Hi everyone - I'm the new kid on the block and new to guitar making too. I'm experienced at woodworking but never tackled an electric guitar before. I bought a set of plans for the LP Flametop from StewMac thinking it would come with a parts list alas that was my first mistake.
Could anyone spare some time to advise me of what parts I need or more to the point what brands to get? Pickups, tuners, switches etc. I've purchased a lovely piece of Fijian Mahogany for the body.
I hope there is someone who remembers what it is to know zip and need a mentor. Btw I have purchased Melvin Hiscocks book How to Build an Electric Guitar but that does not solve my dilema as to which brand (specs) to use for the LP Flametop
Broad, open-ended questions garner broad, open-ended answers. Any of us can give you our personal preferences as to parts, but those may not be what you ultimately like once you get them into the guitar.
And, I'm not an LP owner (yet), so I'm sure our LP contingent may be able to "zero in" on specific parts a bit better than I can. But several thoughts anyway . . .
First, you need to decide whether you want this to be as close to a "Gibson factory" LP as possible. If you want to be true to the original, then original parts are the way to go. One could, of course, just buy everything directly from Gibson, but that might get a bit pricey.
Second, since this sounds like a fine piece of wood you'll be massaging into your LP, you'll want to use high-quality parts to get a top-end result.
Third, an "LP" nowadays denotes a style of guitar moreso than a specific size of things. There are numerous variations worldwide. If your plans include a routing template, you'll want to be sure to find out whether the dimensions are for std. US-spec parts or not (from Stew-Mac, I'm guessing it would be so, but who knows?).
Now, since you are building from scratch, you're not wedded to factory specs; you can "build to the part", so to speak. This, of course, means having all parts in hand before you start drilling holes . . .
Fourth, one basic decision you need to make is whether you want to use the traditional Gibby "PAF" humbuckers or perhaps P90 pickups, which are also used on some LPs. Of course, you could use something else, too, but then it won't be quite as "LP-ish". I'm a fan of P90s on LPs, but let your ears be the judge on this. If you haven't heard both types, go to a guitar store and play each type of LP to see which sound appeals to you more.
Now, as far as a parts list, the Gibson website may have a complete LP parts list- I haven't checked, but many manufacturers include a parts list in their "technical help" sections.
You'll need tuners, of course, and quality matters here. Gibson currently uses Tone Pro tuners, which is now also Kluson since they bought the name. These would be the classic choice. I'm personally a fan of Grovers, they'd work fine as well. So would Sperzels. Be aware that the holes sizes for different brands will vary. "Measure twice", etc. and have tuners in hand before you drill the headstock.
Be prepared to spend a chunk of money for quality tuners. This is one area where it really does matter!
You'll need pickups, of course, and mounting rings. If your LP is to be a carved-top type, you need the pickup mounting rings for a carved-top body (the curved ones).
LPs come with or without a pickguard. If you want one, you'll also need the metal mounting arm (and screws).
The bridge is classically a "Tune-O-Matic", often called a "TOM", with a stop tailpiece. You can buy an actual TOM, or there are numerous clones available.
As far as electronics, and assuming this is going to be std. LP stuff, you'll need 4 500KΩ potentiometers. You will need the "long-shaft" types in order to go through the LP body.
You will need a 1/4" output jack and a jack mounting plate. LPs use an oval mounting plate, these are available all over the web.
You will need the two plastic cover plates to cover the rear control cavities. Often, one can find sets of "LP plastic parts" which include the back covers, pickguard, truss rod cover, and pickup mounting rings, and sometimes knobs as well. Also, these usually have the switch surround ring as well.
The quality issue doesn't matter much for the plastic bits, so look for a complete set if you can. This will at least ensure the colors all match up well.
You will need a 3-way pickup selector switch. This is a SPDT toggle switch. Make sure the plastic cover over the switch lever matches the rest of your plastic parts. A search for "Gibson style toggle switch" will disclose hundreds of these.
Additionally, you'll need a nut, wire (22-24 ga.), and strap buttons.
You didn't mention whether you were fabricating a neck as well, if so, you'll need fretwire and perhaps a truss rod and fingerboard. Neck construction is a whole 'nother subject which I'll leave for now . . .
There are so many ways you can go with this that it would be volumes tossing options out to you. As newey has already mentioned, broad questions get broad answers.
The best advise I can give you is to think about what kind of guitar you want and what you want it to sound like. 20 minutes on Google will give you all the stock specs for a Les Paul. Since you're starting from scratch it can be anything you want it to be.
Before you start this project be advised that building a one off guitar from scratch will cost you more then buying said guitar outright and assembled. Similar to buying a car in parts...
You are going to have generally higher costs associated with all the components, finishing expenses, hardware costs, electronics, tools...yeah, tools are a big one. There are some very luthier specific tools needed to build a guitar. Some of them are very pricey for a one off guitar. Fret and nut files alone can cost you more then your pickups. I mention this because if you do your research now and make your compromises before the tools hit the mahogany you'll be more effective during your build.
You have the plans, but you really need to budget this project out. While building a neck from scratch looks cheaper, by the time you invest in the wood, the scrapers, the sanding blocks, the frets, the nuts, the saw (I recommend Luthier's Mercantile for pre-radiused and slotted fretboards...if you're going that way...) the files and other various necessities you can easily run the cost of a cheap DIY neck to more then you'd pay for a new one with everything already done for you.
That said, you can budget you time and money for the project, as unless you're a fully tooled shop with orders on hand there is no schedule to maintain.
Getting back to my original train of thought, consider your basic direction first. Mahogany is a heavy wood and makes heavy guitars. Since you're starting with a clean slate you have the option of chambering the body to decrease the weight, which will also add some interesting tonal characteristics.
You can also accommodate a vibrato into the finished product, if that's something you'd like.
What was your plan for the neck? LP's traditional have the neck glued into the body. You can go this way, or set it up for a bolt on neck. As a consideration, with a standard Les Paul with a tune-o-matic bridge, you'll have to set the neck angle by 1-3 degrees, typically, to have any kind of decent action. This can be tricky if you've never done this before, and don't have access to more precise woodworking tools. A bolt on neck, while not appealing to the purists, can be much more functional and opens up your options for your bridge/vibrato selection.
Finally, finish. This is where all your hard work can turn into mud if done quick and sloppy. The Tone Nazi's will scream for nitro cellulose lacquer, the Chinese use a catalyst poly...some people stand by oil finishes...but in all honesty, with an electric guitar the type of finish is generally academic, it's the thickness of the finish that's more important.
Then there's the controls, pickups...options for said items... This is where you really need to know what you want. There are some very sharp folks on this board that can help you with just about anything. But keep in mind, the quality of the question asked will directly effect the quality of the answer.
Well, that should give you more then enough to chew on and report back with.
My suggestion to you is to post individual specific questions in the Luthier section of the board. Post as many as you want. Breaking them down into smaller bits will also help future visitors and members down the road...no one likes to scroll through a 15 page post...
Let us know and we'll do all we can for you.
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I'm going to jump in the deep end, and ask for some more information, that could help us help you
What music are you into, are we talking an Uber Metal sredding machine? Or the kind of guitar that Sings and sparkles through a Fender tweed amp?
What look are you going for, Matte black Gothic? or The axe of the Jazz Man?
Budget. we dont want to reccoment top end parts for a small budget, as thats useless. But In some cases we might reccomend a good value part (there are some really good cheap pickups if you know where to look) over an expensive part if you have a large budget. No point wasting money
Vibrato/Tremolo. Do you want one? Floyd rose? Bigsby? Fender Syncro?
What other guitars do you have? Whats good about them? whats bad? ie. Fender strats confortable contoring is good, but i dont like the bolt on neck. . My other les paul is too heavy?
Pickups + electronics? Are you looking for a stripped out malcolm young Axe. Or a proper NUTZ guitar. Loads of pickups and switches to do everything?
Hopefully this should let us give you better advice
Well that's a huge undertaking for a first guitar from a woodworkers point of view...but I have seen it done with remarkable success if you have the experience and equipment and attention to detail required in that department...It is of course something of the 'rolls royce' of solid body electric guitars and no easy undertaking!
As for other aspects...others have contributed. Before heading too far into things, an overall plan and direction is useful...look at a lot of different examples and consider carefully the player and what they expect from it...this greatly informs the hardware.
As an example on a fairly unique take on the classic look...my Kahler Trem LP here for instance...
This is unique in the adding of a tremolo bridge and tuning system...the classic LP is a fixed bridge guitar.
Long pots are generally necessary, on my guitar they weren't necessary as the control cavity was cut deep enough for standard push pulls to be used.
Obviously a selector switch is also required.
The knobs on this guitar are more like a telecasters, very clean and plain with screw fitting, good for push pull pots...and 'a look'
Tuners on this guitar are sperzel locking tuners...even without the trem, such tuners are good for easy string changes and accurate tuning.
Pickups is a whole other area, being on a budget and going for some 'style' these pickups were very cheap and over-powered...but they work quite well and good when split and such.
So...here you need to start thinking about how you want this kind of thing to sound, the type of amp you are feeding, kind of music you are playing...all manner of things.
Generally, and unusually for this kind of guitar, I play very cleanly these days. I thought of this guitar as a foil for my telecaster which has a very bright sound, so it is darker with more body and midrange sustain. Part of this is construction, part of it the HB pickups.
Any pickup will make a sound of course, and they make a big difference...but it becomes more subtle with cost. Run things through a modeling amp or with a lot of distortion...and a lot of this is coloured out anyway.
So...a bit more information required in that department.
The neck is the crucial component in such a build, certainly for playability...fret wire is important a consideration for the way it feels as well...again more information required as to what you are aiming for. You will need a truss rod, dual action might be worth considering.
One other thing that you really might want to think about is the incredible weight of your average LP. I played and still own an original for a couple of decades in bands and all playing...and these things can end up being very heavy. You do need to watch for balance, but wearing a guitar that weighs like a couple of house bricks can be a chore.
You might then think about chambering such a guitar, Gibson themselves are doing this more and more...basically hollowing out in various way the mahogany back before adding on the top...may add resonance effects to make it more lively, definitely sheds weight on such a guitar.
Hiscock's book is pretty good, I have it here and you will find an exploded view on page 6 of an LP and all the components that go into it. Just about everything in it is covered, but there is a lot to consider in something as technical as this...a musical instrument can be quite different from more utilitarian woodworking projects.
It can bewildering on choice...and people could make suggestions, many of these need to be made before building...but really one needs a lot more information to voice an opinion on things like brands and sounds. There is a lot of hype out there too...and then of course, how your budget is!
Mainly, you need to be thinking who is going to play the thing, what sound do you want it to make, the kind of music and the kind of "look" and functionality you are trying to achieve.
Going to need to undertake a lot of study as well to get a handle on all the factors involved to make a functioning instrument...certainly an undertaking to go with an LP...
No one has mentioned binding the body and/or neck, but one could do a whole semester's worth of tutorials on that.
If a binding is part of the picture here, then buying binding material should be added to the parts list.
I'll also second hollowing out the body. While I'm not an "LP guy", the weight is the first thing I notice with these guitars- and maybe most of the reason I've never owned one. It does take a toll on the ol' shoulder after a couple of tunes.
I have not read Hiscock's book so I can't comment but I will say that you owe it to yourself to check out this thread on TDPRI- this guy does an insane job building a 59 flametop..........It's a 113 page thread but you can skip thru all the oohs and ahs.....& get a wealth of info from this guy.
Here's an excellent video on carving an arched top.
Check out the tone in this video about building a chambered Les Paul.
You'll probably spend as much time building jigs and fixtures as you do building the guitar. I know- I'm working on a chambered mahogany flametop Tele- ...........and that's not even a carved top. The point is, do alot of homework before you start.
Parts are readily available from many many sources. Be sure to do your homework there as well so you don't end up paying way more than you need to. Oh, and I can't tell you what parts you want any more than I can tell you who to marry.