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

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

  1. Hey Dedpool

    Thanks for weighing in on this. I hadn't thought about it in that way, but what you say makes total sense to me. All of the Les Paul guitars I found with the first fret inlay were in fact customs, most of them with ornate headstocks. Of course, guitar building is not an exact science and the fun thing is you can almost always find an exception to whatever "rules" there happens to be. They were doing small custom mods at Gibson probably from day one - and if you wanted that inlay I am sure they would have installed one for you - for the right price! I don't really care much for the "Supreme" Florentine holographic logo Gibson used, so I will stay away from that:


    Maybe Keith will want to do a little something custom to the headstock, we will see when we get there. At the moment, I am really on the fence about the first fret inlay though.


    I got an email from Paul Tallent about my 1974 Rickenbacker which he bought from Paul Reed Smith. Apparently Paul modded that sucker before he sold it:

    "I wasn't sure if you knew Paul installed a BadAss bridge (router needed), rewired with shielded wire and a heat shrink tubing (nicely done), Schaller tuners, and said he did something with the truss rods that I didn't understand. I have a friend that builds special hardwood furniture and at the time made a special black walnut surround to cover the router for the bridge and while he was at it he matched it with a matching pickguard."

    Paul is currently traveling, but when he gets home he is going to try and get some photos of it. Wow, I had no idea Paul modded this bass! I don't know what pickup he used in the treble position after removing the original one for PRS #7 and eventually PRS #11 for me, but it will be interesting to see! Too bad too that my mahogany pick guard went by the wayside.
    Last edited: Dec 6, 2015
  2. ctmullins

    ctmullins fueled by beer and coconut Gold Supporting Member

    Apr 18, 2008
    MS Gulf Coast
    I'm highly opinionated and extremely self-assured
    Yep. Essentially, "Standard" models = trapezoidal inlays = no first fret inlay. "Custom", "Deluxe", etc. models = block or split block inlays = first fret inlay.

    I really like the trapezoidal inlays, and it doesn't bother me that there's no first fret inlay. I know where first fret is without looking. Actually, I never look at my fingerboard inlays anyway. Just the side dots.

    Love this build, by the way. I'm gonna do me a gold-top soon. :)
    BassHappy likes this.
  3. Indiedog


    Aug 23, 2012
    Tucson, AZ
    Thanks for all of the updates! I like the progress. I am especially interested in the Ric!
    BassHappy likes this.

    For those who may not know, I have a prototype bass of my own design on the drawing board. I have been working on it all my life to be honest, but this is neither the time nor place for getting into it. It's still a ways away - I need to get the Fender Performer/Transformer along with the Fender J and P hollows and really put them through their paces, and soak in everything I can from what we did with those "copycat" builds. I will directly apply everything we learn from those builds to my own bass design - along with everything that I have learned from all my basses, but these are particularly important for a lot of reasons. This Les Paul hollow Florentine copycat should also be quite a learning experience, before we tackle the prototypes.

    One of the things I am interested in is my own pickups. I won't go into the guts or the thoughts I have right now - but ideas are in development and as I was thinking about this build I started to get a little worried about the bright chrome pickup covers which are truly one of the hallmarks of the Gibson Les Paul basses in recent years. I was thinking about a way to dress them down a bit and since my own pickup design is developing along the lines of bass pickups the same size as a guitar humbucker - this was a good time to experiment with my ideas.

    A lot of the boutique/vintage builders in the guitar world are using ornate pickup covers with a variety of images etched in to the metal. Many of them are relic'ed and made to look old. Leah was talking to me and being a renowned floral designer - she thought I should do something flowery along the lines of Arcane and what they did with the EchoPark pickups:


    While I like the idea a lot, the flowery thing is a little much for me. When her father was alive and we were leaving his farm in Gettysburg years ago, he bent over as he was saying goodbye and plucked a nice stalk of wheat and handed it to Leah. She placed it on the dashboard of her car where it remained for years - until well after his death. The farm is fourth generation and the fabric of the farm is woven deeply into Leah's spirit and soul. So, I thought, why not wheat? So here are the four ideas I came up with. The first one going with the grain of the guitar and three others going against the grain so to speak.

    Wheat Pickups Web.png

    The design is pretty simple and I think it is probably a pretty easy etching job.

    So, I took some time and although I am still a very marginal player in the Photoshop game, I tried to put together some examples of the basses with the honey burst color I am planning for this bass. This is in the ballpark of what I believe I will end up going for - but of course, I have to see how the wood speaks to us when we get the bass done.

    9 0905-01.jpg

    These basses have the actual Brazilian Rosewood fingerboard and the maple top, which Paul Reed Smith donated for the project. I couldn't get the wood grain to stand out - my first foray actually in trying to do a Photoshop sunburst - only marginally successful, but I think you can get the idea.


    Leah really prefers the bottom one with the two sizes, I am not sure yet, but I am attracted to the third one down after seeing them on the basses.

    So, if anyone is up for weighing in on what they think and whether or not they have a favorite, I would take the suggestions under advisement.

    Thanks for playing along.....
    Last edited: Dec 12, 2015
    BeeTL likes this.
  5. AGH


    Jun 18, 2013
    Long Island NY
    All of the stuff I got for free wore out!
    I'm really liking the honeyburst finish!
  6. Thanks AGH!

    I wish I could come closer to a REAL representation of the honeyburst with that extraordinary top grain of the PRS top:

    PRS LP TOP.jpg

    Here is little twist:

    Black Pickups Web.png
  7. And Leah suggested a feathery decaying leaf in honor of the season:

  8. dedpool1052


    Jan 10, 2011
    Seattle, WA
    I like both the chrome and black with the larger wheat stalk. Also, if you're going to have you're own pickups made, why not incorporate your winged heart logo into them?
    BassHappy likes this.
  9. fjadams


    Jun 7, 2011
    Danbury, CT
    I'd be inclined to go with the two sizes on chrome. But with the stalks facing each other.
    BassHappy likes this.
  10. Hey Dedpool

    Funny you should mention about the heart wing logo. I tried it and I thought it looked pretty pedestrian when I did it in black and white to simulate the way it would have to look as an etching. It would also be hard because it is really detailed with the angel wings and all and it doesn't translate very well when it's small enough to be on a pickup. I think simple is the way to go if I decide to go this route.

    I am not sure - I mean I suppose i could just do it as a decal in color, but then it would more then likely eventually rub off. Without spending a fortune, I couldn't figure out a way to make it look sleek and clean and actually part of the pickup. I thought about doing the kind of raised metal a lot of folks are using on the headstock logos these days in color, but again - it would stick out from the surface of the pickup and more than likely would have an effect on the sound. Of course, nothing is off the table. I am sure you have grown to know me well enough to know that. I mean, I am still finding my way through this and I may end up not doing any etching at all. I think the chrome LP pickup covers can be very stark and shiny - but they might be alright. Even doing mock ups and stuff - everything changes when you see the real deal.

    Hey FJ

    Not a bad idea I hadn't considered:

    P4 Web.png P3 Reversed Web.png

    Lots of crazy little details to think about that is for sure.

    Thanks to both of you for weighing in on this!
  11. dedpool1052


    Jan 10, 2011
    Seattle, WA
    I'm liking the etching over brushed chrome. It's a good look.
    BassHappy likes this.
  12. Bruce Johnson

    Bruce Johnson Commercial User

    Feb 4, 2011
    Fillmore, CA
    Professional Luthier
    Hey Rick;

    A few quick thoughts on the technical side of the etched pickup covers:

    Looking at your designs, it might be better to have them done by laser engraving, rather than chemical etching. Most trophy shops these days have CNC laser engravers, and it's relatively cheap and simple to have custom designs engraved on metal plates.

    Along those lines, you could make it as a cap which is applied to the chromed pickup cover. Make up the cap as a rectangle of thin (like 0.010") stainless steel with a brushed finish and the laser engraving. Attach it permanently to the pickup cover with that super thin double sided tape. It would give you that dull silver look, and it shouldn't have any real effect on the pickup's sound.
    BassHappy likes this.
  13. Hey Bruce

    Nice to hear from you!

    I sent you a long winded email the other day asking you about some pickup ideas I am looking at for my prototype bass. I hope you got it alright. If not let me know and I can re-send. I am sure you are busy, you can save it for after NAMM, no rush.

    Great suggestion on the laser engravers for sure and making a cap is a great idea too. I watched an instructional video of a guy swapping out the pickup covers by breaking the two solder joints on a humbucker and it didn't seem too daunting. I have a pretty big deal laser engraving place right next to my office called Crown Trophy - it's a big shop and they do a lot of things. Thanks for that. I would guess that they can't do the laser etching right over the chrome without marring or chipping it off - and that is why you are suggesting a cap? I would think not, so I would probably need to get raw brushed stainless or nickel covers, have them etched and then polish them up - or get them plated or powder coated - whichever I decided.

    Screen shot 2015-12-13 at 8.57.38 AM.png

    These are cheap and ready to go in nickel. If I move on these eventually I could do a bunch at one time and have them. I have a great powder coating guy near me who has been pretty cheap and does a great job with an amazing array of colors. Problem is, I don't know what process you have to go through - to have the etching one color and the pickup cover another color. The only thing I can think of is to use raw stainless or nickel and then polish them up at the end to make them look flawless. I think these would be cool too, never seen these before - maybe with some thin ornate cloth in the slots of the radiators:

    Screen shot 2015-12-13 at 10.24.42 AM.png

    In thinking about it late last night, I think I came to the realization that is wasn't necessarily etching the covers, but more the case that - man- those Les Paul pickup covers are bright like a mirror bright. I was trying to think of a way to tone them down a bit. Definitely not used to that sort of look. A little on the fence though because the tail stop and bridge are bright chrome too, and I don't want to stray too far away from the Gibson standard - after all, this project is ultimately a tribute to them.



    I am pretty far along in my prototype bass design, after all - I should be - I have been working on it my whole life. I don't want to move ahead until I can spend considerable time with the Performer/Transformer and the Fender Hollow P & J. We tried a lot of little experiments with those and I need to see what effect they had - and then add what I learned to the mix before I commit on certain design features on my basses moving forward.

    This Les Paul bass should also provide a lot of information too. Don't worry, I have entertained the idea - but at this point I am not planning on getting into the bass building biz, or the business of selling basses. I will leave that to you and Keith and all the other incredible pros in the bass universe. I am just doing these for me.

    For me these prototypes are like that nagging song that gets stuck in the back of your head - you HAVE to write it and get it out - or you might end up jumping off a bridge somewhere....

    Last edited: Dec 13, 2015
  14. You know, i really find these Radiators interesting. I mean, it might be nicer if there were four slots in them instead of six, which kind of scream guitar, but there are lots of possibilities:


    The first two rows are a few "Vintage Amp Grillcloth" concepts. The next row are three fabric ideas and at the bottom it's very thin pieces of veneer which you could kind of match up to the body wood. I kind of like the look.

    Radiator Pickups Web.png
  15. Splods


    Oct 7, 2012
    Adelaide, SA
    My vote is for the goldfoil look.
  16. So I heard from Keith this morning, and he has been getting frozen out of his workspace! They are filming some scenes for a Ben Affleck movie in the building that Keith and Bruce's shop is in - and apparently they have to leave the doors open while filming, so lots of VERY cold air is streaming in, and it is very cold in LA at the moment. Looks like they are filming again today so I would imagine not much is going to get done as far as Keith goes in his own shop.

    He is laying out the details of the fingerboard and we decided together on NO first fret inlay. The headstock is going to stay pretty standard looking, and I think no inlay on that first fret is the way to go. I have never been a big fan of massively inlayed/ornate headstocks to be truthful. Besides, I like the idea of going with the vintage standard Les Paul's which had no first fret inlay. Keith is also laying out the binding and he is using strips from the actual top. More to come, hopefully with photos....
  17. Indiedog


    Aug 23, 2012
    Tucson, AZ
    What a great excuse! Filming a movie? Cool!

    I kinda like the wheat motif (and the story) but the "radiators" are interesting too. (SO many choices! ha ha)
  18. Bruce Johnson

    Bruce Johnson Commercial User

    Feb 4, 2011
    Fillmore, CA
    Professional Luthier
    Yeah, they just finished a big film shoot in our building. Having a major movie shoot going on down the hall is thrilling and exciting....for the first ten minutes. Mostly, it's just a big hassle for us quiet craftsmen. We've had a bunch of smaller movie shoots here since I've been in the building. Some TV series (Justified, for one), music videos, and indie movies. They weren't much problem. This one was a big-buck movie. It ended up being quite a bit of a hassle, mostly because of all the people and the timing with the weather.

    They rented about a quarter of the building, half of the basement, for two months. A big crew spent three weeks building elaborate sets. I lost track of how many truckloads of props and lumber and foam they brought in. The actual shoot through the setwork was yesterday, and only took about an hour. I heard that it's about a 2 minute long scene in the movie. Then they went outside and shot a scene in the parking lot, blowing up an antique car with the loading dock of our building in the background. I watched them film that one, and it was rather underwhelming.

    The hassle was because the only access to the area that they were filming was through the long hall/tunnel where our shops are. Including the rollup door and ramp to the outside, which is barely 20 feet from our shops. Inside the building, our shops are divided by chain link fencing, not hard walls. So, for several weeks, we've had this endless stream of people, carts, and forklifts running up and down our hall. The parking lot full of trucks and generators and cables. And the rollup door being wide open from 6 am to 3:30 pm. Normally, with the door closed, it's about 65 in here during December, which is reasonable to work in. But, with the door open all day, it's 55 with 45 degree winds blowing right through our shops! It's been a real problem and hassle for us Luthiers to reasonably work in our shops. Fortunately, they are almost done clearing out and will be gone soon. But now the basement is all cold-soaked, and we don't know how many days or weeks it will take to get it back up to 65.

    I bundled up and got some work done this afternoon. Keith stopped in quickly to pick up some things, and said that he was going to work at home.
    BeeTL likes this.
  19. Old Blastard

    Old Blastard

    Aug 18, 2013
    image.jpg Hey Basshappy, don't stop working on that bass you want. I had the one I wanted made and now she's finished. Played her out at a gig and man is she awesome. Just playing her makes me happy. No GAS left. Weird. Andrew did an amazing job.
  20. Indiedog


    Aug 23, 2012
    Tucson, AZ
    Lovely guitar; lovely wood grain, OB!

    Now it is time for matching up your pillowcases! :)
    BassHappy likes this.
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    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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