with Roger, is because I found out he designed the Les Paul Supreme Florentine guitars when he worked at the Gibson Custom Shop. I asked him if he could recall how he chambered the Florentine models, and this was his response:

    "I can't recall exactly how the body chambering on the LP Florentine was done now, I didn't keep any records of the Gibson period builds, but I probably used something similar to the chambering I use on my Standard Hollow-body. This has a center strip from neck to tail that doesn't touch the front except for a block under the bridge which is glued to the underside of the top."

    I will ask him a little more about this when we speak, but I know from looking at the hollows on his site that he uncouples the mahogany frame from the top mostly to prevent feedback. For those of you who may not know, Roger is the guy who actually made all those Fender and Gibson guitars that you THOUGHT all the stars were playing most of your lives. Again, apologies to those who may have seen this in the other thread:

    "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 - I love the doghair finish Roger did on this mahogany:


    And his basses caught my eye as well, especially this four string with a redwood top in medium scale with two full octaves:


    So, one thing seems certain - the Florentine is NOT chambered the same way as the Les Paul Supreme. Roger had his own thoughts and ideas back at Gibson, many of which may or may not be relevant to putting together a Florentine style bass body. Will keep you posted after we speak and I will post more photos of the bass above with the ebony top if anyone else is interested. Cheers!
    Last edited: May 28, 2015
    BeeTL likes this.

    These just arrived from Roger:

    dembfr.jpg dembb.jpg

    BassDembrowski 021.JPG

    BassDembrowski 014.JPG

    BassDembrowski 031.JPG

    BassDembrowski 034.JPG

    bassDembrowski2 014.JPG

    bassdembrowski4 002.JPG

    BassDembrowski 038.JPG

    Awesome - special thanks to Roger for sending....
  5. wagdog


    Mar 20, 2000
    Der Waffle Haus
    Man, I love that bass! And that's quite the tilt back neck angle too.
    BeeTL and BassHappy like this.
  6. GBassNorth


    Dec 23, 2006
    Beautiful woodworking on that bass. Unfortunately it has that Cindy Crawford effect on me. Drop dead gorgeous but I just can't get past that mole on her face or in the case of this bass - those sewing machine thread bobbins used for control knobs. Replace those with something more in line with the sleek design and sensuous curves of the bass and you've got a winner!
    BeeTL likes this.
  7. AltGrendel

    AltGrendel Squire Jag SS fan.

    May 21, 2009
    Mid-Atlantic USA.
    Wow, now if only it was unlined fretless.

    And here I thought the top was Wenge.
    Last edited: May 28, 2015
    BeeTL likes this.
  8. Yeah Wagdog

    That neck angle and pickup height reeks of his days in the Gibson custom shop....
    BeeTL likes this.
  9. HaphAsSard


    Dec 1, 2013
    Uh, apt analogy; as for me, I could totally get over it, above it, on it, whatever.
    In both cases.
    BeeTL and BassHappy like this.

    So, I haven't spoken to Roger yet, we are hopefully connecting tomorrow. I wanted to mock up a couple of chambering ideas to see if he would be kind enough to look at them and critique them for me.

    After reading a little about Roger's hollow body theories on his site - here is my best guess as to how the Les Paul Florentine was chambered, when he originally designed it. One of his concentrations was on eliminating feedback in hollow body guitars. In order to do this - he would make sure that the center "block" was not in contact or coupled with the top - until the block reached just north of the bridge area. So assuming that he started with the original Les Paul Supreme design, here is the way he may have designed the chambering, but I have modified this for bass - moving the bridge back and widening the center support:

    Graphic 1 Web.png

    He may have shaved material off in the section towards the neck as well. In toying with this design - I don't want to start to get into neck dive issues, even though the maple is pretty heavy, but this is certainly an alternative to the chambering above. I extended the uncoupling area a bit. I am hoping he is kind enough to look at these drawings and give me his comments, we will see.

    THIS ONE.png

    My theory is - why charge ahead with trial and error which could fail - when you can enlist a guy like Roger to help with his years and years of R&D behind him.
    Last edited: May 31, 2015
  11. BeeTL

    BeeTL Commercial User

    Sep 26, 2006
    Oldsmar, FL
    Brad Lowe, Lowe Custom Guitars
    SturmUndDrang, wraub and BassHappy like this.

  12. Nice to hear from you Brad!

    Yeah, that is a real looker. I love the simplicity of it and the neck looks awesome!!

    And mixing it up with the P Bass pickups no Gibson bridge. And the finish and the binding - nice, I like, I like!
  13. wraub


    Apr 9, 2004
    ennui, az
    That is my favorite Les Paul bass, ever. No offense LP bass owners.
    This one just bakes my cookies.
    BassHappy and BeeTL like this.
  14. HALLOWEEN UPDATE 10-30-15

    A quick update. As Keith is wrapping up the Fender Twin Hollow builds and the Fender Performer (Transformer) bass for me, he is also starting back on this one. As previously mentioned, the release of the Memphis Les Paul Hollowbody bass by Gibson kind of threw us for a loop. Also, we discovered that Roger Giffin designed and built the LP Florentine guitar during his days at the Gibson custom shop and I am a huge Roger Giffin fan.

    Part of the issue is a practical one. The top that Paul Reed Smith donated for this project is thick and will provide two tops. Since I am not big on making twins with these tops, it will be great to use the other top as a matching back. We decided to take the best structural elements of the Les Paul Florentine guitar and convert them into our version of a medium scale Les Paul Florentine bass. No F holes, no cavity cover and of course no Bigsby.


    The release of the Memphis LP Hollow body bass kind of stopped us in our tracks and we have spent some time headscratching and reconsidering for sure and for certain.

    What is so special about the Florentine? For one, it is a semi-hollow body and has a maple top and a maple back, with no control cavity and no F holes. Also, the neck leaves the body at approximately a 5 degree angle, which I love - and is one of the finest features of PRS #11:

    So Keith has prepared the neck blank enough to pass the torch over to Bruce Johnson, who will begin to fabricate the neck, along the same lines as the medium scale neck he made for my Fender Performer. If we get lucky, maybe Bruce will post some photos here of the process.

    Although Keith has already done some of the carving on the body, he will be hollowing it out, and I believe making a frame - which will create no problems. The top two photos are the body as is, with the bottom photo a vague representation (not on a LP) of what Keith is approximating. I say approximating because I have left the hollowing out process on him. I have every confidence that he will come up with a great version.


    Still haven't locked in on the final finish - but there is plenty of time for that. The front runners at the moment are the smoky vintage amber and the bourbon burst.

    A word about Gibson in general - as many TB'ers are aware, Gibson apparently will not be releasing any basses in 2016. It will be interesting to see how much interest, if any - this thread generates due to that. It makes this build even more special for me. It will be ironic to finally be getting my version of the perfect Gibson medium scale bass in a year they are not making any basses at all.
    Last edited: Nov 8, 2015
    Immigrant likes this.
  15. AltGrendel

    AltGrendel Squire Jag SS fan.

    May 21, 2009
    Mid-Atlantic USA.
    Now if it was just made as an unlined fretless. :crying:
    BassHappy likes this.
  16. Yeah but then you would want to come and steal it away in the night!

  17. Runnerman

    Runnerman Registered Bass Player Supporting Member Commercial User

    Mar 14, 2011
    Sales Development Manager NN Inc. - Polymet, USA manufacturer of fret wire
    What's the purpose of the 5 degree neck/body kickback?
    Are there sonic reasons or is it to clear the chunky Bigsby?
    Or simply stylistic.

    How would this translate to bass?
  18. Hey Runnerman

    PRS #11, which Paul built custom for me in 1978 - is my all time favorite bass. It has the entire neck angled back around 5 degrees - and I just adore it. It is so comfortable, for me it puts my shoulders and hands in the optimum position. it's hard to describe. Only bass I owned and played for over 20 years.

    Last edited: Oct 30, 2015
    BassGreaser and RedVee like this.
  19. Old Blastard

    Old Blastard

    Aug 18, 2013
    image.jpg It's not really an LP, but it's my take with a lot of input from Andrew Drake. Soon to be in my practice chamber
    Last edited: Oct 30, 2015
    MattZilla, BeeTL, BassGreaser and 2 others like this.
  20. Bruce Johnson

    Bruce Johnson Commercial User

    Feb 4, 2011
    Fillmore, CA
    Professional Luthier
    Okay, enough of the dreaming and making pretty's time to get busy cutting wood and metal!

    Keith did a rough layout on the mahogany board that will become the neck, and passed it over to me for the installation of the truss rod. Here's the sequence of how I build up the truss rod and fit it into the raw neck blank. This is my standard double-acting single-rod system, the same as we used in Rick's Performer/Transformer project, and all of my own Scroll Basses. It's also used in most of neck structures that I build up for other Luthiers. I introduced this truss rod design in 2006, and I've installed them in about 450 necks so far.

    Starting with the mahogany board, I establish and mark the locations of the truss rod's head assembly, up near the nut, and the anchor, back at the heel. The hole for the anchor is round, and is drilled from the top. The pocket for the head assembly is routed using a template clamped down to the neck blank. The router has a collar on its base that rides in the template.


    The next step is to rout the slot for the rod, which runs between the head pocket and the anchor hole. The bottom of the slot curves downwards from the head pocket to the middle of the middle of the neck, around the 5th fret. Then the slot stays level back to the heel, passing under the anchor hole. The truss rod itself, when installed, will curve down to its deepest point around the 5th fret, then curve back up to the surface back at the anchor.

    This leaves a long wedge-shaped portion of the slot down under the truss rod, from about the 7th fret to the heel. During the installation, this area is filled solid with epoxy and a bundle of carbon fiber strands, plus a small wedge of maple. I call this the backstrap, and its purpose is to reinforce the wood at the back of the neck, centered around the 12th fret. It prevents that wood from stretching over the years, and causing the classic "ski jump" problem.

    The slot is cut with this routing fixture, which clamps down on top of the neck blank. The router base has a collar, which rides down in the wide slot down the middle of the fixture. The router base also rides on the curved side rails, which creates the depth and curved shape of the slot.


    Next, not shown, I set the blank up on edge in the bandsaw and saw off the excess wedge over the headstock area. Then I clamp on this drill fixture, which registers in the head pocket and rod slot. The fixture guides a long drill bit to create a hole that intersects the head pocket. This becomes the hole which you put the Allen wrench through to adjust the truss rod.

    Last edited: Nov 8, 2015
  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.

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